What is a 'security certificate'?
An arbirtrary and Draconian process which violates the rule of law and upholds impunity
A "SECURITY CERTIFICATE" is issued by two individual federal ministers (1). It is used to declare any refugee or permanent resident of Canada a threat, to have them arrested, held without charge or bail, and deported after a secret trial.
This entire process can occur on the word of CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service), Canada's spy agency.
Neither the detainee nor their lawyer are permitted to know the exact allegations. Nor are they allowed to see or know the exact "evidence" - only a summary, which is a subjective rendering of the "facts". The detainee's lawyer does not have access to all the evidence being used against their client.
The information used against the detainee can come from any foreign source under the seal of secrecy in order to protect the source or in the interests of "national security."
CSIS approves the selection of the judge of the Federal Court. Using this process, CSIS can frame anyone.
This is not the rule of law. It is impunity and state-terrorism.
The right of the accused to a fair trial and the principle of innocent until proven guilty is thrown into the mud.
Secret evidence against the accused is presented behind closed doors. Arguments made by the crown prosecutors are heard by the judge in the absence of the accused or defence counsel. The judge's decision relates only to the so-called reasonable character of the alleged facts in the security certificate rather than their truth.
He needs only "reasonable grounds" to believe such "facts" might exist. All the alleged "facts" are decontextualized and give credence to innuendo.
If the judge validates the security certificate in the secret trail, the detainee can then be deported.
"Past cases have revealed that the security pretext has been used to justify withholding newspaper clippings, shadowy sources and double and triple hearsay -- sloppy evidence that would be flatly rejected under regular rules of law. Without a fair and vigorous chance to cross-examine, a fair trial is impossible. (2)
The right of the accused to confront their accuser is also denied.
There is no right to appeal.
In short, once a person is caught in this web, there is little protection of any kind.
Under the Certificate, Canada's spy agency has thrown Muslim men or men of Middle Eastern or Arabic background behind bars, without charges or bail, and threatened with deportation. (The five men currently being held are Hassan Almrei, held since October 2001; Muhammad Mahjoub, held since June 2000; Muhammad Jabbalah, held since August 2001; Mohammad Harkat, held since December 2002, and Adil Charkaoui, held since May 2003.)
Of the current list of detainees, there are seven security certificates, with another 23 persons initially detained under sections 55 and 58 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).
Since 1991, 27 security certificates have been ordered and only two have been quashed. (3) This is racial profiling at the highest level. Security certificate trials are the tip of an iceberg.
A report released in May, 2003 by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group reported that in "hundreds" of instances, people in Canada
"are being visited for interviews by security forces without warrants, and taken away for interrogation. Although the full extent of Bill C-36 (so-called 'anti-terrorist' legislation hurriedly passed by parliament in 2001) was not implemented in these cases, it has been used as a threat to 'encourage' voluntary interviews by citing the risk of preventative detention allowed under the Act. Victims of such police conduct have been afraid to come forward publicly for fear of further retaliation."
A rule of law worthy of the name is based on the premise that the law applies to everyone equally and that nobody can be above the law. Yet, this is precisely what is absent in Canada.
The case of Adil Charkaoui, a 30-year-old permanent resident originally from Morocco and living in Montreal, serves as a good example. He was questioned by CSIS three days after September 11. He was also interviewed by US authorities in New York last year but no charges were laid even though he was warned that he had been placed on a list of suspected terrorists. This May, Mr. Charkaoui was arrested in Montreal and taken into custody. He declared that he had been pressured by CSIS to be an agent for the state by spying on Arabs and Muslims living in Montreal. He refused to submit to this blackmail. Mr. Charkaoui was then served a security certificate and detained, under the pretext that he had travelled to Pakistan, among other things. Thousands of people have travelled to Pakistan. Are they all suspects now?
What about CSIS?
It is unacceptable that the Canadian state is using the CSIS as the arbiter of who is a terrorist and who is not.
CSIS is an organization implicated in all sorts of terrorist and criminal activity from helping to organize the Air India disaster in 1985 which killed 331 people, to the bombing of oil-wells in Alberta, to setting up the Heritage Front which organized racist attacks against national minorities in Toronto, to barn-burning and bombings in Quebec in the late 1960s, as well as assisting Canada Post to engage in spying and intimidating officials of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. In 1999 CSIS together with the RCMP helped inflame discord amongst Native and Acadian fishermen in Burnt Church around the Marshall Decision and aboriginal treaty rights.
This activity is political. In the past "security certificates" have been used to deny citizenship to such political personalities as Hardial Bains, founder of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist- Leninist) until his recent death, or to deport political activists as "security risks". Volume V of the hearings of the MacDonald Royal Commission into the "wrongdoings" of the RCMP, which documented illegal and criminal activities conducted against CPC(M-L) since the 1970s, has yet to be made public. CSIS was formed as a consequence of the MacDonald Commission.
A recent book on CSIS declares that it has "routinely broken the law, treating the rights and liberties of Canadians as no more than a nuisance … [it is] riddled by waste, extravagance, laziness, nepotism, incompetence, corruption and law-breaking." (4)
CSIS has carried out these activities with impunity on behalf of the Canadian state. It is hardly qualified to uphold the rule of law.
1. Currently Solicitor General Wayne Easter and Minister of Citizenship Denis Coderre
2. "CSIS Warrants contravene the rule of law", Montreal Gazette, 28 May 2003
3. Subcommittee on National Security, 24 September 2003
4. Covert Entry: Spies, Lies and Crimes inside Canada's Secret Service, Andrew Mitrovica
What are secret trials and security certificates? An introductory primer
Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada
*Halifax People's Voice, Newsbulletin of the People's Front / Halifax - 31 October 2003
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