Monday, October 15, 2007

Sudbury Residents to Protest Secret Trials

I'll be faxing the following release (plus contact info I'm not necessarily keen to put online) to local media outlets later today, along with a French version where appropriate:


SUDBURY, ONTARIO, October 15, 2007 – Many Canadians like to think that we live in a place where governmental authorities cannot lock you up and throw away the key while keeping the charges and the evidence secret.

Many Canadians are wrong.

On October 20, 2007, members of Sudbury Against War and Occupation (SAWO) will join with people in communities across Canada on the National Day of Action Against Secret Trials to demand an end to the so-called "national security certificate" process.

SAWO will be holding a media conference in front of the Sudbury Courthouse at 155 Elm Street at noon on Saturday, October 20. Speakers will include Dr. Gary Kinsman of Laurentian University, who has written extensively on the history of the Canadian national security state and was recently awarded Laurentian University's Research Excellence Award.

In the last several years, the Canadian government has subjected five Muslim men to indefinite, arbitrary detention or house arrest conditions, under threat of deportation to torture. Under the security certificate legislation, the government can do this to non-citizens without charging and convicting them in a court of law. Instead, they face secret trials that do not require the government to tell the accused or their lawyers the substance of the allegations or evidence against them.

The evidence is presented in secret, usually by intelligence agencies, and may be tainted by coercion, torture, and destruction of evidence. It may also consist of hearsay or be derived from questionable foreign intelligence sources. "The allegations rely more on racism and fear than anything else," argues SAWO member Scott Neigh. "And despite the harsh consequences for the accused, the government does not have to meet the same evidentiary basis or standard for due process required for laying actual criminal charges under Canadian criminal law."

In February 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that some aspects of the security certificate process are unconstitutional and gave the government one year to change the law. The Conservative government is expected to introduce new legislation this fall. Critics charge that the changes to the legislation will likely be inadequate and will leave the unjust process largely intact.

SAWO is calling for the abolition of the security certificate process. Says Neigh, "No amount of tinkering can turn an essentially discriminatory process – one which explicitly treats the liberty of non-citizens with contempt and which is implemented in ways that target Muslim men of colour – into a fair one. It is a process that places arbitrary power in the hands of spy agencies and politicians, that replaces precise charges with vague concepts, that relies on secret suspicions, profiling and association instead of evidence, and that has no end except deportation to further torture. It assumes that immigrants are potential 'threats to national security.' It cannot be reformed and must be eliminated."

Sudbury Against War and Occupation is a group of Sudbury residents concerned with all forms and consequences of war and occupation. The organization started in early 2007 to object to Canadian support for and involvement in the ongoing occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. They have also been active in supporting the struggles of indigenous peoples in North America. SAWO sees secret trials as one domestic consequence of Canada's deep involvement in war and occupation.

If you want more information about the local event or the national day of action, get in touch with me and if I can't answer your questions then I'll put you in touch with someone who can.

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