News from ICLMG

ICLMG Brief on Bill C-59 to the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence

The National Security Act, 2017 (Bill C-59) has been making its way through the legislative process. Last year, we spoke to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety about some of our major concerns with the bill – and how the positive points could be improved.

While we were glad to see that some of our proposals were adopted, mainly regarding transparency and accountability, a lot still needs to be addressed. Watch our testimony at the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence on Monday, May 6th. We hope that senators take action and make some important changes in order to fix Bill C-59.

Take action urging Senators to fix Bill C-59
and protect our rights!

Brief to the Senate

We’ve written a condensed version of our analysis of Bill C-59 for the Senate committee (10 pages), and also updated our full brief on Bill C-59 (45 pages). You can read them here:

Summary of Recommendations

Part 1: The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency
While welcome, the new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) could be strengthened. Among other things, we recommend:
  • Increasing the number of members
  • Appointing NSIRA members through parliament and not through the Prime Minister
  • That the Agency be given binding powers
  • More precision and clarity in public reports
  • Greater accountability and transparency around how the agency will deal with public complaints
Part 1.1: Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities
Canada needs rules outlawing any and all complicity in mistreatment and torture, but unfortunately this new act does not do so. That’s why we recommend:
  • That the act be replaced by legislation outlawing any use or sharing of information that will make Canada and its government agencies complicit in foreign mistreatment or torture
  • Mandatory public, yearly reporting by departments on how they fulfilled this obligation, without undue vetting by government officials.
Part 2: The Intelligence Commissioner Act
The creation of the Intelligence Commissioner (IC) is also welcome, but needs serious strengthening, including:
  • Intelligence Commissioner appointments should be approved by a 2/3 vote in the House of Commons, and the position should be full-time
  • Increased public reporting and greater transparency in decision making (FIXED!)
  • Stronger powers to impose conditions on surveillance operations
  • Oversight of cyber operations
Part 3: The Communications Security Establishment Act
Our recommendations include:
  • Narrow the Communications Security Establishment’s (CSE) new cyber-operations mandate, and place greater restrictions and oversight on what cyber actions the CSE can take
  • Take action to further restrict the collection of Canadian and foreign data, and to prevent mass surveillance operations, for example by removing the collection of “unselected information”, which basically means any non-threat related information
  • Include a definition of metadata and restrict its collection and use
  • Restrict the definition, collection and use of “publicly available information”
  • Increase human rights safeguards when sharing information with other countries
Part 4: Amendments to the CSIS Act
Our recommendations include:
  • Eliminate disruption powers brought in with Bill C-51
  • Remove provisions granting broad immunity to CSIS agents to break Canadian law
  • Restrict CSIS’ new data collection powers and increase its oversight
  • Restrict the definition, collection, and use of publicly available information as CSIS datasets.
Part 5: The Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act
  • We recommend that SCISA, established with Bill C-51, be repealed in favour of new legislation to protect privacy and information that is shared for national security purposes.
  • Barring this, the definition of “activity that undermines the threat of Canada” must be narrowed, and there must be an actual exemption for artistic and political expression, which also protects Indigenous sovereignty, land claims and title rights.
Part 6: Amendments to the Secure Air Travel Act
Our recommendations include:
  • Establishing effective and transparent processes for listing, redress and appeals
  • Ultimately repealing the Secure Air Travel Act (brought in with Bill C-51) and ending the No Fly List program in general
Part 7: Amendments to the Criminal Code
We recommend:
  • Removing redundant “counselling terrorism offenses” provisions
  • Repealing the “Terrorist Entities Listing” process in favour of existing criminal code provisions
Part 9: Review
  • We recommend reducing the review period to five years for new oversight and review mechanisms and to three years for new CSIS and CSE powers.
What’s missing from Bill C-59
  • A strong review mechanism to look at the CBSA and its activities outside of national security.
  • A provision that puts an end to the security certificate regime.
  • A provision outlawing the use of the Tipoff US/Canada (or TUSCAN) database by Canadian border agents.
  • A provision outlawing the use of the US No-Fly List by airlines in Canada for flights that are not going to and/or through the US.

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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Arriving to the wrong conclusion: ICLMG’s response to ex-CSIS analyst PR piece

by Anne Dagenais Guertin, Communications and Research Coordinator, ICLMG, and Matthew Behrens, Coordinator of Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada. This op-ed was published in the Hill Times on March 11, 2019.

In his February 25, 2019 op-ed in the Hill Times entitled “Security certificate cases and Canada’s failure to use the intelligence it collects”, author and former CSIS employee, Phil Gurski, is advocating for an “intelligence culture” in Canada.

In a moment of self-awareness, Gurski admits that he has “an extreme bias in this regard and many will take issue with my remarks.” This is a clumsy attempt to get ahead of the criticism, and his extreme bias could suffice to discredit his piece, but let’s dig deeper.

Gurski uses the notorious security certicate cases of Mohamed Harkat, Hassan Almrei, Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah, and Adil Charkaoui to make his first bizarre point: “these cases should never have gone to court” because “intelligence in Canada is not collected to evidentiary standards”.

The solution to the mess of the security certificate regime is not to forego our courts and use secret, unsourced allegations to throw people out of Canada to face the substantial risk of persecution and torture if returned to their home country. Instead, the use of evidence that meets the rigorous standards of criminal court proceedings is paramount in a country that purports to be a democracy respectful of due process and the rule of law. If a compelling case exists against anyone, charge them.

Gurski also fails to mention that the cards are stacked in CSIS’s favour in such cases: indeed, the legislation specifically declares that a judge can receive into evidence – and base their decision – on anything, “even if it is inadmissible in a court of law.”

The perverse claim that the only reason these men were able to enter Canada is because the intelligence used to subject them to security certificates was made available too late is not supported by factual history. In reality, four of the men were accepted as refugees because of the risk they faced back home, while another was a permanent resident by the time his certificate was issued. In the meantime, after lives ruined by indefinite detention without charge, years in solitary confinement and brutal house arrest, and being tarred by state security allegations, 3 of the 5 security certificates have been thrown out by the Federal court. The intelligence in question – and the conclusions drawn from them – were simply not up to snuff, even under a CSIS-friendly regime.

In one of the two remaining security certificate cases, Mohamed (Moe) Harkat is fighting deportation to the substantial likelihood of torture in Algeria. (Toronto’s Mahjoub faces similar proceedings to send him to Egypt). As in all security certificate cases, neither Harkat nor his lawyer were able to see the “evidence” against him — a fundamental right in democratic system – and instead were forced to rely on redacted summaries of secret allegations. Moreover, key conclusions in Harkat’s case had previously been soundly rejected by another judge in a parallel case.

Additionally, both the Federal and Supreme Courts found that Harkat’s rights had been violated because all the original “evidence” against him had been illegally destroyed by CSIS. The Federal Court also expressed dismay that the spy agency had purposely withheld critical information that called into question the credibility of two secret informants at the heart of the allegations: one had failed a lie detector test, while another had had an affair with his CSIS agent handler. Inexplicably, the court refused to allow either informant to be cross-examined in either a public or secret court.

Again, despite having the cards stacked in their favour in such cases, Gurski portrays CSIS as a victim and, in a strange line of thought, suggests that maybe intelligence should be used as evidence. But that would then “call into question why CSIS exists”, and he doesn’t want CSIS to close down.

In its three decades of practice, CSIS has faced, and continues to face, well-documented criticism by its watchdog, high-profile judicial inquiries, the courts, human rights lawyers and advocates, for threat inflation, racial and religious profiling, complicity in torture, and poor management of sensitive files. Although questioning its existence is a healthy and important exercise, there is a much more immediate solution to the problems raised here. Intelligence is not used as evidence because it doesn’t meet the judicial standards which exist to prevent innocent people from being wrongfully convicted by the state.

If solid evidence existed in the security certificate cases above, these men should have been tried in a criminal court of law in the same system they would face if charged with any criminal offence. Instead, reliance on the low threshold of proof in security certificate cases where no charge is ever laid left them open to dire consequences based on a secretive system in which true accountability is absent.

That is why the immediate solution here is to get rid of the security certificate regime and insist that anyone subjected to such serious allegations be provided an open and transparent hearing marked by the more robust protections and standards afforded by criminal law. That is, if Canada wants to continue calling itself a democracy.

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

 

Canada must act now for the release and return of Yasser Ahmed Albaz

On behalf of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group and our 45 member organizations across Canada, we are calling for Mr. Yasser Ahmed Albaz’s immediate release from Tora prison in Egypt and his return to Canada.

The ICLMG is deeply concerned about Mr. Albaz welfare. In the past, our organization has supported and spoken out for others who have been arrested and imprisoned in Tora. We know how important it is in these situations that immediate action be taken at the upper levels of the Canadian government to ensure that Mr. Albaz’s rights are protected, to avoid grave mistreatment and to secure his release.

We are pleased and thankful that Canadian consular officials have met with Mr. Albaz, and that he has been able to meet with his legal counsel. We urge the Canadian government to use all possible channels to ensure Mr. Albaz is able to return home to his family, friends and colleagues in Oakville, Ontario, as soon as possible.

All too often we see state security around the world, including in Egypt, arresting individuals without charge, as in the case of Mr. Albaz. In this case, neither he nor his legal counsel have even been informed of what he is charged with. This lack of due process seriously hinders any ability to defend oneself, and raises serious concerns about the respect of Mr. Albaz’s other fundamental freedoms or protection from mistreatment. It is the duty of the Canadian government to protect the rights of its citizens, and to defend human rights internationally.

It is of the utmost importance that Canadian officials, including MPs and members of government, take immediate action to ensure Mr. Ahmed’s safety and to bring him home. We are asking them to take action today.

More details:

Press Conference at Canadian Parliament Calling for Release of Yasser Albaz (video)

‘I want my father home’: Family of man detained in Egypt calls on Canada to intervene

Detained Canadian thrown in notorious Cairo prison without charge: family

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