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A Quebec company linked to equipment for executions in the United States

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Prison authorities are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the chemicals needed for the lethal injection usually used for executions. (Archive photo)

The Canadian Press

Equipment manufactured by the subsidiary of a Quebec company must be used for executions in the United States, say organizations critical of the prison system.

The state of Alabama plans to execute inmate Kenneth Smith on Thursday by asphyxiation with nitrogen, a colorless and odorless gas that deprives the body of oxygen when it is inhaled.

The mask and tube that would serve as a respirator are made by Allegro Industries, according to the nonprofit Worth Rises and Responsible Business Initiative for Justice, based in the United States.

Allegro, a South Carolina company, is a subsidiary of the Quebec company Walter Technologies, which develops surface treatment technologies. Walter Technologies is itself partly owned by Toronto-based private equity firm Onex.

We believe that no person or company should profit from trafficking in death,” said Dana Floberg, director of campaigns at Worth Rises. We can also say that it is inhumane because it is equivalent to carrying out experimental tests on a human being.

LoadingAlabama to execute a prisoner to death by nitrogen inhalation, a world first

ELSELL ON NEWS: Alabama to execute death row inmate by nitrogen inhalation, a world first

Kenneth Smith, 58, would be the first inmate in the United States to be executed by this untested method.

Earlier this month , the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said this method could cause serious suffering. He had serious concerns that the execution of Mr. Smith in these circumstances would constitute a violation of the prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

We fear that nitrogen asphyxiation will lead to a painful and humiliating death, four special rapporteurs of the United Nations said in a statement on January 3. on execution, torture, mental health and the justice system – respectively: Morris Tidball-Binz, Alice Jill Edwards, Tlaeng Mofokeng and Margaret Satterthwaite.

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Protesters gathered outside the Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, on Tuesday to denounce the upcoming execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith.< /p>

As a method of mammalian euthanasia, the American Veterinary Medical Association only permits nitrogen asphyxiation for pigs. Other species should first be rendered unconscious by an acceptable method, the Association's 2020 guidelines state.

However, Alabama does not provide any initial sedative for inmates who are to be executed by this method.

The companies cited by the two organizations did not respond to requests for comment.

Prison authorities are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the chemicals needed for the lethal injection commonly used for executions, as pharmaceutical companies ban the use of their products for this purpose.

Several states, including Oklahoma and Mississippi, have therefore authorized nitrogen gas as a means of executing inmates on death row – although Thursday's execution in Alabama would be a first in the United States.

Some companies have also decided not to participate in the use of this method. Airgas, the largest distributor of packaged gas in the United States, announced earlier this month that it would not supply nitrogen to Alabama prisons.

Despite the philosophical and intellectual debate over the death penalty itself, the provision of nitrogen for the purposes of humane execution is not consistent with our company values, said spokesperson Kim Menard.

Last February, under pressure from activists and religious groups, Tennessee-based FDR Safety announced it was withdrawing from a contract with Alabama to help the state develop the new protocol for execution by nitrogen asphyxiation.

Kenneth Smith and another man were convicted in 1989 of murder of woman for hire in northwest Alabama.

Smith and John Forrest Parker each received $1,000 to murder Elizabeth Sennett on behalf of her husband, Pastor Charles Sennett, who was heavily in debt and wanted to collect the x27;life insurance, according to prosecutors.

After a retrial in 1996, Smith was again convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death by electrocution. His co-accused Parker was executed by lethal injection in 2010. Pastor Sennett committed suicide during the investigation.

Smith has languished on death row for more than thirty years. In 2022, Alabama Department of Corrections prison officials botched an execution by lethal injection, piercing his body repeatedly over several hours but failing to find a vein, before calling it off. execution.

On January 10, a federal judge approved Smith's execution by nitrogen hypoxia . And last week, the Alabama attorney general's office told federal appeals court judges that it was the most painless method of execution and the most human known to man.

But according to some doctors and opponents, it is unclear what exactly Smith will feel during this new procedure. nitrogen itself, no one knows, Dr. Jeffrey Keller, president of the American College of Prison Physicians, wrote in an email. This has never been done before. It's an experimental procedure.

Canada abolished de facto the death penalty in 1963, when governments began to commute all death sentences. The death penalty for murder was banned by law in 1976, and the death penalty for any offense – spying for the enemy, for example – was outlawed in 1999.

The last execution in Canada took place in December 1962, by hanging, at Don Prison in Toronto.

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