Comment by the Catholic Organization for Life and Family on the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in the Case of the Minister of Justice v. Burns and Rafay

Wednesday, February 14 2001

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) welcomes the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada that two Canadian citizens accused of murder cannot be extradited to face trial unless the United States authorities provide assurances that they will not face the death penalty.

The decision is a strong affirmation of the fundamental value of all human life and the great care that our legal system must take to protect the lives of everyone, especially those who are vulnerable even if they have been accused of the most brutal crimes.

The Court has also sent a powerful message that the death penalty is an unacceptable element of criminal justice in Canada and internationally. In finding that the death penalty is contrary to the principles of fundamental justice, the Court highlighted that it is final and irreversible and has been described as arbitrary and of doubtful value as a deterrent. The Court was also very concerned about the potential for wrongful convictions, particularly in light of recent Canadian experience that has exposed the fallibility of the justice system in several cases of wrongful conviction for murder.

Human life is a gift beyond all measure. Each human being, created in the image of God, has incalculable worth and dignity. Life is the most precious gift that has been given to us, and it is our duty to love it, respect it and keep it from harm. We thank the Supreme Court of Canada for doing that in its Judgment today.

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family was jointly founded by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus to promote respect for human life and human dignity and the essential role of the family.