News from ICLMG

Government must take action on shocking, disturbing allegations of discrimination and racism within ranks of CSIS: civil liberties coalition

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The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), a coalition of more than 40 organizations across Canada, is expressing extreme concern over the shocking allegations of Islamophobia, homophobia, racism and sexism in the workplace brought by five Canadian Security and Intelligence Service employees.

The coalition is calling on the Liberal government to open an immediate investigation to examine both these allegations, as well as a possible culture of intolerance at the spy agency. The allegations have not been proven in court, but are grave enough that the government should be proactive in investigating.

“These allegations are shocking beyond belief. This includes the fact that it appears that once the harassment was reported, the employees were not taken seriously,” said Tim McSorley, national coordinator at the ICLMG. “The government must make sure there is complete transparency and accountability over these allegations.”

In their statement of claim, the five CSIS employees allege a litany of workplace harassment based on religion, race, gender and sexual orientation. These allegations include:

  • A manager yelling that, “all Muslims are terrorists.”
  • A Muslim intelligence officer facing scrutiny about how she could carry out her duties after she started wearing the hijab, and asked to report her activities in the Muslim community (including attending her mosque).
  • A colleague telling a gay employee whose partner is Muslim, “Careful your Muslim in-laws don’t behead you in your sleep for being homo.”
  • A manager writing to a gay employee in an email, “Hey tapette, you’re just a fag hiding in you little corner sobbing
  • The service’s first female Black intelligence officer claiming she was told, “it’s people like you the Service likes to promote.”

For more than a decade, ICLMG and its members have raised concerns about CSIS’ attitude towards Muslim and Arab communities, alleging that these communities were unduly targeted by the spy agency for surveillance and questioning.

These allegations also come as the public is questioning the trustworthiness of CSIS. A recent report on the government’s 2016 consultation on national security pointed to a “growing level of distrust in key institutions involved in national security and law enforcement.”

“The latest allegations speak not only to concerns about CSIS’ workplace culture, but also to the beliefs and attitudes brought to their work as the country’s spy agency,” said McSorley. “This concern is compounded by the fact that governments continue to grant CSIS more and more powers.”

In 2015, CSIS was granted broad powers of “disruption” on top of its traditional surveillance role. While the proposed Bill C-59 attempts to regulate some of those powers, they remain on the books until any reforms are passed.

“The ICLMG has long been concerned about the transparency and accountability of CSIS,” said McSorley. “While the government has recently made moves to rectify the situation, the ongoing ‘culture of secrecy’ pointed to in the statement of claims makes it impossible to know for sure what is happening at the spy agency.”

The allegations made by CSIS employees should be of concern to all Canadians, not just those communities allegedly derided, said McSorley. “How can an agency been trusted to protect the security of Canadians’ if, as the statement of claim describes, managers harass and discriminate openly in the workplace?”

The coalition is asking that Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and the Liberal government act to shed a light on these allegations, and calling on Canadians to let their MPs know that they expect action. “Speaking up about these issues cannot be left to Muslim, LGBTQI and Black communities,” said McSorley. “When these kinds of issues arise, all Canadians must speak out.”

Read the full statement of claim here: https://www.scribd.com/document/353767258/CSIS-harassment-lawsuit-statement-of-claim#from_embed

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Omar Khadr apology and compensation long overdue, but systemic changes are also needed to protect human rights

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The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) and the Rideau Institute welcome the Canadian government’s decision to settle the lawsuit launched by Omar Khadr, apologize for its failure to protect one of its citizens and a minor, and compensate Khadr for the illegal detention and the torture he suffered.

At the same time, the government must also go further and make systemic changes in order to avoid such horrendous abuses of civil liberties and human rights in the future.

Last March, both ICLMG and the Rideau Institute also welcomed the Canadian government’s apology to, and compensation of, Mr. Almalki, Mr. Abou-Elmaati and Mr. Nureddin who were tortured in Syria and Egypt because of erroneous information sent by Canadian officials. And in March 2015, Benamar Benatta reached a settlement with the Canadian government for having spent five years in a US prison where he suffered abuse, after Canadian officials falsely labelled him a terrorist suspect and unlawfully transferred him over the US border to FBI agents in the middle of the night.

As welcome as all these apologies and compensation awards are, these settlements were reached after many, many years of litigation and pro bono legal work, and only when the Canadian government realized it couldn’t win these lawsuits.

This is worrisome in the current context: Anti-terror legislation continues to “creep,” growing all the time and further threatening civil liberties. The government has continued to stall the repeal of Canada’s ministerial directives on torture, which allow the government to use information from countries that engage in torture, and to share information with those same countries, in direct contravention of Canada’s legal obligations under the Convention against Torture. Refugee Mohamed Harkat continues to suffer under a security certificate and faces deportation back to Algeria where he risks detention and torture. The Liberals have also refused to hold a public inquiry on Canada’s role in the torture of Afghan detainees, despite calling for one when they were in Opposition.

Just before going on recess for the summer, the government tabled Bill C-59, its long-awaited national security reform. We were pleased to learn that the legislation aims to create a new all-agency review body for national security, one of the many (still unimplemented) recommendations of Justice O’Connor in the 2004 Maher Arar inquiry (which also resulted in a settlement and apology for Mr. Arar for Canada’s complicity in his rendition and torture in Syria). However, as we have said many times, review mechanisms do not and cannot make up for bad laws. The fact that the Anti-terrorism Act of 2015 (also known as Bill C-51) hasn’t been repealed is of serious concern. Especially worrying is the fact that Bill C-59’s changes to the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act (enacted by C-51) still don’t contain any additional guarantees to protect against the subsequent disclosure of information to, for example, foreign governments. This means that the risks that erroneous information being shared with other countries, potentially leading to serious human rights violations, like in the cases of Arar, Almalki, Elmaati and Nurredin, are still very real. Haven’t we learned anything?

Canada should not wait for lawsuits from torture victims to recognize and repair its mistakes. Instead, we need to see systemic change. If the Canadian government really wants to call itself a champion for human rights and show that it really doesn’t condone torture, it needs at a minimum to repeal the Anti-terrorism Act of 2015, get rid of the torture memos, stop the deportation proceedings against Mohamed Harkat, and hold a public inquiry on Canada’s role in the torture of Afghan detainees.


Read ICLMG’s official statement on the news of Omar Khadr’s settlement: Omar Khadr settlement just & necessary, says International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

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Omar Khadr settlement just & necessary, says International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, 30, is seen in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, July 6, 2017. The federal government has paid Khadr $10.5 million and apologized to him for violating his rights during his long ordeal after capture by American forces in Afghanistan in July 2002. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel ORG XMIT: CNP306

Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, 30, is seen in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, July 6, 2017. The federal government has paid Khadr $10.5 million and apologized to him for violating his rights during his long ordeal after capture by American forces in Afghanistan in July 2002. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel ORG XMIT: CNP306

The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) has welcomed the government’s apology and compensation for Omar Khadr.

Since it’s founding in 2002, the ICLMG has expressed concern that Canada’s creeping national security and anti-terror laws, and its participation in the international war on terror, have posed a threat to our rights and freedoms.

“When Canadians’ rights are violated, the government must be held accountable,” said Tim McSorley, national coordinator of the ICLMG.

However, despite an outpouring of support for Khadr and the settlement, there has also been enormous backlash from several politicians and an important portion of the Canadian public.

On one hand, this is unsurprising as Stephen Harper’s Conservative government and the Canadian and US media spent the last 15 years peddling misinformation and fear-mongering rhetoric about Omar Khadr.

On the other hand, it is troubling to see that so many Canadians, who celebrate Canada as a champion of human rights, are so vehemently against reparations for a former child soldier who was interrogated by Canadian and American officials (rather than rehabilitated as mandated by international law), tortured, and then abandoned until he was forced to “confess“ in order to finally leave Guantanamo Bay (an extra-judiciary military detention center that should never have been opened in the first place).

And not that this should matter when it comes to respecting human rights, due process and the rule of law, but, as highlighted in the National Observer, what if Omar Khadr isn’t guilty?

Canada’s settlement with Omar Khadr joins a growing list of instances, including the cases of Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Elmaati, Muayyed Nurredin, and Benamar Benatta, where the government has been forced to admit failing to uphold the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to dire and horrendous consequences.

“It is necessary and just that the Canadian government takes action to repair the damage done to these individuals and any others who the government fails to protect,” said McSorley. “However, we hope for the day where the government upholds the Charter of Rights and Freedoms unfailingly, and such settlements are no longer needed.”


Read our press release co-authored with the Rideau Institute: Omar Khadr apology and compensation long overdue, but systemic changes are also needed to protect human rights

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