This week, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Defence hosted consultations on the national security framework in parallel with the official governmental consultations. It traveled to 5 cities – Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax – to meet with expert witnesses and hear what Canadians had to say about national security. The ICLMG was invited to the expert witness panel and was represented by national security lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo. Here is his testimony:
Having been Commission Counsel to the Arar Inquiry and a Special Advocate for many years, I can attest to the fact that national security intelligence and police agencies make mistakes. In Mr. Arar’s case, inaccurate information sent by the RCMP to the FBI and CIA was likely relied upon in sending him to Syria where he was tortured for one year.
Mr. Arar’s case is not an anomaly. Many innocent Canadians have been caught up in the response of our government and national security agencies to the threat of terrorism. Since these agencies deal in intelligence and not evidence, mistakes are inevitable. Some describe intelligence as “glorified rumours”. Moreover, when mistakes are made the agencies are not always forthcoming. For example, the Federal Court of Canada has been very critical of CSIS’s lack of candour in warrant applications and security certificate proceedings. As a result, these agencies must be subject to effective review and oversight. Otherwise we jeopardize the very values which these national security agencies were established to protect. The overarching objective of review and oversight mechanisms is to ensure that CSIS and other agencies engaged in national security investigations are accountable for their activities.
In a democratic system based upon the rule of law and the protection of fundamental freedoms, every public institution must be answerable for its conduct particularly agencies such as CSIS and the RCMP which have such intrusive powers which can profoundly affect the lives of individuals in Canada.
These powers must be limited in order to ensure that the values of a free and democratic society such as Canada are protected – values such as liberty, the rule of law, the principles of fundamental justice and respect for equality.
This is the context in which a national security investigation must be conducted. A basic principle of our system is that any public agency must be answerable for acting outside the limits placed on their powers. Effective review monitors these agencies in order to ensure that the rule of law prevails.
Terrorism is a threat …however the level of the threat must be kept in perspective. As our Supreme Court has stated “in the end it would be a pyrrhic victory if terrorism were defeated at the cost of sacrificing our commitment to the values that are fundamental to our democratic society”.
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… 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.
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