ICLMG’s comments on states’ recommendations for Canada’s UPR

On June 6, 2018, the ICLMG presented at a meeting organized by Heritage Canada for civil society organizations to present their priorities and solutions for Canada’s implementation of the recommendations put forward by UN member states for Canada’s Universal Periodic Review on human rights. The following was our intervention.

The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) is a national coalition of 45 Canadian civil society groups. The coalition’s mandate is to protect human rights from the negative impact of national security and the “war on terror”.

  1. Regarding Recommendation 119: Strengthen framework to prevent misuse of freedom of expression to incite violence and glorification of terrorists as martyrs (India): While we support hate speech laws which restrict speech that incites violence, we would oppose the implementation of laws that would restrict speech regarding the second part of this recommendation, the “glorification of terrorists as martyrs.” Freedom of speech should not be restricted in such vague ways, as we have seen how these types of laws have been used to criminalize dissent and communities all around the world.
  2. As our work is focused on national security, the ICLMG will be offering ways of implementing the only four recommendations, out of 28, that mention national security agencies:
  • 108: Stop racial profiling and other discriminatory practices by the police and security agencies (India);
  • 109: Combat racist hate crimes and racial profiling by the police, security agencies and border agents (South Africa);
  • 110: Take measures to prohibit targeting, profiling and harassment of Muslims by its police, security agencies and other authorities (Pakistan);
  • 111: Take effective measures to avoid that the police, security agencies and border agents continue to carry out day-to-day controls with a racist bias, against indigenous peoples, Muslims, Afro- Canadians and other minority ethnic groups (Ecuador);

In order to implement these recommendations, the ICLMG proposes the following general solution: The Canadian government must implement major changes to national security laws that disproportionally and unfairly target Muslim and Arab communities, Indigenous communities and activists, including activists against anti-Black racism. More precisely:

– Bill C-59, the National Security Act, 2017, which is currently being debated in Parliament, must be significantly changed, and if not, should be removed. The current wording of the bill would legalize mass surveillance, maintain the no-fly list regime (which violates mobility rights and due process), and implement new and dangerous cyberattack powers which exposes the population to retaliation — effectively making people in Canada less safe.

– The Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, known as Bill C-51, will not be fixed by Bill C-59, as was promised by the government. The ATA must be repealed as well, as it expanded the definition of threats to national security to include dissenting activities; the powers of CSIS, our domestic spying agency, to act more like police; and the sharing of information in ways that violate privacy.

– The security certificate regime should be abolished as it violates due process by using secret information that is kept from security certificate targets and their lawyers;

– The extradition law should be heavily reformed as it allowed for the extradition and detention for 3 years without charge of a Canadian citizen, Dr Hassan Diab, in France. An independent and public inquiry into the case of Dr. Diab is also necessary;

– In terms of actually enforcing its international obligations against torture, Canada should hold a public inquiry into the Canadian Army turning over Afghan detainees to the Afghan armed forces, who were then tortured. The Canadian government must also revise its new ministerial directives on information tied to torture, removing the mention that such information can be used under exceptional circumstances and adding a complete ban on such information being used.

– Canada must implement better protection of the rights of travellers at the US border and in airports, as shown by the numerous accounts of abuse, especially by Muslim and racialized people. One way to increase that protection is the repeal of the Preclearance Act, 2016, (which used to be Bill C-23). It allows US officers to strip search a traveler, even if a Canadian agent declines to do so; it allows US officers to carry firearms; and it removes the ability of travelers to withdraw from preclearance areas without further interrogation and without triggering grounds for suspicion. The ICLMG is also concerned with Canadian MPs’ assertions during debates on Bill C-23 that they were unable to strengthen protections when traveling to the US because of an agreement signed between the countries’ governments. Human rights, and the democratic, legislative process, should trump agreements signed without public parliamentary debate and scrutiny.

There must be a general stop to the incremental increases of powers of national security agencies without proof that it is necessary or effective, and at always greater cost to our civil liberties, especially those of Muslim, Arab and Indigenous communities. Several UN special rapporteurs have warned against these dangerous trends and urged states to reverse them.

There also needs to be a general and radical rethinking of national security. The current approach perpetuates and reinforces a state apparatus that both stands on racism and colonialism, and furthers them by implicating whole communities that are wrongly perceived as threats.

To read ICLMG’s full submission to the United Nations for Canada’s UPR, visit: http://iclmg.ca/iclmgs-submission-for-canadas-un-universal-periodic-review/.

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