Two letters of protest to Anne McLellan

posted on February 11, 2004 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

Included below are two letters that were recently sent to Anne McLellan regarding the injustice of security certificates and the secret trials that come of them.

One was written by me (Brian O'Connor). I borrowed heavily from Matthew Behren's sample letter.

The other is an email written by Linda Belanger. Please consider writing to Ms. McLellan yourself.

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Date: February 6, 2004

Dear Ms. McLellan,

I am sending you four pens which do not work (enclosed) so that the next time CSIS comes to you to sign a secret trial security certificate, you won't have the ink to do so.

As a result of the issuing of security certificates there are now six individuals (five of them Muslim men) who have been detained in Canada without charge or bail. One man has been held in solitary confinement for 27 full months. Four of these men are married, and among them are 11 children who are separated by thick concrete and steel bars from their fathers.
If deported, the five Muslim men -- Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah, Hassan Almrei, Mohamed Harkat and Adil Charkaoui -- are certain to face prison, torture, and death.

All have been subject to the draconian security certificate, which until recently required the signatures of two ministers, and now requires only one -- yours. I am writing to ask that you not put your signature to any more of these certificates. Instead I would ask you change the law (currently the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act) which allows for secret trials to take place in Canada.

I do not believe that secret trials are compatible with a democracy, and hope you would agree.

The security certificate flies in the face of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and has been criticized by Amnesty International, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (of the Organization of American States), numerous Federal Court judges.

One federal judge has said Canada has its own version of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, while judge James Hugessen said: "We hate it. We do not like this process. If you have a case that is only being presented on one side, you are not going to get a good case. It sometimes feel a little bit like a fig leaf."

'Problem is, these judges say they are bound by Parliamentary direction. So it comes down to you as the Minister responsible for this certificate to introduce a fairer process, one similar to that which existed before these cases were placed before the Federal Court (they were previously dealt with by Security Intelligence Review Committee, or SIRC).

There are those who would argue that these are not secret trials, since they have a public portion, but when the heart of the case is discussed behind closed doors without the allegedly inadmissable individual or their lawyer present, what are we then to call it?

Time and again, these men and their families have been very clear: if they have been involved in an illegal act, charge them under the appropriate laws, and disclose the case to them and their lawyers so they can respond. To expect someone to defend themselves when they don't know the allegations being made is not only unjust, it is unrealistic.

I take this matter personally as Sophie Harkat, Mohamed Harkat's wife, has become a close friend as a result of of our joint efforts to get justice for Mo.

She is a very brave and determined young women. She reminds me a lot of Joyce Milgard (mother of David Migard) in her tireless efforts to defend Mo.

And although the efforts of Sophie Harkat and of Monia Mazigh (wife of Maher Arar) are inspiring, the justice system is not supposed to depend on the extraordinary efforts of these women. If it is working properly (and, and IMO, it is badly broken) it's supposed to PREVENT the David Milgards and the Mohamed Harkats and the Maher Arars from ever experiencing an unjust incarceration in the first place! It is supposed to PREVENT the Maher Arars and William Samsons from getting tortured in the first place.

I think our elected officials especially those in the Ministry of Justice have lost sight of this truth. They've become lazy and self-satisfied. They've come to rely unfairly on the Joyce Milgard's and the Monia Mazighs of the world to correct (through costly and long-term court challenges and publicity campaigns) any mistakes they might have made in drafting and passing legislation.

This is not the way the justice system is supposed to work. Canadians shouldn't be expected to drop everything and become full-time lobbyists in order to eke out a little justice from the current system! Indeed, it was only through the masterful lobbying efforts of Monia Mazigh that Maher Arar is alive and back on Canadian soil. Bill Graham's "efforts" in that regard were too little and far too late.

Thanking you in advance for your serious consideration of these matters, and looking forward to your reply.

A concerned Canadian citizen,

Brian O'Connor
[home address]



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From: "Linda Belanger"
To: "Hon. Ann McLellan" , McLellan dot A at parl dot gc dot ca
Subject: End Security Certificates
Date: February 10, 2004

Dear Madam:

How can we be sure that due process has been or will be granted to those named in security certificates when the defence lawyer is not allowed behind the closed door proceedings? How can we trust the word of CSIS when its own oversight committee has criticized the agency for witholding key information which might contradict CSIS' own case? Indeed, the Security Intelligence Review Committee has expressed concerns about "overdrawn" threat assessments, "overstatements" and "misleading or exaggerated" assertions. CSIS has used decade-old information derived from one source's "feelings" and another's "speculation."

Security Certificates plainly go too far. It is one thing not to divulge details to the media but some mechanism must be found to ensure that these cases are assessed and dealt with within a reasonable time. At the very least, defence lawyers representing the accused must be provided with the information against their client and allowed to participate in the court proceedings.

L. Belanger
Ottawa
Ontario

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