Source: CBC News
Date: December 14. 2009
The federal government has launched a sweeping review of its rickety national security certificate law, The Canadian Press has learned.
"We are working on it actively, very actively, and recognize that the current situation is not ideal — and that there is a need for change," Peter Van Loan, Canada's public safety minister, said in an interview.
The review could scrap or revamp a law used to arrest and deport non-Canadians considered a threat to national security. Certificates have existed for three decades, and more than two dozen have been issued since 1991, when they became part of federal immigration law.
But legal challenges and upbraidings from judges over miscues by Canada's spy agency have seen recent cases slow to a crawl, or collapse completely.
"I'm contemplating what we would do in the future, and whether that is an appropriate instrument," Van Loan said.
"I'm taking a serious look at it, trying to work our way through what the implications of the court decisions are and how we can balance that with our ability to assure the national security of Canadians."The government has initiated six certificate cases — four terror suspects, a hatemonger and an alleged Russian spy — since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. But for critics, the deportation tool has come to symbolize the worst excesses of the fight against Islamic extremism. Opponents say the process is fundamentally unfair because detainees are not given full details of the allegations against them. A case involving Montrealer Adil Charkaoui, a native of Morocco, fell apart recently when the government withdrew supporting evidence, saying its disclosure would reveal sensitive intelligence sources and methods of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. A judge's demand for information in the Charkaoui case "pushed us beyond what we could accept," CSIS director Richard Fadden said in an October speech. Charkaoui, a French teacher and father of three, wants compensation for his six-year ordeal. "I think strongly that any country must defend their own interests against terrorism, against any threat," he says, "but they must do it in [a] very fair way." Certificates 'hype and show'
Toronto lawyer Barbara Jackman, who has represented several certificate detainees over the years, calls the system the Cadillac of the security world: big, flashy vehicles for warning ethnic minorities to stay in line. "It's hype and show, that's what they are." Reid Morden, director of the CSIS from 1988 to 1992, has a different view. "Rather than the Cadillac, I would say it's kind of the instrument of last resort if you're trying to get somebody out of the country." Canada's generous laws make it a "safety net for undesirables," says Morden. "Once you step off the plane, you're here forever." As a result, Morden says he wonders just how worried officials should be if someone "gets deported back to a country where things are perhaps less orderly in terms of process." "Canadians have a little difficulty with this, I think, but this is not a tea party." In two cases where certificates failed, the government is trying more conventional means to deport men living in the Toronto area. Manickavasagam Suresh, an alleged fundraiser for the Tamil Tigers, had been subject to a security certificate for more than a decade. But when the process was revamped last year, the government did not issue a new certificate. A Canada Border Services Agency official told The Canadian Press that Suresh now faces a hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board to determine whether he can remain in Canada. Certificates levied against Palestinian Issam Al Yamani were thrown out by the courts on two occasions. He is still fighting a deportation order, saying he fears torture if sent back to Lebanon, his former home. Peace bonds a potential solution
In cases where there is insufficient evidence for a charge, the government could ask a judge for a peace bond, an order issued under the Criminal Code that allows authorities to keep someone under surveillance. Van Loan said he is looking at peace bonds as a potential solution that relies more heavily on the criminal law — through existing or new legislation. "I think if there's any situation where we can successfully carry out a prosecution, we should." RCMP Commissioner William Elliott agrees, but says the evidence isn't always there to make a case in court against a potentially dangerous terrorist. The Mounties simply don't have the resources or the mandate to follow alleged extremists around, Elliott said. Copyright © CBC 2009