News from ICLMG

Canada is deporting a man to torture. Will we let that happen?

By Anne Dagenais Guertin & Tim McSorley

This is a story about a man who came to Canada as a refugee out of fear of persecution in his home country. Several years later, though, he was jailed without charge based on allegations from a secret informant who failed a lie-detector test and whom the judge refused to make available for cross-examination.

After his arrest, the government proceeded to destroy the original “evidence” against him. Only a summary was given to a special, security-cleared lawyer, who wasn’t allowed to discuss the evidence with the person in question. The process that followed, based on a special law, was so skewed that the courts were allowed to make their decisions based on information not normally admissible in a court of law.

It doesn’t end there. Over the next 16 years, this person faced constant monitoring and harassment by government officials, three-and-a-half years of detention, including one in solitary confinement, and years of house arrest but has never event been charged, let alone convicted, of a crime.

On top of all this, he is now facing deportation to torture because he is not a Canadian citizen.

After hearing this story, do you think it unfair? Do you think it is shocking that this could happen in Canada? Do you believe this needs to stop — and should never have happened in the first place?

What if we told you the person we are talking about is a Muslim man named Mohamed Harkat, who Canada is attempting to deport based on secret, unproven national security allegations? Would that change your answers to the questions above?

Unfounded fear and hatred of Muslims, migrants and refugees, already long-standing, became worse after Sept. 11, 2001, and are now acceptable public discourse. The examples are many: Politicians winning elections on hatred of Muslims and foreigners; fear-mongering over the refugee caravan and asylum seekers forced to cross the U.S.-Canada border between official points of entry because of the Safe Third Country Agreement; and the stunning increase of reported hate crimes in Canada in 2017, up 151 per cent for Muslims alone.

The fear of Muslims is now so pervasive that, in 2017, a young man was convinced that committing a terrorist attack and killing six worshippers at a Quebec City Mosque would protect people… from a terrorist attack. Fear leads us to do illogical things. And it leads us to renounce long-held principles that we otherwise say define us as Canadians, including freedom of thought and religion, the prohibition of torture, the fundamental right to due process and a fair trial, and the principle of innocence until proven guilty before a court of law.

Our point is that we are being duped: duped into giving up our rights and our ideals — including a more just and equal society for all, legally, economically and socially — through fear-mongering. We are being distracted by people who want to hoard more money and power for themselves by pointing the finger at people simply in search of a better life. People who come here in fear of persecution in their home country. People like Mohamed Harkat.

Moe, as he is affectionately known to his family, friends and supporters (including the ICLMG, fighting alongside him for the past decade), arrived in Canada in 1995 and obtained refugee status in 1997. On Dec. 10, 2002, he was arrested outside his home in Ottawa, alleged to be a threat to national security and subjected to a security certificate. He spent years in jail despite never having been accused let alone convicted of a crime, and was released on bail in 2006 with the strictest conditions in Canadian history. He has been happily married to a French-Canadian woman for 19 years, he is a hard worker and is loved by his family, community and colleagues.

Now he faces deportation to Algeria where he will be tortured.

It’s not a fear, it’s a fact. Canada gave him refugee status in 1997 because his fear of persecution was deemed founded. Now that his name is tainted by unproven, secret national security allegations, he will be detained and tortured if he is sent back to Algeria. And we are not the only ones to acknowledge this: GermanyFrancethe U.K. and the Supreme Court of Ireland consider it unsafe to deport refugees to Algeria.

At Moe’s last bail hearing, CSIS did not file a threat assessment, and his bail conditions have been significantly lowered over the years, including the removal of his ankle monitor five years ago, demonstrating he is no longer considered a threat.

However, Moe and his wife Sophie continue to be harassed by government agents and live in fear that Moe could be deported any day. Their health and quality of life have been greatly impacted for too long. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has the power to stop Moe’s deportation to torture and allow him to stay in Canada with his family and friends. He can prevent Canada from once again being complicit in torture, and he can rectify the great injustice that has been done to Moe in violation of what Canada claims to be: a country respectful of human rights and civil liberties.

You can change that today, on International Human Rights Day. Take action by calling Prime Minister Trudeau, sending a letter to your MP, signing the petition – and more! – to stop the deportation to torture of Mohamed Harkat.

It’s the right thing to do.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. Here at ICLMG, we are working very hard to protect and promote human rights and civil liberties in the context of the so-called “war on terror” in Canada. We do not receive any financial support from any federal, provincial or municipal governments or political parties.

You can become our patron on Patreon and get rewards in exchange for your support. You can give as little as $1/month (that’s only $12/year!) and you can unsubscribe at any time. Any donations will go a long way to support our work.panel-54141172-image-6fa93d06d6081076-320-320You can also make a one-time donation or donate monthly via Paypal by clicking on the button below. On the fence about giving? Check out our Achievements and Gains since we were created in 2002. Thank you for your generosity!
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Support ICLMG on Giving Tuesday!

#GivingTuesday is a global movement for giving and volunteering, taking place each year after Black Friday. It provides a platform to encourage people to donate their time, resources and talents to make the world a better place for everyone.

In the spirit of this day, we would like to say thank you to our very generous supporters and donors, without which our work of protecting civil liberties from the negative impact of national security would not be possible, as we receive no government or corporate funds. If you would also like to support our work, click the button below.

Your support will allow us to continue to:

  • Fight for the protection of our civil liberties
  • Push for the National Security Act of 2017, Bill C-59, to be heavily amended
  • Work to end deportations to torture and to keep Mohamed Harkat in Canada
  • Call for a public inquiry into the case of Dr. Hassan Diab
  • Abolish Canada’s No-Fly List and prevent the US No-Fly List from being applied to Canadian flights that do not go to the US
  • Ensure civil liberties are front and center in the 2019 federal election
  • Publish our weekly News Digest
  • And much more!

Thank you for your help protecting civil liberties in Canada!

– Anne & Tim

Canada should not collect all travelers’ exit data, ICLMG tells Senate Committee

On Monday November 5, ICLMG National Coordinator, Tim McSorley, appeared in front of the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence regarding Bill C-21, an Act to Amend the Customs Act, which allows the sharing of Canadian travelers’ exit data between the US and Canada. In short, we told the Senate Commitee:

We believe the best solution would be to not collect travelers’ data en-masse, since restrictions in C-21 could be negated by powers granted in other legislation. Instead, we believe that security agencies should focus efforts on improving data collection on an as-needed basis. We therefore are opposed to the provisions of Bill C-21 that would lead to the default collection of all travelers’ information by the CBSA.

Here is Tim’s full presentation:

Thank you to the Committee for inviting me to present on behalf of the 45 member organizations of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group coalition.

While we recognize that there are three overarching reasons for Bill C-21 – national security, law enforcement and social policies – our focus is on national security.

Over the past 15 years, the ICLMG has been critical of proposals that further integrate Canadian border security with United States border security, which has been a near constant project since Sept. 11, 2001. In particular, we have paid attention to the impact that increasing border security can have on Canadians’ rights and freedoms, including around privacy rights, the right to movement and freedom of expression.

While we are not opposed to cooperation on security, we believe that such intensive security harmonization undermines Canada’s ability to set security policies according to Canadians’ priorities and concerns, and to adequately protect Canadians’ civil liberties as set out by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The concerns have not been unfounded, as we have seen instances of security and border agreements that either follow the United States’ lead and/or are negotiated with little public input or debate.

The bill must also be considered in the context of Canada’s ever growing information collecting and sharing regimes, both domestically and internationally. The Canadian government now collects more data on its residents than ever before, and participates in unprecedented international intelligence sharing partnerships, such as the Five Eyes alliance. Such expansion gives rise to greater concerns over privacy protections and at a minimum, a chill on other rights.

Bill C-21 may at first glance appear straightforward, but the issues involved becomes more complex when examined in the context of increasing surveillance, data retention and sharing, and the use of this data to analyse and identify security threats.

The government has stated that the data to be collected will consist of the information on the second page of a person’s passport. However, the data collected will go further to include the location and date of departure, point of entry, and for those travelling on a “prescribed conveyance” any identifying number issued to that passenger.

This kind of data, tying a person to their movement across borders, can paint a very specific and revealing portrait, especially if and when it is combined with other information collected by government agencies (employment records, health records, government benefits, etc.). While we must not be alarmist, it is also important to point out that the information collected is potentially significant, necessitating strong safeguards and clear regulations on its collection, sharing/disclosure, retention and eventual use.

Clear delineations on the use and/or sharing of the exit data collected would be important to prevent national security over-reach. The Canadian government regularly engages in sharing data between departments, including with national security agencies. While the government assures us that there are clear rules in place, there is reason to be concerned about the sharing of Canadians’ private information for purposes unbeknownst to the traveler.

For example, we are concerned this type of data could be added in bulk to CSIS datasets created with Bill C-59, creating a massive archive of the travels of Canadians who are not direct subjects of national security investigations.

This also raises questions under the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, which introduced a broad new definition of “acts that undermine the security of Canada.” A person could see their information shared by the CBSA with CSIS, the RCMP or other agencies without having been suspected of (or having committed) a crime.

I’d like to share a timely example. In recent years we have seen cases of both CSIS and the RCMP surveilling and even developing profiles on peaceful protesters. Many of these people are engaged on issues that cross national borders, and may even travel for protests – think of those who joined the protests at Standing Rock, or even the Women’s March in Washington. The mass collection of travel information would easily allow for a new data point to be added to these profiles which, we must remember, have been criticized and discontinued when brought to light.

The Canadian government also shares intelligence with other jurisdictions. We are concerned that Canadians’ travel information will be shared with foreign intelligence agencies that can then use the information as they wish, despite attempts to seek assurances. Such information sharing is at the heart of the cases of people like Mr. Arar, Mr. Almalki, Mr. Elmaati and Mr. Nurredin, who all suffered unjust imprisonment and torture abroad.

Finally, we have not seen evidence or statistics from the government showing that there are growing security risks that would necessitate this kind of increase in en masse data collection.

We believe the best solution would be to not collect travelers’ data en-masse, since restrictions in C-21 could be negated by powers granted in other legislation. Instead, we believe that security agencies should focus efforts on improving data collection on an as-needed basis. We therefore are opposed to the provisions of Bill C-21 that would lead to the default collection of all travelers’ information by the CBSA.

But barring that, a few actions could be taken to mitigate this risk:

  • First, a clause clearly detailing under what circumstances and for what purposes the information collected by the CBSA will be shared with security agencies (domestic and foreign).
  • Second, we were glad to see a limit on the retention period for travelers’ data was put in place. However, 15 years remains too long a time limit. An official from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner pointed out during the study in the House of Commons that while the OPC agreed to a 15 year limit, they remain unclear as to why that is necessary. At a minimum, the government must explain why such information would be needed for 15 years, and, if they cannot, the retention period should be further reduced.
  • Third, Canadians must have a method of identifying if the information being held is accurate, and if it is discovered to be inaccurate that there is a clear method to correct it. We therefore recommend that a system be added allowing individuals to request the information about their travels that the CBSA holds, and to request corrections as necessary.
  • Finally, we would also recommend that an independent and specific review body be established for the CBSA.

We understand that the collection of exit data is being debated internationally and becoming the norm in the international community. However, we believe that Canada can also lead by example by acting to protect travelers’ rights.

For more details on the bill, read our full brief.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. Here at ICLMG, we are working very hard to protect and promote human rights and civil liberties in the context of the so-called “war on terror” in Canada. We do not receive any financial support from any federal, provincial or municipal governments or political parties.

You can become our patron on Patreon and get rewards in exchange for your support. You can give as little as $1/month (that’s only $12/year!) and you can unsubscribe at any time. Any donations will go a long way to support our work.panel-54141172-image-6fa93d06d6081076-320-320You can also make a one-time donation or donate monthly via Paypal by clicking on the button below. On the fence about giving? Check out our Achievements and Gains since we were created in 2002. Thank you for your generosity!
make-a-donation-button

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