Groups call on government: Don’t renew security certificates

Posted by admin on Feb 21st, 2008

Analysis of C-3:
Montreal, 22 February 2008 — The Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui yesterday called on ‘Minister of Public Safety’ Stockwell Day to refrain from signing a new security certificate against Adil Charkaoui and the other security certificate detainees under the new security certificate law, which is expected to enter into force any day. The organizations present at yesterday’s press conference also warned that the new security certificate legislation will once again be subject to a public campaign and a constitutional challenge.

“Last year, when the Supreme Court of Canada declared the security certificate to be unconstitutional, we celebrated; I believed I was going to have a chance to clear my name at last,” said Adil Charkaoui, who was arrested under a security certificate in Montreal almost five years ago. “Today I feel disappointed, disenchanted, even bitter,” said the 34-year old teacher and father of three, “The new legislation not only fails to correct the injustices of the old law, it makes it worse by giving the appearance of legitimacy to a fundamentally unjust process.”

“Mr. Charkaoui’s case has been marked by leaks of secret information, by the use of evidence obtained under torture, by the destruction of evidence by CSIS, public retractions of information in the file, hidden arrest warrants, and the miraculous recovery of long-lost interviews at strategic moments,” said Marie-Ève Lamy, member of the Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui. “It ‘s enough! No new certificate should be issued against Mr. Charkaoui.”

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last February that the old security certificate legislation was unconstitutional. This decision will enter into effect tomorrow, 23 February 2008, and the former law will cease to be in force. However, in October the government introduced a new law, Bill C-3, which is almost identical to the old law, with the addition of a ‘special advocate’. This law passed the Senate last week and it is expected that Mr. Harper’s Cabinet will take the final step to ensure that it enters into force any day now. If Minister Stockwell Day and Diane Finley, Minister of Immigration, sign new certificates on the same day, the current detainees will remain under their current conditions of control orders, house arrest or prison and be forced to undergo a new secret trial process at the Federal Court in the coming months.

“The addition of a special advocate to a process in which the Court’s decision can still rely on secret evidence does nothing to ensure justice,” stated Me. Johanne Doyon, who brought Charkaoui’s constitutional challenge to the Supreme Court. “This is a system that has already failed in England. The special advocate is nothing but camouflage,” she added. Doyon appeared before the Senate hearings on the new law on behalf of the Quebec Immigration Lawyers’ Association (l’AQAADI).

“You can’t tweak security certificates; you can’t tweak indefinite detention and deportation to torture,” said Mostafa Henaway of the Immigrant Workers Centre. “Justice requires that this system be done away with entirely. As an organization which works every day with immigrant communities, I can tell you that the message of this law and the way it was passed is very clear to immigrants: ‘Your fundamental rights will not be respected, your voices will not be listened to in the political process.'”

“The way in which the Senate pushed through the new legislation was a farce,” stated Warren Allmand, representing the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, a coalition of over 30 NGOs, unions, faith groups and other civil society organizations. Senate adopted the bill in less than a week, following just one day of hearings in which over twenty witnesses – all except Stockwell Day – called for Senate to oppose the law as unjust and unconstitutional.

“From the case of Maher Arar, from my own experience as Solicitor General of Canada, I know that CSIS and the RCMP make serious errors of fact. Without providing the person named in a certificate the opportunity to know the case against him, those errors cannot be discovered and justice will not be done. In my opinion, this is a real travesty of justice,” Allmand concluded.

Allmand was joined by the President of the Conseil centrale de Montréal (CSN), Gaétan Chateauneuf, in calling on the government to treat refugees, permanent residents and other non-citizens the same way that citizens are treated in such cases, using criminal law rather than immigration law.  “The consequences of the security certificate are so severe, that the
process should, if anything, be more rigorous than criminal law,” agreed Sheikh Salam Elmenyawi, President of the Muslim Council of Montreal. “Labelling someone a threat to national security means destroying their reputation and putting their entire family at risk. It can lead to indefinite detention and even deportation to torture or death.”

“I invite all members of the press to follow this issue closely in the coming weeks. After pushing this unjust law through in a manner which so thoroughly disregarded democratic process, will the government now try to rush to deport these men?” asked Elmenyawi.

“Behind these legal questions are human lives,” said Charkaoui. “For five years my family and I have battled this thing, going all the way up to the Supreme Court, and winning. Now we find ourselves right back at the starting gate, facing going through all of this again! The toll on our lives has already been enormous. For us, it is unbearable,” he finished.


Security certificate bill clears Senate, but concerns linger

OTTAWA – The Senate has passed changes to the system for deporting foreign-born terrorism suspects – just days before a court-imposed deadline. The upper chamber gave the bill on national security certificates third reading after a special committee rushed it through hearings with the caveat that it would like to continue studying the controversial tools. In a landmark judgment last February, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down security certificates – legal instruments used by Ottawa to deport terrorist suspects who don’t hold Canadian citizenship.

But it put that ruling on hold for a year to give Ottawa time to revise the law. The old regime allowed indefinite detention and eventual removal from the country based on secret intelligence presented to a judge behind closed doors, with few details ever disclosed to defendants. The new law would improve bail procedures and permit special, security-cleared lawyers to attend the secret hearings, challenge government evidence and protect the rights of the accused.

Critics say the changes don’t go far enough and maintain that the new regime is also likely to be overturned as a violation of the Charter of Rights. The special Senate committee dealt with the legislation in just two days and returned it to the full upper chamber Tuesday without amendment. But it noted that members would have appreciated more time to reflect
“upon all aspects of this bill and the views of those concerned, given the life-altering effects that security certificates have on those named in them.”

The committee was unable to hear from all parties who wanted to appear, and proposed the Senate give it authority to “conduct a full study on the security certificate process in the months to come.” Liberal Senator David Smith, the committee chairman, said he doesn’t expect the bill’s passage to be the final word on certificates. “I mean, certainly the debate will continue,” he said.

Among the Senate committee’s lingering concerns:
-The inability of the special advocate to communicate with the person named in the security certificate, except with the judge’s authorization, after the special advocate has received confidential information.
-The lack of a specific provision empowering the special advocate to require the government to disclose all documents the special advocate believes may be relevant.
-The absence of a requirement for Parliament to review the new security certificate process and the role of the special advocate.
The committee tabled a statement from Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day agreeing to the possibility of further review and inviting recommendations before the end of the year.

“I welcome your work in this regard as this is an important piece of legislation and key to our efforts to build a strong and resilient Canada,” Day said.

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