Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Please Endorse Statement Against Security Certificates

In December, the Federal Court of Canada issued three interconnected decisions upholding a process whereby secret trials have been used in recent years to target and indefinitely detain a number of Muslim men of colour. The decisions were in the case of Mohamed Harkat, and the committee supporting him is asking anyone and everyone, including organizations, to sign on to a statement opposing this oppressive process.

The measure in question is called a "national security certificate." No specific charges are laid. No evidence beyond vague profiling is every made available to the detained person, their lawyer of choice, or the public. Hearsay, innuendo, and racial profiling seem to be at the core of even the secret information presented to the courts in these cases. Yet the individuals can be detained indefinitely and, ultimately, deported -- and the federal government has shown an interest in pursuing deportation even in cases where their own assessment indicates that the detained person is at risk of torture if deported. Due process is almost nonexistent, standards of evidence are far lower than they would be in an actual criminal proceeding, and there have been repeated instances discovered by the courts of Canadian security services lying to them. Though an earlier Supreme Court decision struck the process down as unconstitutional, the changes instituted by the federal government in response were largely cosmetic and left the basically unjust character of the process intact. Security certificates have been part of larger campaigns of harassment and intimidation by Canadian security and intelligence organizations against Muslim communities of colour in the country, especially since 9/11, and "national security" is increasingly being used as a justification to attack not just Muslim Canadians, but also indigenous peoples, refugees and immigrants, and political activists.

Here are some useful links on the topic:

  • For general background, you can see the text of a presentation I did at a conference on security issues at Laurentian University.
  • For information on the decisions in December, see this and this, both articles by a writer and activist who has been centrally involved in the struggle against secret trials in Canada.
  • For a piece by Sophie Harkat, Mohamed's wife, see here.

The statement they are asking people to endorse reads as follows:

We, the undersigned, have grave concerns regarding the continued use of sections 9, 76-87 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which allow for the imprisonment in Canada of refugees and permanent residents under the authority of a “Security Certificate”.

The new version of this measure - which included only cosmetic changes in the form of a very limited appeal provision and of the introduction of "special advocates", whose ability to act on behalf of the detained is extremely limited - still maintains a veil of secrecy over any information that may be used against the detained.

Therefore, we are concerned that those detained under security certificates are:

• Imprisoned indefinitely on secret evidence, though no charges have been laid against them;
• Tried in unfair judicial proceedings where information is not disclosed to the detainee or their lawyer;
• Denied the full right to appeal when the certificate is upheld in a process that uses the lowest standard of proof of any court in Canada;
• Under threat of deportation even when they face unfair imprisonment, torture or death.

We believe that the existing Security Certificate process is undemocratic; violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and violates fundamental human rights, to which the government of Canada has committed itself through the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention on Refugees, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the UN Convention on Torture.

Accordingly, we demand that the Security Certificate process be abolished.

For those currently detained under security certificates, we demand:

• That their certificates be removed, and, if any case against them actually exists, that they be allowed to defend themselves in open, fair and independent trials with full disclosure of the case against them.
• That they not be deported.

Prominent signers so far include a number of MPs and labour organizations, writers Naomi Klein and Heather Mallick, the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Peace Alliance, prominent Quebecoise feminist Francoise David, the Law Union of Ontario, and Amnesty International Canada.

I got word today that there have been some important international media organizations doing some in-depth digging on this issue, so it is important for all of us who oppose this oppressive law to register our opposition as soon as possible by reading and endorsing the statement.

Also note that a further way to learn more about the manner in which “national security” is increasingly used as a means of repressing First Nations, refugees and immigrants, political activists, and so many more, and how we can resist that agenda, is to attend the "Whose Security? Our Security" gathering in Montreal February 4-6. More information can be found here. At the close of that forum there will be a solidarity dinner with Sophie and Moe Harkat, with proceeds going to the campaign to support Justice for Mohamed Harkat.

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