ICLMG’s National Coordinator, Tim McSorley, presented on Islamophobia in Canada at the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights on March 20, 2023. Read the transcript of his intervention below.
Watch the full session here
The other witnesses were:
- Fahad Ahmad, Assistant Professor, Toronto Metropolitan University (As an Individual)
- Thomas Juneau, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa (As an Individual)
- Barbara Jackman, Lawyer, Jackman and Associates (As an Individual)
- Abdul Nakua, Executive Member (Muslim Association of Canada)
Thank you, Senators, for having me.
Our coalition’s focus is on the impacts of national security and anti-terrorism laws in Canada, and our country’s role and actions throughout the so-called War on Terror, on civil liberties and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international human rights agreements.
Through our work, we have observed the constant and undeniable problem of racial, religious and political profiling, abetted by the vague and overreaching definitions of terrorism and national security found in Canada’s laws and policies. The most pervasive of this profiling has been the targeting of Muslims, Arabs, and those perceived to be Muslim or Arab, as the leading threat to the security of Canadians, despite evidence to the contrary.
This systemic Islamophobia has had a tangible, negative impact on Muslims not just in Canada but around the world.
When thinking of this impact, we believe it is important that we remember the victims and survivors of these laws, and listen to their words. Those who have directly experienced the most drastic forms of rights-violations must be included in our policy discussions if we hope to truly address these problems.
I want to share some of the words of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was renditioned from his home in Mauritania, and eventually imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay prison for 14 years, where he faced horrific acts of mistreatment and torture. All of this was based on faulty intelligence provided to the United States by Canadian intelligence agencies. Last May, Mr. Slahi told reporters with the Middle East Eye:
“I want Canada to tell the world this was a mistake… I want to clear my name. This is very important to me. …
“Without the Canadian government, I would never have been kidnapped. Without the Canadian government, I would never have been selected for the torture programme. …
“Instead of the protection I was seeking, I was literally thrown under the bus. …
“I just wanted an apology and I want them to give me back my papers that they took away, because I need a life – because my country won’t give me a passport. …
“I want to be able to go to Canada freely, and meet my readers and meet my supporters, and do my talks in all the cities in Canada. Because I love the Canadian people.”
Canada has ignored his request for an apology, forcing Mr. Slahi to pursue justice the only way he can: through the courts. His is just one tragic, and enraging, case among many.
Others who have also faced mistreatment or torture either at the hands of or with the complicity of Canada in the name of counter-terrorism include: Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati, Muayyed Nureddin, Omar Khadr, Mohamed Harkat, Hassan Diab, Abousfian Abdelrazik, Benamar Benatta, Khalid Awan, and more. It is no coincidence that these are all Muslim men.
Over the past two decades, studies have repeatedly documented the disproportionate impact of national security measures on Muslims in Canada. For example, a 2019 study found that 98% of individuals prosecuted under Criminal Code anti-terrorism provisions have been Muslims or linked to Muslim groups. The vast majority of these cases did not involve any executed act of violence, whereas most white perpetrators of actual mass violence have not been prosecuted as terrorists. Our own research has shown the disproportionate, unsupported and prejudiced targeting of Muslim charities by the CRA under the guise of countering terrorist financing.
Other examples include:
- Discrimination and profiling in immigration
- Racial profiling at the border and while traveling, including via the Passenger Protect Program (No Fly List)
- Information sharing with rights-violating regimes
- Harassment of Muslims at work, on campus and in their places of worship
In recent years, laws like the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 and the National Security Act, 2017 have expanded national security powers without adequate rights-protections, transparency and oversight, and have not gone far enough to address the profiling and systemic discrimination faced by Muslims in Canada.
If the federal government truly wishes to address Islamophobia, it must forego policies that are predicated on the vague and politically malleable idea of “terrorism”.
Instead, what is needed is legislative reform, real accountability, and justice for the survivors of rights violations in the name of counter-terrorism. This includes
- Rescinding rights-violating anti-terrorism laws, including CSIS threat disruption powers
- Increase resources for and augment the powers of review and oversight agencies, including independent review of the CBSA
- Establishing clear accountability mechanisms, including to address CSIS breaches of duty of candour
- Mandate the collection of disaggregated race- and religion-based data to inform policy
- End the prejudiced audits of Muslim charities under the guise of combatting terrorist financing in the charitable sector
- Re-examine resources granted to national security agencies with a goal of re-allocating resources towards solutions that promote mental and physical health and well-being, and combat exclusion, prejudices, discrimination, and poverty
Finally, justice for the victims of counter-terrorism abuses would show a concrete change in approach and undermine the pervasive, unfounded image of Muslims posing a threat to the security of Canada. This must include but is not limited to:
- Immediate action to safely repatriate all Canadians currently detained in North Eastern Syria
- Lifting Mohamed Harkat’s security certificate and ending his deportation proceedings
- Calling on the French government to end all proceedings against Dr. Hassan Diab and committing to no new extradition.
- The resolution of the case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi and an apology from the Canadian government for its role in his mistreatment and torture
- The resolution of the case of Abousfian Abdelrazik and an apology from the Canadian government for its role in his mistreatment and torture
- Requesting a transfer of Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy from US prison to Canada, where he could at a minimum be supported by his family, community and mental health services while he serves out his sentence
Thank you for your time.
Since you’re here…
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