News from ICLMG

Many hopes and challenges for 2016

Dear friends and supporters of ICLMG,

This is my last blog for 2015. This year has been a roller coaster year for everyone working on civil liberties and human rights. The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group has been vigilant and always consistent about the call to respect human rights for all Canadians with no exception.

Fighting terrorism should never be an excuse to eliminate or diminish our civil liberties. Unfortunately, the new Anti-Terrorism Act 2015, or what everyone knows as C-51, was passed this year. It greatly endangers our civil rights and makes them vulnerable. Meanwhile, the government never brought any evidence to show how this new highly intrusive piece of legislation will make Canadians safer.

Basically, C-51 gave the government the green light to spy on us without a warrant. The intelligence officers have now huge additional powers to “disrupt” any activities they suspect related to terrorism. Guess what that can mean: they can do everything except killing you or sexually abusing you. The promotion of terrorism is now an offence, even if no terrorist act is planned or committed. The act of expressing strong opinion supporting or which could be interpreted as supporting terrorism in general – regardless of intentions – is now considered a crime. Freedom of expression has taken a toll from this.

The No-fly list has been perpetuated and expanded. The same opacity surrounding this list since its creation in 2007 remains unchanged if not worsened. C-51 allows for a judicial hearing that may occur outside of public view and for the use of secret evidence. We have always opposed this list and we are asking the government to make it public.

The former Canadian government has activated the deportation procedures against Mohamed Harkat. How can we deport a man to a country where he is facing the risk of torture, disappearance and death? Unfortunately, in 2015, the security certificate regime remains a flawed system that targets immigrants and refugees. Despite what the Supreme Court advised in terms of informing a suspect about secret information through his special advocate, that remedy wasn’t taken into account and we still have today a process where an individual can never know the evidence held against him.

Omar Khadr has finally been released from prison under strict conditions. His long detention in Guantanamo marks one of the darkest chapters of Canada since 9/11. He was released despite the continuous legal battle the government waged against him. Three times the Supreme Court ruled in his favour and each time the government didn’t want to listen.

On October 19, 2015, Justin Trudeau became the new Prime Minister of Canada, after a decade of fear. Under the Harper government, many civil society organizations felt intimidated. Some were audited, while others were defunded. We really hope that this will be a new chapter in terms of accountability and transparency. Civil society is a pillar of our democracy and any attack against it is an attack on democracy. Perhaps, a public inquiry into those attacks should be pursued.

The road ahead will be bumpy and full of obstacles. We will keep calling for the repeal of C-51. We are determined to obtain the implementation of Justice O’Connor’s recommendations from the Arar Commission report: a parliamentary oversight and robust and integrated review mechanisms. Parliamentary oversight alone is not enough, review mechanisms are crucial.

We call the government to apologize to Ahmed El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin and to compensate them. They are suing the federal government for failing to do so and a court date has been set for 2016. We hope that the government won’t wait until then. Instead, we call on the government to correct this wrong as soon as possible.

Salim Alaradi, the Canadian citizen arrested in summer 2014, is still behind bars in the United Arab Emirates. There is news that his file has been sent to the General Prosecutor. This is deeply troubling as he has not been accused of any crimes. We called many times for his immediate release. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International documented the torture he was subjected to. Evidently, Canada is not doing enough. ICLMG called on the Foreign Affairs Minister, Stéphane Dion, to ask for his immediate release and return to Canada.

There are many hopes and many challenges to come. We count on your support and generosity so we can build a better Canada and a better future for our children.

Happy Holidays from the ICLMG


Please donate as a holiday gift to the ICLMG, or ask your relatives and friends to donate to the ICLMG as a gift to you – thank you for your generous support!

Mohamed Harkat’s deportation should be stopped immediately

The ICLMG read the following statement today at a press conference on Parliament Hill alongside Mohamed Harkat and his lawyer, the Justice for Mohamed Harkat collective, and two of our member organizations, Amnesty International and the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

Last August 2015, the federal government launched deportation proceedings against Mohamed Harkat, exactly 20 years after he first arrived to Canada and claimed the refugee status.

Mohamed Harkat was arrested on December 10, 2002 – exactly 13 years ago – under a security certificate, and since he has been in a legal limbo. He stayed three years in jail, some of them in Guantanamo North, the 3.2 million dollar prison built specially for Muslim detainees. After he was released, he was subjected to the strictest conditions of house arrest. His wife, Sophie Lamarche, became his “unofficial” jailer at home, thus losing what remained of their privacy. For many years, he had to wear an electronic tracking bracelet to monitor all his movements.

In May 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the government security certificate regime and found that the security certificate against Mohamed Harkat was reasonable.

However, the Supreme Court reminded the judges operating under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that they should be “interventionist”, and clearly stated that the government couldn’t proceed with a security certificate case unless the suspect is reasonably informed of the case against them to ensure their defence.

Unfortunately, today, we haven’t seen any steps taken by the government towards allowing suspects to access the secret evidence, if any, against them. On the contrary, Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act passed in June 2015, reinforced the use of secrecy even in the cases involving Canadian citizens and has lowered the threshold and expanded the grounds for preventative arrest.

This deportation decision would be the first step towards the removal of Mohamed Harkat from his peaceful life in Canada to torture and very likely disappearance and execution.

Before being sent to torture, an assessment of the potential danger to Canadians posed by Harkat needs to be done. But realistically, what is the threat posed today by Mohamed Harkat?

The Supreme Court has ruled in the past that terror suspects can only be deported in “exceptional circumstances” to countries where they face a substantial risk of torture, but it has not defined the full meaning of that concept.

According to many human right organizations, like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Algeria is still considered to be a country where grave violations of human rights are common. Can Canada really accept in good conscience the diplomatic assurances that would be given to deport Mohamed Harkat to Algeria? We do not believe it can.

Today, we ask the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, to immediately stop the deportation procedures against Mohamed Harkat. And we add: does this government want to be remembered for sending a refugee back to torture or execution?

ICLMG believes that Mohamed Harkat should be allowed to stay in Canada with his wife. After more than a decade of legal fights, secrecy, physical and emotional distress, it is time to give Mohamed his rights and his life back.

Thank you.

What is the Impact of Fundamentalism on the Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly?

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By Monia Mazigh, National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

Florence, Italy – What is the impact of fundamentalism on the freedom of association and peaceful assembly? That is the question that the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly is trying to answer in his next report. Mr. Maina Kiai organized an expert meeting in Florence, Italy to reflect on that particular issue and suggest some answers. The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group is the organization representing Canada.

The discussion will start around the word “fundamentalism”. Even if the intent of the discussion isn’t to coin a definition of the word, it is important to examine it from different perspectives. Are we talking about religious fundamentalism? Political fundamentalism? Racial? Nationalistic? Certainly all of these forms are to be considered.

But beyond the type of fundamentalism, we will be more interested in the “perpetrators” side rather than the victims’ side of the question. It is the actions of the groups who are espousing and practicing the ideology of fundamentalism that will require our attention.

It should be mentioned that two stakeholders of fundamentalism will be examined:

  • The State
  • The non-state actors.

So as far as we are concerned in Canada, does the State practice or practiced any form of fundamentalism and if yes, what was its impact on the freedom of association and peaceful assembly?

In Canada and for the past decade, the former Harper government played a main and predominant role in violating and abusing rights of individuals and civil society groups basing its approach mainly on neoconservative neoliberal economic views and thus targeting environmental activists, anti-petroleum protesters, union activists, pro-Palestinian activists and anti-austerity groups, combined with a xenophobic ideology where Muslims, refugees and immigrants have been demonized.

Non-state actors:

Non-state groups have also been flourishing and thriving in this context of normalization and institutionalization of attacks on the rights of association and peaceful assembly.

These non-state actors can be divided in two categories. The lines between the two categories cannot always be easily drawn.

  • Right wing extremists
  • Anti-Muslim groups or websites

Just remember, last September 19, 2015 the first protest of PEGIDA held in Canada (in front of the Ontario legislature). Even if the protest was not a huge success, as the Anti-Racism protesters outnumbered the PEGIDA protesters, we saw in that event a troubling incident. The movement was encouraged in its fundamentalist rhetoric by the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean that has brought hundreds of thousands of Syrians and other refugees into the European Union and by the xenophobic discourse increasingly adopted by the Harper government in the last past years, which culminated during the election.

As for the State actions, we just need to look at all the systematic criminalization of dissent that occurred since 2006 and that took multiple forms: intimidation, harassment by spying and surveillance, verbal attacks on Indigenous groups, environmentalist activists and trade union activists, political profiling, student arrests, demonization of Muslims groups and individuals, etc.

Freedom of association and freedom of assembly are pillars of a democratic society. Attacking them or trying to restrict them or limit them can have a counterproductive effect on individual rights but also on the civil society as a whole. Many studies suggest that criminalizing the “promotion of terrorism”, for instance as it is included in Bill C-51, is not the right direction to take to fight fundamentalism. By allowing, these “fundamentalist groups” to operate in the light, while having them under control, is crucial to detect what are the messages being circulated among the actors, as long as the messages are not explicitly calling for hate or violence. Governments can’t allow some groups to express themselves, such as right wing extremists, and still criminalize individuals or groups who are opposing the Western policies in the Middle East. Freedom of expression should be for all.

Internet and the social media play a huge role in spreading all sorts of messages: recruiting new members for fundamentalists groups, spreading hateful and xenophobic messages, but also disseminating useful information to dissuade young people from joining the fundamentalist groups, educating people, calling and informing people about peaceful gathering, public campaigns, etc.

Keeping the good side of the Internet and social media without allowing some hateful and fundamental groups to use it for their own purpose is extremely hard if not impossible.

It is not by banning the Internet or limiting the freedom of expression that we will get rid of fundamentalist ideas or ideology. Fundamentalism always existed and we can’t eliminate it. However, we can be more vigilant. The government has a role here to play in the education system. Kids should learn about the Internet from kindergarten: what is appropriate, what is not. What is violent, what is not. What is respectful, what is not. The work should definitely start there.

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