News from ICLMG

Press release: Two Canadian Human Rights Organizations Urge Canada to Comply with the UN Committee against Torture Recommendations in the Case of Omar Khadr

bkg-Khadr-WaterIn May 2012, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) provided the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) with a report—the Briefing to the Committee against Torture, 48th Session, May 2012 on the Omar Khadr Case—identifying contraventions by Canada of its obligations under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) in the case of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr.

Following the sixth review of Canada’s performance in respect to its obligations under the UNCAT, the CAT, in Concluding Observations published on 25 June 2012, identified 18 specific issues of concern and recommendations for remedial action needed to bring Canada into compliance with UNCAT. Several of these Concluding Observations mirrored the remedial action identified by LRWC/ICLMG as necessary to compliance with Canada’s UNCAT obligations.

Today, more than three years later and in response to an invitation from the Department of Canadian Heritage, LRWC and ICLMG provided an additional report outlining LRWC/ICLMG’s recommendations for measures necessary to implement CAT recommendations.

LRWC and ICLMG requested that the Government of Canada, in answering the questions posed by the CAT (the LOIPR), treat the term “redress” as including duties to fully investigate the torture and ill-treatment to which Omar Khadr was subjected during his imprisonment, to identify and hold accountable those responsible, to ensure proper redress for Omar Khadr and adopt measures to prevent further occurrences, in accordance with the provisions of the UNCAT.

LRWC/ICLMG state that the proper definition of “redress” captures and makes Canada responsible to provide redress for the torture and ill-treatment suffered by Omar Khadr throughout his entire period of imprisonment by the United States.

LRWC and ICLMG request the Government of Canada to provide CAT with full details of the efforts Canada has taken or plans to take to address:

  • CAT recommendations relevant to the Omar Khadr case and the issue of redress as defined by CAT;
  • LOIPR questions relevant to the Omar Khadr case and Canada’s duties to ensure full redress for the torture and ill-treatment of Omar Khadr;
  • Recommendations outlined in the LRWC/ICLMG briefing to CAT and the LRWC report to the Canadian Department of Heritage; and
  • The LRWC and ICLMG concerns set out in the report.

Canada has contravened to every aspect of its UNCAT duties in the Omar Khadr case. To remedy these sweeping contraventions, Canada must enact legislation to create a process by which complaints can be made and to ensure the investigation of complaints, the prosecution or discipline of suspected perpetrators and full redress for the victims. Canada must also develop a programme for delivery and assessment of education and training about UNCAT duties for public servants, including judges, charged with responsibility for detained people. Canada should develop this legislation and these programmes and policies in consultation with civil society organizations with expertise.

LRWC and ICLMG request involvement in the implementation of the CAT recommendations.

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Special Event: The Consequences of Bill C-51 for Civil Liberties and the Freedom of Expression in Canada


UPDATE: If you are unable to attend the event in Toronto, you can listen in live here.

The International Civil Liberties and Monitoring Group and the Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University are happy to invite you to a public event in Toronto:

The Consequences of Bill C-51 for Civil Liberties and the Freedom of Expression in Canada


John Ralston Saul

Award winning novelist and essayist, author of The Comeback and A Fair Country. President Emeritus of PEN International and Co-Chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

Monia Mazigh

National Coordinator, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group; author of Hope and Despair, her memoir of the campaign to rescue her husband, Maher Arar, and clear his name.


James L. Turk

Distinguished Visiting Professor and Director, Centre for Free Expression, Ryerson University

Location: Room 103, Rogers Communications Centre, Ryerson University, Toronto

Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm

Date: Tuesday, February 2, 2016

RSVP and invite your friends to the Facebook event

Oversight and Review Mechanisms: which one to choose?

Ralph_goodale_McGuinty.jpg-largeBy Monia Mazigh – On February 19, 2015, four former Canadian Prime Ministers wrote an op-ed in the Globe and Mail entitled “A Close Eye on Security Makes Canadians Safer”. They were urging Canada to implement an accountability regime that would deal with the government national security activities. This is an excerpt of what they said:

“A strong and robust accountability regime mitigates the risk of abuse, stops abuse when it is detected and provides a mechanism for remedying abuses that have taken place.”

Of course, at the time, the call from the four Prime Ministers was ignored. Last week, almost a year later, we were happily surprised to hear through media reports that Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has already started working on implementing the first all-party parliamentary national security committee. We also learned that David McGuinty, a long-time MP for Ottawa South, will be taking a leadership role in this committee.

When it comes to national security agencies and their activities, Canada lacks a robust and integrated oversight and review mechanism.

In everyday vocabulary, there is no distinction between “oversight” and “review” mechanism. In reality, there is a clear distinction between the two and we would like to see both implemented in Canada.

Justice Dennis O’Connor stated in his recommendations reports the following:

“To summarize, a review body assesses the activities of an organization against standards such as lawfulness and propriety, and delivers reports, which often contain recommendations to those in government who are politically responsible for the organization. In contrast, an oversight body performs the same functions but plays a more direct role in the management of the organization.”

Justice O’Connor believes that the review mechanism will have greater independence from the activities being reviewed and thus will have a better and greater impact on accountability. He doesn’t believe that oversight can keep the same distance with the examined organizations and thus it is a potential weakness.

Canada is the only country amongst the Five Eyes without any sort of oversight process regarding its national security agencies. However, Canada has two external review bodies:

  • The Security Intelligence review Committee (SIRC) established in 1984 to review CSIS activities;
  • The Communication Security Establishment (CSE) Commissioner established in 1996 to review CSE activities.

Even though these two review bodies accomplish important work, their respective duties remain conducted in silo, with little resources and huge challenges to address. In a world where the national security operations are more and more integrated, international and complex, the review mechanism landscape remains weak, scattered and ill-adapted to this new reality.

Today, there are 17 Canadian agencies involved in national security information sharing, and only three have some sort of a review mechanism: CSIS, the CSE and somewhat the RCMP. What about departments and agencies such as Public Safety, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC), Foreign Affairs, etc? They have none.

In his recommendations from the Arar Inquiry, Justice Dennis O’Connor established a list of recommendations for the creation of an integrated accountability regime. He favoured the review mechanism with a “super SIRC” model that would examine all the activities of all the agencies involved in national security. Unfortunately, those recommendations were never implemented.

In the last decade, four main legislative attempts tried to establish an oversight committee in the Canadian parliament but they all failed.

In 2005, Bill C-81 was introduced by the Liberal government as an Act to establish a National Security Committee of Parliamentarians. It is the first attempt after the “Maher Arar case” to create an oversight body. This legislation died when the Parliament was dissolved on October 29, 2005 and general elections were called.

In 2013, private member’s bill C-551 was introduced by Liberal MP Wayne Easter. The proposed legislation was to establish a parliamentary committee to oversee all national security activities. The bill stopped at the first reading in the House. Private member bills rarely become laws especially under majority governments, which was the case at the time.

In 2014, private member’s bill C-622 was introduced by Liberal MP Joyce Murray with the intent to impose greater judicial and parliamentary scrutiny on the CSE as well as creating a Parliamentary Committee on intelligence and security matters. The bill was voted down at the second reading.

And finally, in 2014 again, Bill S-220 was introduced by the Conservative Senator Hugh Segal and supported by his liberal colleagues Roméo Dallaire and Grant Mitchell. The intent of the bill was to create an all-party committee of parliamentarians on national security and intelligence oversight. The bill stopped at the second reading in the Senate.

The recent news that Canada is considering to implement an oversight parliamentary committee based on the UK model is promising but it is not enough.

Accountability is crucial for many reasons. It prevents abuses from occurring, it allows the agencies to learn from their past errors, it makes the agencies more efficient and transparent but, most of all, it gives assurances to the public about its institutions. So let’s not forget the importance and the relevancy of the review mechanisms as recommended by Justice O’Connor.

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