22 Years Later: The Continuing Impact of the War on Terror on Human Rights in Canada

Today, September 11, 2023, marks 22 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as the beginning of the so-called “War on Terror.”

Many of the laws and tools swiftly created or expanded afterwards continue to violate human rights and civil liberties today. Furthermore, Canada, along with other states, has shown over the last two decades how it can adapt the concepts of terrorism, anti-terrorism and national security to capture more and more areas of expression, association and dissent, engage in systemic discrimination and racial, religious and political profiling, as well as intrude in our lives through more and more surveillance, undermining encryption and privacy protections.

For these reasons, over the past two decades the ICLMG coalition has steadfastly worked to address the following issues, among many others:

  • The continuing expansion of anti-terror and national security laws and powers
  • Security Certificates, which undermine the rights of non-Canadians, including the case of Mohamed Harkat
  • Extradition and problems of due process, including the case of Hassan Diab
  • The criminalization of dissent
  • The use of secret evidence in courts, intelligence used as evidence, the growing discretionary powers granted to national security agencies, and CSIS misleading the courts
  • Surveillance, facial recognition and artificial intelligence
  • The impact of anti-terror laws on the provision of humanitarian aid and other forms of international assistance
  • The No-Fly List and the terrorist entities list
  • Canadian complicity in indefinite detention and torture abroad, including Canadians detained in northeast Syria and the lack of redress in the cases of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati, Muayyed Nureddin, Omar Khadr, Abousfian Abdelrazik & Mohamedou Ould Slahi
  • Canada’s planned armed drones purchase
  • Systemic Islamophobia, including the CRA’s prejudiced audits against Muslim charities and dubious counter-radicalization programs

For more details on each of these issues, check out our 2023 submission to the United Nations for its 4th Universal Periodic Review of Canada.

This fall, we will be specifically working on the following issues:

  • Bill C-20, which would (finally!) create an independent watchdog for the CBSA and modify the current RCMP watchdog, but which needs to be significantly strengthened
  • Bill C-27, which aims to create the new Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA) but is fundamentally flawed, failing to address basic human rights concerns and explicitly exempting national security AI tools from any regulation whatsoever, among other concerns
  • Monitoring and responding to the implementation of Bill C-41, which is meant to facilitate the provision of international development assistance and humanitarian aid in regions controlled by ill-defined “terrorist groups” but which raises significant concerns around the securitization of aid, surveillance and respect for international humanitarian law
  • The repatriation of all Canadians as well as non-Canadian mothers of Canadian children detained in Northeastern Syria
  • Ensuring that the proposed Bill C-26, which aims to increase cybersecurity, includes independent oversight and does not lead to the expansion of government surveillance
  • Justice for both Hassan Diab and Mohamed Harkat
  • Advocating for reform of Canada’s counter terrorist financing regime, including eliminating the systemic discrimination of Muslim-led organizations
  • Ensuring that forthcoming “online harms” legislation does not violate fundamental freedoms, expand online surveillance or exacerbate the silencing of racialized and marginalized voices
  • The regulation, including outright prohibition, of surveillance tools such as facial recognition technology
  • Working with the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism at the international level
  • and more!

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