NOII Statement on Toronto Anti-Terror Arrests

Posted by admin on Jun 20th, 2006

Statement on Toronto Anti-Terror Arrests 

No One is Illegal-Vancouver is an anti-colonial grassroots movement in full confrontation with Canadian colonial border policies, denouncing and taking action to combat racial profiling of immigrants and refugees, detention and deportation policies, and wage-slave conditions of migrant workers and nonstatus people. In response to the recent arrests of seventeen young men in Toronto, we would like to emphasize the following points: 

We assert that the men must be presumed to be innocent, both in the court process and in public consciousness. Media sensationalism, government statements, and public commentaries have revealed that the men are being considered and treated as guilty terrorists. This is despite the fact that no clear allegations have yet been put forth- – Rocco Galati, defence lawyer for two of the men, calls the charges against his clients “absolutely vague”. Disproportionate police and militaristic force, which includes sharpshooters and sub-machine guns, further fuels public fears. The mainstream corporate media has also played a crucial role in stirring public frenzy by uncritically parroting government rhetoric such as “homegrown terrorists” and “Jihad generation” and that the suspects were “inspired by Al Qaeda”, without providing any evidence to substantiate such a claim.  Such stigmatizing statements will have a permanent damaging effect on the men and their families and their “guilt” will surely continue even if the charges are dropped or the men are acquitted.

At moments of such public hysteria, we must avoid succumbing to historical amnesia. Three years ago in 2003, over twenty South Asian- predominantly Pakistani- Muslim men were arrested in Toronto in a sweep called “Operation Thread”, in which the men arrested were allegedly “an Al-Qaeda sleeper cell in Canada.” This incident received widespread international media coverage with the men being branded as “terrorists”. None of the allegations were proven to be true and not one of the men was ever formally charged, let alone convicted, yet most were deported and their lives destroyed by the unsubstantiated allegations linking them to terrorism ( This is reason enough to remain vigilant.

The reports of hate-crimes and anti-Muslim backlash reflect the deep hypocrisy of racism and racial profiling. As we have asserted before, racial profiling is a hateful double standard by which individual members of communities are considered responsible for every action (or alleged action) of other individuals in their community. In contrast, white Christian middle-aged men aged 18-45 did not suffer the indignities of suspicion, bitter diatribes, or massive profiling after the bombings of Oklahoma City. Their “ability to integrate” or their positioning within North American society was not challenged. Despite the fact that the young men all had citizenship, the questioning of their “Canadian-ness” reveals a shallow multiculturalism and reinforces the racialized national space.

These arrests will provide further justification for the policing and security apparatus, which since 9/11, has already resulted in massive interrogation of immigrants and refugees, the passing of legislation granting intelligence and law enforcement agencies much broader powers of intrusion into the private lives of people, pervasive government and media censorship of information, the silencing of dissent, and increasingly exclusionary and racist immigration policies. Legislation such as the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act has strengthened the false association between terrorism and immigration.

These arrests will also have an impact on the public mobilization that has advocated for the abolition of Security Certificates and the Anti-Terrorism Act over the past five years. These arrests occur at a time when the constitutionality of Security Certificates goes before the Supreme Court of Canada and the same year that the Parliament is reviewing whether to allow extraordinary provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act to expire under a five-year sunset clause. At this particular juncture, we remind our friends and allies that it is more important than ever to assert that such security mechanisms are an attack on fundamental civil liberties, are profoundly discriminatory, and do little to ensure the safety of our communities.
The discourse of the War on Terror is rooted in a deliberately-cultivated fear and paranoia, which reduces our capacity to think and debate critically. In the past few months, Canada has re-invented itself as an aggressive and crusading Western imperialist power with an increasing presence of occupation forces in Afghanistan. While Harper would like for us to believe that “We are a target because of who we are and how we live, our society, our diversity and our values” the historical and present reality is that Canadian state policies have been far from peaceful and Canada is far from being an innocent victim. The foundational values of the Canadian state are self-evident through events such as the “None is too Many” policy against Jewish refugees, residential schools, the Komagatamaru incident, the Indian Act, Japanese-Canadian internment, forced sterilization, the Chinese Head-Tax, Ipperwash standoff, and countless other colonial realities.

We commit ourselves to continuing to defend our communities against the demonization of being “The Enemy Within” that is justifying increasingly repressive and racist policies, and to fight for the elimination of all forms of oppressive violence and terrorism waged against the peoples of the world, particularly the never-ending War on Terrorism which in the current context is bringing the greatest degree of terror and fear in the lives of the world’s majority.

Comments are closed.