News from ICLMG

Don’t let the police steal Canada’s National Security Debate

A RCMP cruiser sits parked on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Matthew Usherwood


By Tim McSorley, National Coordinator, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

When it comes to national security – rules governing everything from when you can be arrested to when the government can spy on your email – the RCMP feels that its voice and the voices of other law enforcement agencies aren’t being heard in the government’s public consultation on national security, which runs online until the end of this day, December 15.

« So far, [the debate] appears to be driven very much from one side, which is those that would like more privacy and more anonymity, » RCMP Chief Supt. Jeff Adam told the CBC and Toronto Star in November. The interview was part of a joint series on how police feel they are losing the tech race to criminals who they say are “going dark” behind encryption – a claim that has been heavily disputed, even by the Star’s editorial board.

While the RCMP feels its voice isn’t being heard, as soon as the online consultation was published, human rights and privacy organizations cried foul. They pointed to leading questions, hypothetical scenarios provided without evidence, and a questionable background document that all seemed to lay out an argument not only in support of the most problematic powers introduced in Bill C-51, but for bringing in concerning new police powers as well.

Could something so weighted towards police powers have truly excluded the police? As Vice Canada reporter Justin Ling has shown, it would appear law enforcement’s voice has been there all along.

A memo from last February shows that as far back as last winter, the RCMP was strategizing on getting new powers. In the memo, they lay out their plan for creating a “new public narrative” around national security, including four themes that weigh heavily on the framing of the national security consultation. As Ling explains it, they are:

  1. A lack of interception hardware on Canadian telecommunication networks,
  2. The use of encryption to protect communications,
  3. The deletion of user data by companies,
  4. And the inability to obtain users’ data hosted in some foreign countries.

Even a casual read of the consultation and supporting documents reveal how important these four perceived concerns are to the government.

So really, there was no need to have major media grant them a platform: police voices were already at the heart of the process.

So how can we make sure we swing the balance back?

Until the end of this day, December 15th, anyone can share their thoughts by filling out the online consultation, or by sending an email to

Whether you want to call on the government to once and for all “kill Bill C-51” or want to dig into the nuances of how banks report suspicious financial transactions to the government, now is your chance!

At the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), we think there are a lot of reasons to share your concerns, including:

  • Undoing new laws that threaten freedom of expression under the guise of limiting the promotion of terrorism
  • Protecting our right to privacy from new rules that give government agencies unprecedented power to share our private information between themselves and with foreign authorities
  • Preventing police and spy agencies from obtaining new powers that would violate our privacy, including obtaining Basic Subscribers Information (BSI) without a warrant, weakening encryption, intercepting a vast array of our communications, and forcing telecom companies into bulk data retention.
  • Bringing in a greater, integrated and independent review mechanism for all of Canada’s national security bodies. Right now only three out of twenty have independent review, and they are forced to work in silos, unable to examine the work of other agencies even when operations overlap.
  • Repealing the no-fly list which has proven ineffective and resulted in an untold number of false positives – including over 50 children.
  • Ensuring the government focuses on reducing all forms of violence and increasing equality for all communities, rather than further marginalizing Muslim, Arab and other racialized communities.

Many of the questions are technical and obscure, and not everyone is a national security expert. That’s why the ICLMG, along with several other groups, have put together guides to help decipher and answer the questions.

You can find our responses here: Feel free to re-use and adapt them for your own answers.

The government has said it wants to hear from us. And the only way to make sure our voices are heard loud and clear is by sending in as many messages by the end of the day. Together, we can make sure to do away with invasive spying and the criminalization of dissent and put our laws to work protecting civil liberties and human rights.

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. Any donations will go a long way to support our work.

On the fence about giving? Check out our Achievements and Gains since we were created in 2002. Thank you for your generosity! 

In memory of Warren Allmand


Warren Allmand at the conference “Arar+10: National Security and Human Rights, 10 Years Later”, organized by ICLMG in collaboration with Amnesty International, the Human Rights Research and Education Centre, and the Centre for International Policy Studies of the University of Ottawa, in October 2014. Photo credit: Sébastien Packer.

Ottawa – It is with great sadness that the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group has received the news of the death of Warren Allmand on Wednesday December 7, 2016. A staunch defender of human rights and justice has passed away. Warren supported ICLMG from the very beginning, when he served as president of Rights & Democracy.

Warren was tireless in his work, both as a political representative and as an outspoken advocate for social justice. At the ICLMG, we will remember him for all that he put into defending civil liberties in the face of growing national security laws and the “war on terror.” Warren served as a spokesperson for the coalition, and put his years of experience as an MP, cabinet minister and Solicitor-General towards representing us before parliamentary committees and in guiding through both the Canadian legislative process and our international work at the UN.

Warren also played a significant role during the O’Connor Inquiry into the torture of Maher Arar, and the subsequent Iacobucci Inquiry into the torture of Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin, serving as the ICLMG’s co-counsel throughout the five years of the two inquiries.

“With our limited resources and a broad mandate, Warren helped us shape the ICLMG to what it is today,” said Dominique Peschard, ICLMG co-chair. “We will remember his friendship, his passion and his tireless support, and will continue our work for social justice as he would have wanted us to. Our thoughts and hearts are with his family and loved ones at this difficult time.”

We can’t mark another Human Rights Day with blood on our hands


By Tim McSorley, National Coordinator

This statement was read in part at a press conference on Parliament Hill on December 9, 2016. Watch Sophie Harkat, wife of Mohamed Harkat and activist, and Tim McSorley deliver their speeches.

Today, December 10th, marks Human Rights Day. But it is also the anniversary of an ongoing stain on Canada’s human rights record.

Fourteen years ago, Mohamed Harkat, an Algerian refugee to Canada, was arrested outside his home under a government security certificate and allegations of having ties to terrorism. Despite never being charged, and never being shown the evidence against him, Harkat has been subjected to solitary confinement, has experienced the strictest bail conditions in Canadian history, and lives under the constant threat of benig deported to Algeria, where he will certainly be imprisoned and likely tortured.

We like to believe that Canada stands above torture. And while the practice is banned in Canada, our international human rights obligations means that we must oppose torture everywhere – including never deporting someone to a situation where they could face torture.

Sadly, Canada has a history of complicity in sending Canadians to torture abroad: The US government whisked away Maher Arar to Jordan, and then Syria, where he was tortured. Canadian officials were complicit in his rendition and turned a blind-eye to his torture. In 2007, after the two-year O’Connor Inquiry, he received an official apology from the Canadian government, plus a $10.5 million settlement and $1 million in legal fees.

While no apology or settlement can undo the horrors of torture, other Canadians have not even received that much. A follow-up to the O’Connor Inquiry, the Iacobucci Inquiry, found that Canadian agents and officials played an indirect role in the arrest and torture of three other Canadians: Ahmad El Maati in Egypt, and Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin in Syria. This included problematic sharing of information with foreign spy agencies, providing insufficient consular support, and officials ignoring allegations of torture.

The inquiry ended in 2008, and yet no compensation and redress has been offered. This, despite a 2009 majority vote in the House – including Justin Trudeau and Liberal MPs – in favour of a Public Safety Committee report calling for an apology, redress, and full-adoption of the recommendations of the O’Connor Inquiry, including the creation of an integrated and independent review body for national security.

Sadly, we’ve seen the opposite of redress: the Conservative government at the time, and now the current Liberal government, have fought hard against a $100 million lawsuit brought by the three men as redress for the abuse they faced. In fact, the Liberals have doubled down, arguing in court that a 2014 law brought in by the Conservatives to protect intelligence sources should apply retroactively, in a bid to stop key testimony.

When the Prime Minister says Canada is back and promises to fight for equality and human rights, a fundamental first step should be apologizing, providing redress, and eliminating all complicity in torture.

There is a golden opportunity to make things right: the government is currently holding public, country-wide consultations on our national security framework. Prime Minister Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale could help set the tone for what is to come by stating right away that they will take some fundamental steps:

  • Ensuring no person is deported if there is a risk of torture, starting with the end of deportation proceedings against Mr. Harkat;
  • Committing to redress and apologies for all victims of torture in which Canada is complicit, starting with Mr. El Maati, Mr. Almalki and Mr. Nureddin;
  • Withdrawing ministerial directives – still on the books – which allow Canada to accept intelligence that may have been garnered under torture, in violation of our international commitments;
  • Eliminating the security certificate system, which allows for detention without charges or access to the evidence being used to bring the certificate;
  • Repealing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2015 (Bill C-51), which brought in a tangled mess of laws that open the door wide for the types of violations that led to the torture of Mr. Arar, Mr. El Maati, Mr. Almalki and Mr. Nurredin.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, on Human Rights Day 2017, we could finally say that Canada has cut all ties to torture?

You can send a message by responding to the Public Consultation on National Security and support the campaign for Mohammed Harkat here.

Thank you.

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. Any donations will go a long way to support our work.

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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