Thursday, January 17, 2008

Good Backgrounder on New Secret Trials Legislation

When Parliament returns at the end of January, there is likely to be an attempt to pass Bill C-3 through third reading in the House. This bill is an effort by the Conservatives to respond to a Supreme Court ruling last year which determined that the legislation authorizing so-called 'national security certificates', aka secret trials, was unconstitutional. The bill submitted to Parliament contains only minor changes over the one that the Supreme Court ruled against, and the further token reforms passed at the committee level in early December also leave the unjust system fundamentally intact: two-tier justice, secret hearings, indefinite detention without charge, and deportation to torture. It looks like most Bloc and Liberal MPs are going to be voting in favour of the legislation, and justifying this by the minor shifts won at the committee level in early December.

However, a small number of Liberals have publically committed to voting against it, and I'm told several more have privately said they will avoid voting in favour by being absent when the roll is called, so there is still room to exert pressure. In talking to your MP and to your friends, neighbours, and colleagues about this issue, a wonderful resource is this brief prepared by a group in Montreal called Justice for Adil Charkaoui (named after one of the Muslim men of colour currently being detained without charge on secret evidence by the Canadian state, whom this group is active in supporting). It outlines in a point-by-point way why the Conservative changes and the further Liberal-backed amendments are completely inadequate. Not least among these reasons is the fact that such powerful mainstream legal bodies as the Canadian Bar Association, the Quebec Bar Association, and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada have all indicated that the legislation as proposed remains unconstitutional.

A vote for Bill C-3 is a vote for two-tier justice, secret hearings, indefinite detention without charge, and deportation to torture! Let your MP know that you know this, particularly if they are a Liberal or Bloc member, and that you will hold them accountable for voting for this legislation.

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