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Date: Sunday, January 01 2006
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While other countries weighed in on the execution of Saddam Hussein, Canada's government remained virtually silent

Kady O'Malley, Macleans.ca | Updated Saturday, December 30, 2006, at 21:20 EST

OTTAWA - For the most part, the international community's official reaction to Saddam Hussein's exeuction was swift.

Within a few hours of his final march to the gallows, if not before, nearly every country with any military or diplomatic involvement in the Middle East had issued a comment. Every country, that is, except Canada - and it's not as though nobody asked.

With Saddam's death imminent, Macleans.ca hit the phones on Friday afternoon to find out whether a statement from the Canadian government would be forthcoming. That meant a call to the Foreign Affairs media relations hotline - where the receptionist politely asked that "S-A-D-D-A-M H-U-S-S-E-I-N" be spelled out so she could pass the message on to the duty officer.

Contact with the Prime Minister's Office directed us back to Foreign Affairs. And just after 5:00 p.m., a call came back from the department's on-call spokesman - indicating that not only had no statement been issued, but that he wasn't aware if one would be issued at all.

"We think it's a matter for the Iraqi courts and government," the spokesman said. But he was taken aback when asked how that conforms with Canada's position against capital punishment - most recently reiterated by the country's ascension to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

"It's very difficult to say that all the other countries should abolish it. We've abolished it in Canada, but for other governments, how can we enforce and say there should be no death penalty whatsoever?" he said.

While many Canadians might agree with that position, it would require a formal break with the treaty, which requires Canada to oppose the death penalty.

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