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Canada is deporting a man to torture. Will we let that happen?

By Anne Dagenais Guertin & Tim McSorley

This is a story about a man who came to Canada as a refugee out of fear of persecution in his home country. Several years later, though, he was jailed without charge based on allegations from a secret informant who failed a lie-detector test and whom the judge refused to make available for cross-examination.

After his arrest, the government proceeded to destroy the original “evidence” against him. Only a summary was given to a special, security-cleared lawyer, who wasn’t allowed to discuss the evidence with the person in question. The process that followed, based on a special law, was so skewed that the courts were allowed to make their decisions based on information not normally admissible in a court of law.

It doesn’t end there. Over the next 16 years, this person faced constant monitoring and harassment by government officials, three-and-a-half years of detention, including one in solitary confinement, and years of house arrest but has never event been charged, let alone convicted, of a crime.

On top of all this, he is now facing deportation to torture because he is not a Canadian citizen.

After hearing this story, do you think it unfair? Do you think it is shocking that this could happen in Canada? Do you believe this needs to stop — and should never have happened in the first place?

What if we told you the person we are talking about is a Muslim man named Mohamed Harkat, who Canada is attempting to deport based on secret, unproven national security allegations? Would that change your answers to the questions above?

Unfounded fear and hatred of Muslims, migrants and refugees, already long-standing, became worse after Sept. 11, 2001, and are now acceptable public discourse. The examples are many: Politicians winning elections on hatred of Muslims and foreigners; fear-mongering over the refugee caravan and asylum seekers forced to cross the U.S.-Canada border between official points of entry because of the Safe Third Country Agreement; and the stunning increase of reported hate crimes in Canada in 2017, up 151 per cent for Muslims alone.

The fear of Muslims is now so pervasive that, in 2017, a young man was convinced that committing a terrorist attack and killing six worshippers at a Quebec City Mosque would protect people… from a terrorist attack. Fear leads us to do illogical things. And it leads us to renounce long-held principles that we otherwise say define us as Canadians, including freedom of thought and religion, the prohibition of torture, the fundamental right to due process and a fair trial, and the principle of innocence until proven guilty before a court of law.

Our point is that we are being duped: duped into giving up our rights and our ideals — including a more just and equal society for all, legally, economically and socially — through fear-mongering. We are being distracted by people who want to hoard more money and power for themselves by pointing the finger at people simply in search of a better life. People who come here in fear of persecution in their home country. People like Mohamed Harkat.

Moe, as he is affectionately known to his family, friends and supporters (including the ICLMG, fighting alongside him for the past decade), arrived in Canada in 1995 and obtained refugee status in 1997. On Dec. 10, 2002, he was arrested outside his home in Ottawa, alleged to be a threat to national security and subjected to a security certificate. He spent years in jail despite never having been accused let alone convicted of a crime, and was released on bail in 2006 with the strictest conditions in Canadian history. He has been happily married to a French-Canadian woman for 19 years, he is a hard worker and is loved by his family, community and colleagues.

Now he faces deportation to Algeria where he will be tortured.

It’s not a fear, it’s a fact. Canada gave him refugee status in 1997 because his fear of persecution was deemed founded. Now that his name is tainted by unproven, secret national security allegations, he will be detained and tortured if he is sent back to Algeria. And we are not the only ones to acknowledge this: GermanyFrancethe U.K. and the Supreme Court of Ireland consider it unsafe to deport refugees to Algeria.

At Moe’s last bail hearing, CSIS did not file a threat assessment, and his bail conditions have been significantly lowered over the years, including the removal of his ankle monitor five years ago, demonstrating he is no longer considered a threat.

However, Moe and his wife Sophie continue to be harassed by government agents and live in fear that Moe could be deported any day. Their health and quality of life have been greatly impacted for too long. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has the power to stop Moe’s deportation to torture and allow him to stay in Canada with his family and friends. He can prevent Canada from once again being complicit in torture, and he can rectify the great injustice that has been done to Moe in violation of what Canada claims to be: a country respectful of human rights and civil liberties.

You can change that today, on International Human Rights Day. Take action by calling Prime Minister Trudeau, sending a letter to your MP, signing the petition – and more! – to stop the deportation to torture of Mohamed Harkat.

It’s the right thing to do.

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.

You can become our patron on Patreon and get rewards in exchange for your support. You can give as little as $1/month (that’s only $12/year!) and you can unsubscribe at any time. Any donations will go a long way to support our work.panel-54141172-image-6fa93d06d6081076-320-320You can also make a one-time donation or donate monthly via Paypal by clicking on the button below. 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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Letter to PM Trudeau and Minister Goodale: Stop the deportation to torture of Mohamed Harkat

Today is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. We have sent this letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and the Ministers of Public Safety, Justice and Immigration to urge them to stop the deportation to torture of Mohamed Harkat. 

Take action!

Join us by sending your own letter – feel free to use ours as a template – to prevent the addition of Moe’s name to the long list of victims of torture. Here are their email addresses: pm@pm.gc.ca, justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca, ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca, jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.ca, ahmed.Hussen@parl.gc.ca. Thank you!


Ottawa, June 26, 2018

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council
80 Wellington St, Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2

The Honourable Ralph Goodale
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Stop the deportation to torture of Mohamed Harkat

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Goodale,

I am writing you in my capacity as the National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. The ICLMG is the only national coalition of Canadian civil society organizations that has the mandate to defend civil liberties and human rights from the negative impact of the fight against terrorism in Canada. The coalition, founded in 2002, brings together 45 national NGOs, unions, professional associations, faith groups, environmental organizations, human rights and civil liberties advocates, as well as groups representing immigrant and refugee communities in Canada.

Today, June 26th, marks the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. We write to you to ensure that your actions, or rather inaction, will not lead to the addition of  Mohamed Harkat’s name to the long list of victims of torture.

Mohamed Harkat, a United Nations Convention refugee who has lived in Canada for 22 years, faces deportation to Algeria under a security certificate.

Today, his fate lies with you. He could be deported to torture and face a likely death, or he could be granted the status to continue to live a peaceful life in Ottawa with his wife Sophie Lamarche Harkat, and his family and friends. For them, he is simply “Moe”, a loving and soft-spoken man who is always ready to help those around him. They have been living in constant fear since deportation proceedings began three years ago.

The ICLMG has closely followed the case of Mohamed Harkat since it came to the public eye in 2002. Under the very problematic regime of security certificates, Mr. Harkat was imprisoned in maximum security for 43 months, spent years under house arrest, and was imposed some of the most severe bail conditions in Canadian history. And that is without ever having been charged with, let alone convicted of a crime. The original “evidence” against Mr Harkat was destroyed and the allegations are based on the testimony of an informant who failed a lie detector test and was never cross-examined in court.

We have also followed the four other cases of security certificates and we continue to denounce the secrecy surrounding them, the lack of due process, the indefinite detention of the suspects, the violation of the solicitor-client privilege, and the continuous abuse of human rights involved at all levels.

In 2008, we testified at the Senate Special Committee on Anti-Terrorism regarding the security certificate regime. Our position was and still is that “the only way to meet the requirements guaranteed by the Charter and International covenants, and in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, is through prosecutions under the Criminal code.”

Today, as we have done for the last 15 years, we keep denouncing the highly problematic use of intelligence in these cases and the lack of access to the “evidence” against the suspects, which makes it impossible for them to mount a defense.

On October 26, 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau clearly stated: “I hope people remember to demand of governments, this one and all future governments, that nobody ever has their fundamental rights violated either through inaction or deliberate action by Canadian governments. Nobody ever deserves to be tortured. And when a Canadian government is either complicit in that or was not active enough in preventing it, there needs to be responsibility taken.”

We are thus reminding you today to enforce Canada’s international obligations under the UN Convention against Torture, uphold Mohamed Harkat’s rights, and stop his deportation order to torture right now. We don’t want one of Prime Minister Trudeau’s successors to have to apologize and pay millions of Canadian taxpayers’ dollars for this ongoing human rights abuse years from now.

Furthermore, under an opening in the law governing security certificates, section 42.1 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Minister Goodale has the power to decide that allowing Mr. Harkat to stay in Canada is not contrary to the national interest. The courts have consistently relaxed Mr. Harkat’s bail conditions over the years, and CSIS has not even bothered to file a risk assessment in his last bail hearing in the fall of 2017. As his work colleagues and thousands of supporters have asserted, and as court assessments and psychiatrists have attested to, letting Mr. Harkat stay would not be contrary to Canadians’ interest. Moreover, not deporting a man to torture and likely death is clearly in Canada’s national interest.

Consequently, we urge Minister Goodale to use this unique position and the discretion afforded under the law to exempt Mohamed Harkat from deportation, end 16 years of psychological torture and harassment by CBSA agents that has had a huge documented toll on Mr. Harkat’s health — including chronically low appetite and concentration, recurrent nightmares, chronic depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder — as well as on Mrs. Harkat’s health, and let him stay and live with his wife and community in Canada.

Such a decision to end these deportation to torture proceedings would be wholly consistent with England’s Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which settled this issue in 2016 when it ordered Theresa May to stop deporting Algerian nationals at risk of torture, as well as with the Irish Supreme Court, which last July blocked a deportation to Algeria because of the real risk of torture.

If you would like more information in order to make this decision, we urge you to meet with Mohamed and Sophie Harkat, Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada and/or myself. We can arrange such a meeting at your earliest convenience.

We would appreciate a response to our letter as soon as possible.

Thank you,

Tim McSorley
National Coordinator
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

Cc: The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

PDF of the letter

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.

You can become our patron on Patreon and get rewards in exchange for your support. You can give as little as $1/month (that’s only $12/year!) and you can unsubscribe at any time. Any donations will go a long way to support our work.panel-54141172-image-6fa93d06d6081076-320-320You can also make a one-time donation or donate monthly via Paypal by clicking on the button below. On the fence about giving? Check out our Achievements and Gains since we were created in 2002. Thank you for your generosity!
make-a-donation-button

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