Secret Trials Bill Stalled in House Likely Due to Public Pressure!

Posted by admin on Dec 20th, 2007

The final Parliamentary vote on the “new” security certificate process, Bill C-3, expected to take place earlier this week, was postponed at the 11th hour, and will not be considered until the week of January 28, 2008. Congratulations to everyone who marched, participated in community delegations, sent emails or phoned MPs – together, we have won the first round in the fight against new security certificate legislation! But there is still much to do.


After the Conservatives made a major point of trying to ram the bill through the House before the holiday break, one might conclude that their apparent reticence to put the bill to a final vote was in part due to public outrage and pressure and perhaps what the polls were telling the government (the Conservative Party, it was revealed yesterday, has spent $31 million on polling since coming to office, an average of two polls per business day while in office).

MPs’ offices were reportedly fielding ‘dozens and dozens’ of calls last week from people all across the country, coming on the heels of several months of popular action against the new legislation.

The conclusion of most major Canadian legal associations, civil society groups, and advocates that the bill would not even pass a Charter challenge may also have left the Conservatives (and their Liberal supporters) with cold feet.

C-3, like the old security certificate section of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, will still allow for continued use of arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention without charge on secret suspicions, and deportation to torture. It addresses none of the core demands of the public campaign.

The minority Harper government took almost eight full months to come up with C-3. In a vote supported by both the Bloc and the Liberals, Parliament handed the bill to the “Public Safety” committee for a review that lasted only two and a half weeks. Only as a result of public protest were the hearings slightly opened up, but, in the end, there was not enough time to seriously ask why the law was necessary, or explore the outstanding submissions of groups calling for abolition of the security certificate. Before passing it back to Parliament for third reading, the committee made three token amendments which did not change the fundamentally flawed nature of the bill.

Parliament will not open again until January 29. If Bill C-3 then passes Parliament, it will go on to Senate, where it will pass through the same process – first reading, second reading, hearings in a committee, and then third reading and the final vote. Regardless of whether the new law is ready, the Supreme Court’s suspended decision will finally go into effect on 23 February and the old security certificate process will die.

After six years of public campaigning to end secret trials and two-tier justice, during which the Supreme court declared the security certificate process to be unconstitutional, the detainees and their families are now facing new legislation which, if implemented, will only prolong the extended suffering they have already experienced, and ramp up the fear that they will be deported to torture.

Given that the Conservatives may now have awakened to the fact that it is untenable to pass a law that has already been evaluated as unconstitutional by so many individuals and groups, they may try to tinker with it and add a few more pieces of window-dressing related to the “special” advocate. It is important to resist attempts to “fix” what is a fundamentally flawed and unfair law. Adding in “protections” will help get the bill through the House, but do nothing to help those who are subjected to this draconian process.

In calling and lobbying MPs, it is important to reject the notion that “special” advocates will save the day. Discredited in the UK, the special advocate system not only sets a dangerous precedent that opens the door to further secrecy in a variety of government proceedings, it also fails to meet the basic challenge the Supreme Court of Canada launched last February when it declared the security certificate process unconstitutional: How does one meet a case that one does not know?

MPs and “special” advocate supporters may bring in the fear factor that, should the law expire, chaos will erupt and the “security” of Canadians will be at risk. This is total nonsense. If those subject to the security certificate are suddenly free from detention or without the draconian restrictions that keep them and their families under house arrest, the government can do what it should have done all along, and what it would have done if they had happened to be citizens: if there is a case against them, charge them under the Criminal Code, allow them to see the case against them, and provide them with a fair and open trial.

C-3, however fixed, will only continue two-tier justice in Canada, and continue to subject some people to indefinite detention under threat of deportation to torture.

Over the next month and a half, it is vital that we put greater pressure on the MPs – particularly Liberals – who will be voting at the end of January, as well as make a popular approach to the unelected Senate.

All the resources you need for the actions below, from petititons to backgrounders, flyers, and to responses to the form letter of response being sent by the Conservatives, are available at

1. Contact the MP for your area, continuously. (The NDP is completely opposed to C-3, so please focus on Liberals, Bloc, and Conservatives). Warn them that a “special” advocate is simply unacceptable and will only continue two-tier justice in Canada, as well as create a dangerous precedent for a greater ‘legitimate’ use of secret information in other areas of law. Try and get them to make a public statement of opposition, and put it to them clearly: are they in favour of a bill that allows for arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention, secret suspicions, and deportation to torture? Are they in favour of two-tier justice? Send responses to to add to a record of public positions taken by MPs (soon up on

Friday, January 25 is check-in day with MPs: if you haven’t received a response to your questions, consider sending a delegation or organizing a call-in day in your area.

2. Find out what Senators come from your area by going to
Get in touch with that Senator regarding your concerns, given that C-3 will go to the Senate if passed by the House.

3. Saturday, January 26 is our next call for a pan-Canadian day of action against secret trials, deportations to torture and two-tier justice. Please consider organizing a public event (march, picket, vigil, educational forum, visit to an MP’s office, letter-writing day). Contact to let us know about your plans.

4. If you are in or near Ottawa, please join us for activities around Adil Charkaoui’s second Supreme Court challenge on 31 January. This challenge is based on CSIS’s destruction of evidence in his security certificate file. This case is likely to expose some of the weakness of the CSIS ‘information’ (hearsay, rumour, profiling, CSIS summaries and assessments, torture information) in these files. Contact to find out more.


More info:
Toronto: Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada,,
Ottawa: Justice for Mohamed Harkat Committee,,
Montreal: Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui,,

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