Double standards

2010-08-16

Cody LeCompte, 19, from southern Ontario, was held in Cuba for more than three months following a car accident that occurred on April 29. He was driving the car. His mom, his cousin and the Cuban fiancé of the later were on board. Their car was hit by a truck at a crossroad. All of them sustained injuries that required hospitalization. Cody LeCompte’s mom says her son is not responsible for the accident.

In Cuba, a car accident is considered a criminal offense there’s injury or death. There’s no presumption of innocence. Accused are considered guilty until proven otherwise. Alos, the legal driving age is 21. Cody LeCompte could be sentenced to maximum of three years in prison for this accident.

When the case breaks in the Canadian media on July 18, Cody and his mom were still in Santa Lucia waiting for a trial date. With legal fees, round trip to Canada and hotels at 90$ a night, the total cost at that point was more than 30 000$. His mom said she was on the verge of financial ruin.

At that point, the Department of Foreign Affairs official position was the usual:”Canadian Government cannot interfere in the judicial process of a foreign country ”. The Department also claimed to be working in the backstage for solutions.

Like other Canadian families victims of third world legal system, LeCompte’s family feels abandoned by its Government. Although the Department claims to be in regular contact with the family, they were left in the dark. Even in Cuba, LeCompte’s received minimal support and rare visits from the Canadian Officials. The disparity between the official version and what is reported by the families has become a constant.

On July 29, LeCompte post bail and is released on condition he comes back for his trial, if one is needed. On August 2 they are targeted for a shakedown. On August 3, the Cuban refuses to validate his passport”. On August 6, he finally arrives in Canada.

Unlike the other cases of Canadian dealing with justice abroad, the Canadian Government got heavily in LeCompte’s case (after the Medias took a great interest in the case). Especially Peter Kent, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas) who stated: “The delay faced by Canadians awaiting resolution of such cases could affect fellow Canadians’ choice of Cuba as a tourist destination in the future.“. The media coverage and these threats against tourism were deciding factors in LeCompte’s return to Canada.

The implication of the Federal authorities is more than appreciated for family and for the Canadians. It would also be interesting to note Cuba is one of the safest destinations for Canadians while Mexico is the most dangerous. Either if its murder, assault, robbery or unlawful detention, the list goes on and on.

It is also ironic to ear Peter Kent complaining about the delay faced by Canadians in Cuba when his own department can take up to two months to send a template letter in reply to family requesting help for something has light has a murder.

Familly’s also proposed the authorities to try a backstage or backchannel solution in Mexican case. That never happened either. But in LeCompte’s Cuban case, it did. An intervention from the Government can expedite and put back on track a case like the one of Renée Wathelet. Demands were sent to understand why there are double standards, double set of rules. To this date, no answers have been received by Canadian officials.

When the Medias report: “consular officials are in regular contact with the family and are providing consular assistance”, it should be known it’s generally out phase with the reality. Canadian citizens, minus rare unexplained exception, are left alone abroad to deal with pretty heavy situations.

Has an example from a letter received by the Ambassador of Canada in Mexico on November 9, 2009:”Whenever we have any news, you will be updated by the Case Management Officer for Mexico at the Consular Affairs Branch in Ottawa”. So far, we have been informed of one and unique news at the end of November. Since then, we manage to be informed on the proceeding of the case by ourselves. The response time from the Case Management Officer is at best, three workable days, sometime going to seven. The consular agent in Cancun is doing everything she can, but works with very limited, below standard for a G8 country, resources.

Would it really be necessary to remind we are not talking about a lost passport, but a brutal assassination and an obvious lack of good will from the Mexican Officials?

To act, condemn this situation to the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs with special responsibilities for the Americas, Peter Kent (kentp@parl.gc.ca), to the Official Opposition Critic for Consumer and Consular Affairs, Dan McTeague (dan@mcteague.ca) and to your Federal Member of Parliament (MP).

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