News from ICLMG

Troubling revelation of possible government targeting of Muslim Association of Canada requires independent investigation

For immediate release

Dec. 15, 2022—The troubling allegations revealed in the Globe and Mail today regarding possible government targeting of the largest Muslim organization in Canada requires further investigation by an independent party, says the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.

“Given the seriousness and deeply troubling nature of the documents received by the Muslim Association of Canada, it is imperative that there be independent verification of their veracity and the allegations they contain,” said Tim McSorley, national coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. “Whether this is a hoax or not, the unfortunate reality is that we know Muslim Canadians and Muslim organizations have been targets for surveillance and criminalization under the guise of counter-terrorism driven by systemic Islamophobia and racism. It is important that the government take this issue seriously and act on it quickly.”

To that end, the ICLMG believes that these allegations should be independently investigated, particularly given that they possibly implicate the RCMP and other federal agencies. The government should consider referring the matter to the appropriate complaints body, including the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission or the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency.

For more information:
Tim McSorley
National Coordinator, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

What we’ve been up to in 2022. Help us protect civil liberties in 2023!


Bill C-20, Public Complaints and Review Commission Act

Bill C-20 would create a new, independent review agency for both the RCMP and CBSA, the first ever independent review body for the CBSA. ICLMG has:

  • Convened meetings with partners and member groups to discuss the bill;
  • Helped organize a civil society technical briefing with Public Safety;
  • Met with Craig Forcese, member of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency;
  • Met with Reem Zaida, Policy Director for Public Safety.

Bill C-26, An Act respecting cyber security and amending the Telecommunications Act

The broad powers granted to government ministers in this bill raise concerns about the potential for secret surveillance, especially given the role of the CSE in protecting cybersecurity in Canada. ICLMG has:

  • Partnered with other groups to analyze the bill & strategize on advocacy;
  • Issued a joint open letter calling for reforms to the bill;
  • Met with Conservative Party MP and Public Safety Critic Raquel Dancho;
  • Met with NDP MP and Public Safety Critic Alistair MacGregor.

Bill C-27, Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022

Bill C-27 is the government’s long-promised update to Canada’s private sector privacy law and would enact a new Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA), which raises major concerns given the growing use of AI in surveillance capitalism and government surveillance. ICLMG has:

  • Met with partners and privacy experts to discuss the bill and strategy;
  • Met with the European Centre for Non-profit Law, which has been working to address a similar law in the EU;
  • Held multiple meetings with Industry Ministry staff to discuss concerns.

“Online harms” proposal

We have continued our work on the government’s proposal to combat online harms, including “terrorist content,” including:

  • Continued participation in the “Online Harms Network”, including helping develop a draft position document on “red lines” for any eventual bill;
  • Met with Julie Harb, Policy Advisor to the Minister of Heritage, to raise concerns about the government’s consultation process and the outcome of the Expert Advisory Panel convened by the government;
  • Published: Government proposal to fight “online harms” presents dangers of its own.

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Countering terrorist financing & prejudiced audits of Muslim charities

In response to ICLMG’s report on the Canada Revenue Agency’s approach to countering terrorist financing in the charitable sector and, in particular, its audits of Muslim-led charities, the federal government mandated the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson to examine the issue. Since, we have:

  • Aided charities in contacting the Ombudsperson;
  • Met with the Ombudsperson regarding his revelation that important aspects of his work have been blocked by the CRA, published an op-ed on the troubling developments & strategized with partner organizations;
  • Advised Senator Ratna Omidvar in advance of committee hearings;
  • Followed up with the ministry of finance regarding updating risk assessment policies for the charitable sector.

International Assistance and anti-terrorism laws

Because the Taliban is a listed terrorist entity, federal agencies informed humanitarian organizations that they could face criminal charges under anti-terrorism laws if they provide humanitarian aid in the country because they would, for example, be paying taxes to the Afghan government. ICLMG has:

  • Joined the Aid for Afghanistan campaign to advocate for the government to allow Canadian humanitarian groups to operate in the country;
  • Joined the campaign’s working group on developing legislative amendments to address the issue, including by creating an exception in the anti-terrorism provisions of the Criminal Code;
  • Met with David McGuinty, MP and Chair of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians;
  • Met with Reem Zaia, policy director to the Minister of Public Safety.

Justice for Dr Hassan Diab & reform of the Extradition Act

Pending Dr. Diab’s scheduled 2023 trial in France, we continue to advocate for his rights to be protected and for reforms to the Extradition Act, including:

  • Organizing, hosting and participating in a press conference for Hassan Diab on Nov. 14, the 8th anniversary of his extradition to France;
  • Updating our letter writing campaign calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to commit to no new extradition and to reforming the Extradition Act;
  • Alongside others, successfully convincing the House Standing Committee on Justice to hold committee hearings on reform of the Extradition Act.

CSIS accountability and duty of candour

The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service has been found multiple times to have engaged in unlawful activities, and then misled the courts about it. They have violated their duty of candour and misled the public. We have:

  • Submitted a written brief to MP Salma Zahid, who is working on a private members bill to address the issue, and met with her and her staff;
  • Participated in Ottawa roundtable with MP Zahid and MP Jenna Sudds;
  • Issued a statement regarding the case of Shamima Begum and CSIS;
  • Written to the Prime Minister’s office to demand accountability;
  • Written to NSIRA regarding their review of the Shamima Begum case.

Facial Recognition Technology (FRT)

ICLMG has continued researching and collaborating with partners to address the threat this surveillance technology poses to our fundamental rights.

  • We issued a statement about the Standing Committee on Privacy, Ethics and Access to Information’s report on FRT use by law enforcement;
  • We were invited to join the steering committee of a new coalition on FRT organized by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association;
  • We were on a podcast discussing the urgent need for a ban on the use of facial recognition technology by police;
  • We met with Reem Zaia, policy director to the Minister of Public Safety.

We met with several other MPs & government officials on multiple issues, including Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi; Policy Advisors from the Office of the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry; the Director of Artificial Intelligence and Data Policy, Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada; and the new Privacy Commissioner Philippe Dufresne during an Office of the Privacy Commissioner civil society roundtable.


ICLMG’s 20th anniversary

This year marks the 20th anniversary of ICLMG. To highlight the occasion:

  • We held a webinar featuring colleagues and partners from over the past 20 years to reflect on the work of the coalition and the work that remains to be done: Twenty years of fighting for rights in the War on Terror;
  • We are currently putting together a publication of short pieces, similar to the online panel, that reflects on ICLMG’s work and the challenges of defending civil liberties in the context of the War on Terror.

Canadians detained in Northeastern Syria

Approximately 40 Canadians continue to be indefinitely detained in life-threatening conditions in Northeast Syria. On this issue, we have:

  • Issued a statement following the repatriation of 2 Canadian women and 2 children from NE Syria, calling for the repatriation of all Canadians;
  • Participated in a press conference organized by Green Party leader Elizabeth May calling for the repatriation of Jack Letts and all Canadians;
  • Met with partners to strategize to pressure the feds on repatriation;
  • Met with Reem Zaia, policy director to the Minister of Public Safety;
  • Following the news that the government is considering the repatriation of 19 Canadians, we sent an open letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly to call for the urgent repatriation of all Canadians.

Justice for Moe Harkat and abolish security certificates

ICLMG has continued to work to eliminate security certificates, and defend the rights of those who are placed under one. Our recent work has included:

  • Updating the letter-writing campaign for justice for Mohamed Harkat;
  • Helping to share actions as part of the “#MoeVember” campaign;
  • Publishing a short video on Dec. 10, the 20th “anniversary” of Mohamed Harkat being placed under a rights-violating security certificate.

Canada’s armed drone purchase

The Canadian government is currently in the process of acquiring armed drones, partly for counter-terrorism purposes in Canada and abroad, both for surveillance and the possibility of carrying out lethal strikes. ICLMG has:

Listing of Iranian Canadians

Iranian-Canadians have faced repercussions due to the US government’s listing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp as a terrorist entity. We have:

  • Had a follow-up meeting with Iranian-Canadians;
  • Sent a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly asking her to raise this issue with her US counterpart and asking for government action.

Ongoing No Fly List problems

  • Worked with a student volunteer to update our No Fly List backgrounder;
  • Responded to people seeking assistance re Canada’s & US no fly lists.

Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism

ICLMG has joined the recently formed Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism to be more active at the international level. We have:

  • Attended a week-long strategy retreat for the coalition in New York City;
  • Met with the UN Counter-terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) regarding the ongoing evaluation of Canada’s counter-terrorism activities;
  • Attended CTED technical sessions on “Countering terrorist exploitation of information and communication technologies (ICT) and emerging technologies” and civil society roundtable;
  • Connected with new international partners on various issues, including countering terrorist financing, AI regulation, the detention of human rights defenders and international oversight bodies.

Joint statements and sponsored events

  • We signed onto this joint statement: Egypt’s Misuse of Counter-terrorism Measures Casts Shadow over COP27
  • We signed a statement, alongside more than 200 organizations, demanding that the international community – including Canada – stand against the raids and closures of 7 Palestinian organizations
  • We co-sponsored an event organized by the Noor Cultural Centre entitled “Against Islamophobia: Islam, Beauty, and Justice – A Conversation with former Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi and law professor Khaled Abou El Fadl”


“Canada Ends Muslim Charity Suspension Amid Bias Review,” James Munson, Bloomberg News, 14 July 2022

“Tackling Islamophobia begins by rebuilding trust with the Muslim community,” Abdul Nakua, Policy Options, 2 August 2022

“Canada’s Muslim charities deserve fairness from tax officials,” Monia Mazigh, Ottawa Citizen, 31 August 2022

“Twenty-one years later, the brutal legacy of the War on Terror lives on,” ICLMG, 11 September 2022

“Federal cybersecurity bill threatens privacy, transparency, civil society groups say,” Jim Bronskill, Canadian Press, 28 September 2022

“MPs call for tight federal restriction on use of facial recognition technology,” Jim Bronskill, Canadian Press, 4 October 2022

« Des députés fédéraux réclament un encadrement strict de la reconnaissance faciale, » La Presse Canadienne, 4 octobre 2022

“Commons committee recommends ‘national pause’ on use of facial recognition technology,” Amanda Jerome, The Lawyer’s Daily, 11 October 2022

“Mass Surveillance Is Bad News for Privacy — and Democracy,” David Moscrop, Jacobin, 16 October 2022

“MPs to review Canada’s extradition system in coming justice committee hearings,” Jim Bronskill, Canadian Press, 14 November 2022

“Mother of Canadian detained in Syria accuses of Ottawa of shirking duty to help,” Jim Bronskill, Canadian Press, 15 November 2022

Check out all coverage of ICLMG in the media here.

We have also published countless reactions on our social media accounts, which continue to reach tens of thousands.

We publish our News Digest every other week, which is distributed to thousands of people and has received numerous accolades.

+ Check out the News Digest archive if you’ve missed some of our issues.

+ If you know anyone interested in receiving it, send them an invite to sign up!

What we have planned for 2023!

Your support will allow us to continue our work on these issues over the coming months:

  • Advocating for changes to anti-terror laws that prohibit Canadian organizations from providing international assistance in Afghanistan and other regions in need;
  • Ensuring that the Canadian government’s proposals on “online harms” do not violate fundamental freedoms, or exacerbate the silencing of racialized and marginalized voices;
  • Protecting our privacy from government surveillance, including facial recognition, and from attempts to weaken encryption, along with advocating for privacy law reform;
  • Fighting for Justice for Mohamed Harkat, an end to security certificates, and addressing problems in security inadmissibility;
  • Ensuring Justice for Hassan Diab and reforming Canada’s extradition law;
  • The return of the 40+ Canadian citizens indefinitely detained in Syrian camps, including more than 20 children;
  • The end to the CRA’s prejudiced audits of Muslim-led charities;
  • Pushing for Canadian government action on behalf of Iranian Canadians negatively and unjustly impacted by the US terror listing of the IRGC;
  • Greater accountability and transparency for the Canada Border Services Agency;
  • Greater transparency and accountability for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service;
  • Advocating for the repeal of the Canadian No Fly List, and for putting a stop to the use of the US No Fly List by air carriers in Canada;
  • Pressuring lawmakers to protect our civil liberties from the negative impact of national security and the “war on terror”, as well as keeping you and our member organizations informed via the News Digest;
  • And much more!

If you think our work is important, please support the ICLMG!

We do not receive any funding from any federal, provincial or municipal governments or political parties so your support is essential to our work.

We are counting on people like you.

Thank you for your support in protecting civil liberties!

— Xan & Tim

PS: For what we were up to in the first half of 2022, click here!

PPS: For what we’ve been up to since ICLMG was created in 2002, check out our Achievements page!

Letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Joly: Canada must immediately repatriate Canadians detained in Northeastern Syria

Women walk with their children in the al-Roj detention camp. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

Today, we sent the following letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly, copied to Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister of Justice David Lametti and Minister of Public Safety Marco Medicino. A PDF version is here.

It is imperative that the government stop delaying and act urgently to repatriate all Canadians who continue to be held indefinitely in camps and prisons, in life-threatening and rights-violating conditions, in Northeastern Syria.

Dec. 7, 2022

The Honourable Mélanie Joly
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Global Affairs Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa ON K1A 0G2

Sent by email:

Minister Joly,

I’m writing to you today on behalf of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group in regard to the urgent matter of the more than 40 Canadians who are currently in indefinite detention in Northeastern Syria under life-threatening conditions with no prospect of release or due process.

We welcomed your government’s repatriation of four Canadians in November, and we also welcome the recent indication that your government has determined that 19 of the remaining Canadians have met the threshold for consideration of the provision of extraordinary assistance under the policy developed by Global Affairs Canada.

However, we are extremely concerned that this decision will leave some 20 other Canadians – including children – to languish in these camps and prisons.

Moreover, previous repatriations under the government’s extraordinary assistance policy have taken more than a year to come to fruition. We fear this process does not meet the urgency of the situation given the current crisis in Northeastern Syria, including the onset of winter, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, reported cholera outbreaks, and, most recently, the bombing of the region by Turkish forces.

We are calling on your government, once again, to take immediate steps to repatriate all Canadians currently detained in Northeastern Syria in response to the grave human rights violations they are facing as well as the very real threats to their lives.

This past week, your government has been in court arguing against a group of families representing 23 of those detainees, who filed a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge to your government’s refusal to repatriate their loved ones. It is deeply troubling that your government has continued to fight this case, given its stated commitment to opposing indefinite and arbitrary detention internationally.

At the end of the two days in federal court, Justice Brown stated that the hearings would need to continue at a date to be determined. According to CBC journalist Ashley Burke, Justice Brown stated he was disappointed because Canadians are at risk of dying every day the matter is adjourned.

The clear solution is that your government ends its opposition to this court challenge, and instead takes every action to ensure the safe return of the Canadians detained in Syria.

Without immediate action by your government, these Canadians will remain in unlawful detention, under life-threatening conditions for the foreseeable future. Moreover, some have made credible allegations of torture or living conditions akin to torture. This is in clear violation of their fundamental human rights: all deserve a chance to live a life free of arbitrary detention and to be integrated back into society (including the possibility of facing charges and court hearings back in Canada).

Canada’s obligation to act was made clear in a recent report from UN officials, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In their letter to the Canadian government, they wrote:

[We] reiterate again that the urgent, voluntary and human rights compliant repatriation of all the citizens of your Excellency’s Government is the only international law-compliant response to the complex and precarious human rights, humanitarian and security situation faced by those detained in inhumane conditions in overcrowded prisons or other detention centres in North-East Syria, with limited access to food and medical care putting detainees’ lives at increased risk.

Finally, it is essential to avoid a situation where so-called “good detainees” are freed while the “bad” – male Canadian prisoners, along with women without children in the camps – are left there to suffer because they are viewed as more of a risk, or as already guilty of a crime, without having ever been charged or tried.

We have seen throughout the so-called “War on Terror” how individuals – mainly Muslim men – have been labeled as criminals, terrorists and threats to our security, and allowed to be detained in life threatening, rights-violating situations, including being tortured, all without evidence and based solely on suspicions and profiling.

It is imperative that if, as Prime Minister Trudeau has said, your government truly adheres to their obligations to protect the rights of Canadians, no matter where they are in the world, that you act without delay to repatriate the remaining Canadian detainees in Northeastern Syria.

We would be happy to discuss this matter further with you or members of your staff.


Tim McSorley,
National Coordinator
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety

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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