Anti-Terror/Security Apparatus

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The threat of terrorism has created a sense of its own inevitability and we take for granted that the quickest and most effective way of responding is to be “better safe than sorry’. Evan Sycamnias has written that “these instituted ways of doing things create their own ‘regime of truth’ which simultaneously shores up the institutional structure and closes off any fundamental questions which might undermine it.”

The ever-expanding security apparatus is less about protecting society than it is about creating a culture of fear in the context of the War on Terrorism. It serves as a convenient distraction from the reality that people’s daily lives are increasingly unsafe and insecure due to government cuts to domestic social programs and global policies of war-mongering. Meanwhile, racial profiling by government agencies is also a reality, for example, according to the Canadian Islamic Congress, the number of hate crimes against Canadian Muslims has risen by more than 1,600% since September 2001.

Throughout Canada’s history, “national security” has functioned to legitimize a series of exclusionary policies that have targeted racialized “non-citizens”, communists, socialists, as well as First Nations and black activists, and sexual minorities. In particular, “national security” concerns have had a direct impact on Canadian immigration policies and have been used as a tool of immigration control by creating a discourse of the threat “outsiders” pose to the Canadian nation.

Such policies have functioned as a discriminatory social filter that define who gets to be Canadian and who poses a threat. Upgraded security measures in the post 9/11 climate have led to an increase in racial profiling and invasion of privacy rights. Canada has implemented a wide array of laws in the areas of criminal law, immigration law, tax law, employment, intelligence services, and airport security, several of which violate basic civil liberties and due process. Many of these directives, are established through administrative directives.

The shifting of various areas of public security and crime control to security and intelligence agencies allows for less accountability, transparency and public scrutiny, and has resulted in an increasing sense of fear and insecurity, particularly in South Asian, Muslim, and Arab communities. The Conservative government plans on spending an additional $1.4 billion on border security and policing.

imagesprison_bars2png200.pngAnti terrorism Act: The Anti-Terrorism Act gives police forces extraordinary investigative and surveillance powers, authorizes arrests without warrants and preventive detention for interrogation on the basis of mere suspicion. Canada’s definition of terrorist activity is vague, imprecise and over-expansive. According to a report by Ligue des droits et libertés “An act of political dissent or protest for political, ideological or religious reasons can be classified as an act of terrorism if it is aimed at intimidating part of the population, it interferes with “economic security” or it seriously disrupts essential services, be they public or private. This is, in fact, what has happened in Great Britain, where authorities used their powers under the 2002 Terrorism Act against dockers who were picketing in the Port of London.” Canada is using the fallacious pretext of the anti-terrorist struggle to eradicate all forms of opposition to, or criticism of, authority with restrictions on freedom of expression, the right to demonstrate, and freedom of association.

Bill C-18: Bill C-18 was introduced in October 2002. The bill would have given the government the power to use secret evidence to strip a Canadian of citizenship and deport them. This caused quite a controversy and the bill died on the order paper in the fall of 2003. There has been discussion of re-introducing the bill in the next Parliament.

Surveillance: “Échelon”, an international network with a mission of surveillance of international communications; Canada participates through its Communications Security Establishment. In October 2002, the federal government established a mega-data base covering all passengers on international and soon domestic flights. This mega-file contains detailed information about all the passengers: name, flight, seat choice, destination, baggage and travel companions, and eating habits. On August 25, 2002, the Canadian Department of Justice published a consultation paper on “Lawful Access.” The paper announced the basic principles of future legislation, aimed in part at expanding the legal powers of the police with respect to electronic surveillance and, as well, obliging public and private providers of all forms of computerized communications to store and keep their circulation data so that they can eventually be turned over. Finally, the government is currently implementing plans for a citizen ID card with biometric data, as part of the US-Canada Ridge/Manley Action Plan for a “smart border.”

gse_multipart22563.pngSecurity Certificates and Guantanemo North: The government is currently arbitrarily imprisoning 5 Muslim men on Security Certificates WITHOUT charge, which Amnesty International has deemed “fundamentally flawed.” Security certificates, a measure of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, allow the government to deport a permanent resident or other non-citizen without showing them or their lawyer the evidence against them and without an independent trial. When detained under such an Orwellian-measure, there is no chance of bail for refugees and detention can be indefinite. Security certificates reverse the fundamental rule of innocent until proven guilty. This regime targets and dehumanizes those from South Asian, Muslim and Arab origin as “terrorists” as Japanese-Canadians were considered “enemy-aliens” during WW II. On 24 April 2006 the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) inaugurated a new $3.5 million detention facility at the Millhaven Penitentiary in Ontario with the express purpose of holding those being incarcerated under Canada’s ‘Security Certificate’ legislation.

Section 86 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act: This section provides that the Minister of Immigration can apply for secret hearings and use secret evidence in a wide variety of instances before the Immigration and Refugee Board. This means that secret evidence and secret hearings are used not only at the Federal Court in security certificate proceedings, but also before administrative tribunals in other types of cases such as detention reviews, appeals and admissibility hearings.

Smart Border Declaration and integration with the US: Stated principles of Smart Border Action Plans between US-Canada and US-Mexico include: Biometric identifiers, Share Advance Passenger Information, Harmonized Commercial Processing, Intelligent Transportation Systems, Integrated Border and Marine Enforcement Teams, Fingerprints, Joint Training and Exercises. Recent commitments to the Security and Prosperity Partnership, entailing further integration with U.S, have been made without any consultation.

Deportation to Torture: Although the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) states that the law is to be applied in a manner that “complies with international human rights instruments to which Canada is signatory”, and although Canada has ratified (thus is bound not to violate its provisions according to international law) the United Nations Convention Against Torture, in which there is a clear prohibition on returns to torture, Canada is taking the position that, in “exceptional circumstances,” it can deport people who face torture.

Safe Third Country Agreement: On December 29, 2004, Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement took effect. This radical change to Canadian refugee policy will exclude an estimated 40% of asylum seekers from even making a refugee claim in Canada, effectively creating a “Fortress North America”. According to the Immigration and Refugee Board’s own statistics, the number of pending claims at the end of 2003 was 41,575, compared to 27,290 at the end of 2004. Canada deports between 10,0000 to 13,000 people per year

Armed Border Guards: Earlier this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harpers’s announced his $101 million decision to arm Canada’s border guards of the Canadian Border Services Agency over the next ten years, beginning in September 2007. It is ironic that border officials, whose job descriptions routinely includes interrogations, intimidation, and who are part of an agency that asserts significant power over the lives of immigrants and refugees, are the ones who are claiming to feel unsafe. The routine abuses of CBSA officers, responsible for ongoing detentions, deportations, and arbitrary enforcement policies are rarely questioned.

Creation of the Canadian Border Services Agency: Canada Border Services Agency is a new agency that nowhandles enforcement of refugee removals and reports to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Having refugee claimants processed by an enforcement agency sends the racist message that refugee claimants are a threat to public safety.

Expanding grounds of migrant detention:The new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act broadens the circumstances upon which detention can occur, and the announced benefits of the new regime are to “provide enhanced protection of Canadian society,” with no mention of the protection of rights of refugee claimants. At any given point in time, there can be as many 400 to 500 migrants (including children) who are detained at immigration detention centers. According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada records of 2002, only 5-7 people had actual allegations of ‘being a threat to national security’ laid on them.

The Role of CSIS

During the 1980s and 1990s, CSIS spied on the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). Past Solicitor General, Herb Grey authorized increased powers for CSIS when operating on university campuses, despite the objections of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. In the months ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) leaders’ summit at UBC, CSIS and the RCMP together carried out a surveillance and infiltration operation of student groups that were critical of APEC.

imm4.jpgThe Law Union of Ontario states it has received many documents from CSIS marked “Secret” or “Top Secret”. “We concluded that the use of those classifications often was to avoid embarrassment to the government and that there was no basis for the secrecy markings.” The Security Intelligence Review Committee’s reports also raise several questions: “We are of the opinion that these beliefs are sometimes overdrawn” (2000). “CSIS investigators routinely destroy screening interview notes and are not above lying, making it difficult for anyone to scrutinize their work… (2005)

The list of groups that CSIS has targeted is large, including the “Raging Grannies”, Greenpeace, the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, and others that have been considered to be threats by CSIS include Amnesty International, The United Church of Canada, NDP Leader Ed Broadbent, the National Council of Catholic Women, the Canadian Council of Churches, the Council of Canadians and the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development.

In Feb 2003, the Ottawa Sun ran a story on CSIS activities on Canadian university campuses. It quoted a statement by the National Council on Canada Arab Relations that students of Arab origin were being approached by CSIS agents for questioning, and were being threatened with deportation and revocation of their citizenship if they did not provide information about community members.

“Showing up at homes and workplaces unannounced; offering money and favors for “information”; intimidating and threatening newcomers; inquiring about a person’s religiosity; and discouraging people from engaging lawyers are some of the recurring themes that I have come across from clients.” Barbara Jackman, lawyer

On September 26, 2002, while passing through JFK Airport in New York, Maher Arar was arrested and detained by US officials for 12 days. He was then removed against his will to Syria where he was imprisoned for nearly a year. An investigation done into the role of the RCMP, CSIS and the Canadian government in Arar’s detention and torture has concluded that actions of the RCMP and CSIS including providing false information about Arar to US authorities.

In August 2003, newspapers reported the arrest and detention of 22 Pakistani and 1 Indian student as suspected terrorists in Operation Thread. The incriminating evidence at the time was as simple as young men living together in sparsely furnished apartments. The RCMP, CSIS, and Immigration eventually backed away from all the allegations but the detainees were already publicly labeled as terrorist and most have since been deported.