Sunday, January 15, 2006

Where's the Due Process, Mr. Volpe?

Today I received the following report on actions that focus on federal Liberal cabinet minister Joe Volpe's embrace of Canada's use of secret trials and of our deportation of people to regimes known to torture. Harass your local Liberal and Conservative candidates on this issue as we wind down to election day.

Son of Secret Trial Detainee Confronts Minister of Deportation; Volpe Calls out the Cavalry for Peaceful Picket

January 14, 2006 -- The button-clad Raging Granny, armed with pointed lyrics and provocative floral arrangements, had a single question for the two lonely individuals holding a large banner in front of Deportation Minister Joe Volpe's campaign office today.

"Why are there so many police officers here?" she asked, noting that the dozen-plus patrol cars, additional police supervisor vans, undercover RCMP officers, prisoner wagons, and a large collection of police barricades, seemed a tad disproportionate to the setting of two people desperately trying to hold a banner against a backbreaking wind and bitter cold.

"Perhaps," one suggested, "they have finally decided to arrest Mr. Volpe for violating international law!"

As things turned out, Mr. Volpe was not in the building, given that he tends to make himself scarce whenever the possibility arises that a constituent seeking clarification on his illegal practices might darken his doorstep.

With the international outlaw nowhere to be found, the police had little to do but stand inside and keep warm while a small crew of folks concerned about Volpe's determination to violate the Convention Against Torture stood outside with a large banner that read: "Canada: Stop Deportations to Torture." It is Mr. Volpe who, as Deportation Minister, has supported his delegates' opinions that individuals such as secret trial detainees Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah, and Hassan Almrei should be sent from Canada to Egypt and Syria even though all three would likely face torture or death at the hands of their overseas jailers.

Like his partners in crime, Anne McLellan, Irwin Cotler, and Paul Martin, Volpe reigns over the security certificate regime which allows for the detention without charge, on secret evidence, of individuals who do not enjoy citizenship status. All have outright refused to meet with the families of the secret trial detainees for years now, preferring to pretend they either do not exist or are just some bizarre and unfortunate aberration from an otherwise really great political system.

That track record was broken last night, however, when, in a sign of how desperate the Liberals have become, Volpe ventured into the less than welcoming, packed house at the Islamic Foundation of Toronto, where he was confronted by the son of one of the men Volpe is trying to have tortured and murdered.

Ahmad Jaballah, the eloquent 19-year-old son of secret trial detainee Mahmoud Jaballah, got the first question in at an event which focused largely on security certificates, no-fly lists, and related attacks against this country's Arab Muslim communities.

Following four candidates' introductory statements (including an especially compelling and truthful set of remarks by the NDP's Joe Comartin), Jaballah addressed the man who is trying to outsource the torture and murder of his father, Mahmoud.

"Mr. Volpe," he began, "There are two worlds, one of reality and one of wonder. Mr. Volpe, you live in a world of wonder," he said in reference to Volpe's glowing comments about human rights, respect for law and due process. Jaballah outlined the terror his family has been put through at the hands of CSIS and Canada's immigration bureaucracy, five years of indefinite detention without charge, unfounded accusations and allegations never proven in a court of law, and the threat of deportation to torture or death.

In response, Volpe gassed on about how his secret trial Star Chamber process reflects only the highest in due process, charter rights blah blah blah, to which Jaballah jumped out of his seat and, with supportive cheers from many in the room, again asked, "Where's the due process? Where's the due process?"

Volpe, shocked, then switched his approach and, according to eyewitnesses, said he did not comment on individual cases and that he did not feel sorry for Mr. Jaballah or for his son.

The Tory candidate, Barry Devolin, at least said he DID feel sorry and that there had to be a better way, though he did not come out for abolition of the medieval process (a classic Canadian position -- you can feel bad if it makes you feel better). The NDP's Comartin and Green candidate Raphael Thierren both reiterated their parties' positions that the secret trial process should be abolished.

It was indeed a rare moment for the deportation minister to come face to face with the pain and terror that are wrought by his policies. These are realities from which he, like so many Good Canadians, has chosen to insulate himself. The only irony here may be that come January 23, Volpe will be a member of an opposition which is forced to take a stand on security certificates if Harper's Conservatives continue the process.

But in the week that remains of the federal election, Martin's Liberals continue to blow a hypocritical wind in Stephen Harper's direction, trying to convince us that consrvative leader will lead us back to medieval times and sever our ties with the civilized world.

While members of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, No One is Illegal, and the Raging Grannies shivered outside Volpe's office yesterday, Martin was on the offensive in Montreal, where he said "we put our national reputation at risk when we turn our back on the world," adding that if the Conservatives were to take power, Canada's signature "on an international treaty will have no value. Well, let me tell you, when Canada's gives its word to the world, Canada keeps its word."

This comes as a surprise to those affected by the Liberals'
draconian "security" policies as well as to the United Nations, which time and again this past year has criticized Canada for turning its back on the world and breaking its word on issues including torture, arbitrary detention, ongoing wretched treatment of First Nations, and a variety of related commitments to women, children, the environment, and global peace.

Back at Volpe's office, volunteers trying to staff the phone bank and encourage people to come out and support the deportation minister were reminded constantly today that a vote for Volpe is a vote for torture. Distracted at first when a small group took jail bars with the names of each of the Secret Trial Five and affixed them to the many windows of the office (a former fast-food chicken outlet), some volunteers appeared visibly disturbed later on when the jail bars were replaced with huge placards with the following words about their man, their party, their Canada.

"What Happens When Canada Deports People to Torture? Detainees are beaten with fists, sticks, gun-butts, makeshift whips, iron pipes, baseball bats, electric flex. Victims suffer bruises, internal bleeding, broken bones, lost teeth, ruptured organs and some die. Rape and sexual abuse of prisoners is also widespread, as are electric shocks, suspension of the body, beating on the soles of the feet, suffocation, mock execution or death threat, submersion in water, stubbing of cigarettes on the body, being tied to the back of a car and dragged, prolonged solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation."

Words to remember the next time a cheery-faced, Charter-thumping liberal appears at your door.

(Today's vigil was the latest in a series that have been organized by groups including No One Is Illegal, Justice for Migrant Workers, the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, Country Music Fans Against Secret Trials, and Solidarity Across Borders, which next Saturday will host another gathering at Volpe's Avenue Road/Lawrence West campaign office)

(report from Matthew Behrens of Country Music Fans Against Secret Trials)

Check out the links to the various groups that are listed, too!

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