A Canadian corporation is being criticized for reportedly providing the equipment used in a state-sanctioned execution in the US. This case has sparked anger due to the use of an unproven method of execution.
On Thursday, the state of Alabama intends to execute prisoner Kenneth Smith by suffocation using nitrogen gas, a method that has not previously been utilized in the United States.
According to Worth Rises and the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice, the use of safety equipment during executions in Alabama will be provided by a Canadian company’s subsidiary.
The corrections department of the state would secure Smith to a medical bed, place a mask over his face to deliver pure nitrogen, resulting in death from lack of oxygen. The mask and tubing utilized for the execution are reportedly produced by Allegro Industries.
The team claims that Allegro is a branch of Walter Surface Technologies, located in Quebec. Walter Surface Technologies is partially owned by the private equity firm Onex Corp, which also has ownership in one of Canada’s largest airlines.
Allegro Industries, Walter Surface Technologies, and Onex Corp did not provide a prompt response to a comment request.
Smith received a death penalty for fatally stabbing Elizabeth Sennett in 1988 as part of a planned murder. Charles Sennett, the victim’s husband and a pastor, paid Smith and another individual $1,000 each to carry out the murder, and later committed suicide.
Eleven out of twelve jurors decided to give Smith a life sentence instead of the death penalty. However, the judge presiding over the trial overturned their choice and ordered for Smith to be executed.
Last year, Alabama made an attempt to carry out his execution, but it was unsuccessful due to problems with the lethal injection. Despite officials’ efforts to locate a vein, he managed to survive.
A new execution using nitrogen gas was approved by a federal judge last week. This method, known as nitrogen hypoxia, involves the prisoner only breathing in nitrogen which results in a lack of oxygen and ultimately death. However, this form of execution is still considered experimental and has been deemed unacceptable by veterinarians in the US and Europe for euthanizing animals. The United Nations human rights office has also cautioned against this untested method, stating that it could potentially cause severe pain.
Drug companies are now prohibiting the use of their products for carrying out the death penalty, creating challenges for states that still practice capital punishment to obtain the necessary chemicals for lethal injection. Additionally, Oklahoma and Mississippi have authorized the use of nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative method of execution.
In recent times, activist organizations have focused on Canadian investment in the American prison system.
In 2018, it was revealed by the Guardian and Documented that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), responsible for managing $366.6 billion in pension funds for approximately 20 million Canadian retirees, had invested in Geo Group, a private prison company in the United States. The pension fund eventually sold off its investment, which had reached $6.1 million at one point.