A Canadian judge ordered the government Wednesday to resume efforts to win clemency for a Canadian on death row in Montana.

Ronald Smith was convicted in 1983 of murdering two American Indians and has been fighting execution for years.

Canada's previous Liberal Party government sought clemency for Smith, but the Conservatives withdrew help after winning power in 2006 elections, saying they would no longer automatically seek clemency for Canadians sentenced to death in democratic countries.

Federal Court Justice Robert Barnes said the government's move was unfair.

"The decision by the government of Canada to withdraw support for Mr. Smith was made in breach of the duty of procedural fairness, is unlawful and is set aside," Barnes ruled.

He ordered the government "to continue to apply the former policy of supporting clemency on behalf of Canadians facing the death penalty in any foreign state to Mr. Smith."

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the government would study the ruling before commenting.

Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976.

In 1999, Canadian authorities strongly opposed the execution of convicted murderer Stanley Faulder, a Canadian who was put to death in Texas during the administration of then Gov. George W. Bush.