News from ICLMG

Sorry, you can’t fly but we don’t know why

By Monia Mazigh – So it seems like the case of Syed Adam Ahmed, the six-year old boy from Toronto who was delayed from boarding the plane to attend a hockey game in the United States, allegedly because he is on a “no-fly list” or on a “Deemed High Profile” list, has opened a can of worms for the Liberal government.

Other Canadian parents are coming forward with other incredible stories about their toddlers or very young children who were delayed from boarding planes as well. I suspect that these stories have been going on for many years but people were perhaps afraid to speak out under the Harper government or maybe they knew that no matter what they would say, their situation would remain unchanged. And the proof: things are still the same.

Since 2007, when the Passenger Protection Program (PPP) was implemented in Canada – copied on the one in the United States – the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) and other organizations have been denouncing the arbitrariness of the program and its unconstitutional nature. In December 2008, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, reported to Parliament that Transport Canada had provided “no evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of no-fly lists.”

In 2010, in collaboration with the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), the ICLMG released a comprehensive report about the PPP. We documented cases of Canadians who were stopped at the borders, checked extensively, humiliated, turned down or finally let go after many hours of interrogations. Since then, not much has improved. On the contrary, with the new Anti-terrorism Act of 2015 (also known as Bill C-51), the No-Fly list has been perpetuated and expanded, despite the fact that the government has failed to present any evidence to show that such a program is effective or makes Canadians safer.

But, how does this program work?

First of all, we should remember that it is a highly secretive program so there might be things that we have no knowledge of.

It starts with an advisory group made up of high-level bureaucrats from the RCMP, CSIS, CBSA, Transport Canada and the Department of Justice. This group has the power to place people on the ‘Specified Persons List”. Anyone who ends up on this list will be prevented from boarding a plane.

Obviously, one can see that there are already problems with this listing process. What is even more worrisome is that, with C-51, the listing process becomes even more arbitrary as the Minister of Transport may delegate the listing process to any single officer in his or her department. The cases in the media showed us how arbitrary and ridiculous those listings can become.

Furthermore, individuals are denied access to the secret evidence behind such a listing. In the cases that were presented in the media, the children do not seem to be denied boarding but they can’t check online, the air travel agent can’t check them either, they have to go through extensive security checks and a phone call, to Air Canada officials per example, is always necessary to allow them to board. If an airline agent had not told Adam’s parents that the boy was on a list, the parents would still have no idea what was going on. And the government won’t even confirm or deny such information. For years, the little boy and his parents have been going through this frustrating process every time he wanted to take a plane. Adam’s parents are rightly worried as this could become worse as he grows older.

Prior to the adoption of C-51, individuals denied boarding could complain to the Office of Reconsideration, provided by the PPP, but the powers of this office were very weak (as demonstrated by the high profile case of Hani Al Telbani) and the Minister of Public Safety would always have the final word.

Under the new Anti-terrorism Act (C-51), a new appeal process now bypasses the former Office of Reconsideration and goes directly to the Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale. The bill says the Minister “must afford the applicant a reasonable opportunity to make representations,” and if refused, the ruling can be challenged in Federal Court but such a process doesn’t even include a special advocate or other means to test the Minister’s evidence.

So will we ever know why Adam and the other kids were put on this list? Is Air Canada still using the U.S. No-Fly list, as they always have in the past? Mr Ralph Goodale, we are looking forward to knowing the result of your investigation! We have waited long enough.


LRWC & ICLMG on Canada’s response to the UN Committee against Torture in the case of Omar Khadr



To the Human Rights Program, Department of Canadian Heritage:

Following the sixth review of Canada’s performance in respect of its obligations under Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) the Committee against Torture (CAT), in Concluding Observations published on 25 June 2012,[2] identified 18 specific subjects of concern and recommendations for remedial action needed to bring Canada into compliance with UNCAT. […]

In July 2012 CAT recommended, inter alia, that Canada ensure that [Omar Khadr] receives appropriate redress for human rights violations that the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled he experienced” (para. 16(b)). In the List of Issues Prior to Reporting (LOIPR), at para. 28(b), CAT poses the question, “Has [Omar Khadr] received appropriate redress for the human rights violations that he suffered, as ruled by the Canadian Supreme Court?”

LRWC and ICLMG request that, in responding to the LOIPR and reporting to CAT, the Government of Canada (GOC) treat the term “redress” as encompassing the full range of Article 14 duties identified by General Comment No. 3,[5] including duties to fully investigate the torture and ill-treatment to which Omar Khadr was subjected during his imprisonment, to punish those responsible, and to adopt measures to prevent further occurrences, in accordance with the provisions of UNCAT.

CAT, in General Comment No. 3 (para. 2), has determined that the term “redress” in UNCAT Article 14 is a comprehensive reparative concept that “entails restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition and refers to the full scope of measure required to redress violations under the Convention.” […]

LRWC and ICLMG remain concerned that the continuing failure to prevent, investigate and punish torture and ill-treatment in the Omar Khadr case not only constitutes a continuing violation of the rights of Omar Khadr, but also encourages and enhances the danger of torture by state and non-state actors alike. We note that CAT in General Comment No. 3, para. 42 expresses concern that impunity “bars victims from seeking full redress as it allows the violators to go unpunished and denies victims the full insurance of their rights under article 14.” […]

Canada has contravened 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 or complaints and the determination and implementation of redress prosecution of suspected perpetrators and full redress for the victims. Canada will also have to develop a programme for delivery and assessment of education and training about UNCAT duties to all 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.


[2] Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the Convention – Concluding Observations of the Committee against Torture – Canada, CAT/C/CAN/CO/6, 25 June 2012.

[5] UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), General comment no. 3, 2012: Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: implementation of article 14 by States parties, 13 December 2012, online: [accessed 16 December 2015]

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!

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