Ottawa reverses signoff procedure for deportation of immigrants

Two ministers' approval required to label detainees threats to security


OTTAWA (13 October 2004) -- THE FEDERAL government has undone a much-criticized change to the way it issues the secretive 'security certificates' that are used to detain and deport immigrants on national security grounds.

Two ministers, the public security minister and the immigration minister, will again be required to sign before such a certificate can be issued.

At the same time, the government has transferred immigration inspectors who staff border posts and airports to the Border Services Agency, which has already taken over responsibilities for customs operations at the border.

The certificates, used under Canada's immigration laws to detain and deport suspected security threats, are based on information gathered by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, information that is never made public or revealed to the person it is used against.

Just after Paul Martin took power as Prime Minister last December, the government changed the rules that required two ministers to sign such a certificate, giving Public Security Minister Anne McLellan sole authority to order extraordinary treatment.

That brought criticism from groups representing immigrants and refugees, who charged that Ottawa was watering down already flimsy safeguards on a measure that circumvented the due process usual before someone is locked up or deported.

Yesterday, the government announced that 'consultations' had convinced it to again require two ministers to sign off on security certificates.

A federal cabinet order also returned to the Immigration Department the responsibility for the last-ditch risk assessments conducted for unsuccessful refugee claimants before they are deported home.

That function had been transferred to the new Canadian Border Service Agency in January, but refugee advocates complained that the responsibility for protecting refugees was transferred to an enforcement-minded border police.

'We are pleased to see the government has reversed itself on these two things, which didn't seem to be in line with basic human rights,' said Janet Dench, director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

The Globe and Mail (Canada), October 13, 2004; Pg. A11


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