Secrets that haunt our courtsposted on November 16, 2004 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink
Downtown workers will have to get used to a few new spooks outside the federal court building at 90 Sparks Street. We're not talking the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) spies either, although they're involved. Members of the Coalition for Justice for Adil Charkaoui are in Ottawa from Montreal for the next few weeks, or as long as it takes the Federal Court of Canada to decide whether Canada's security certificate process is constitutional. Mary Foster from the coalition, who along with the other members was covered by a white ghost-like sheet, told XPress she would be "haunting the court," until it issued a verdict. Charkaoui, a Montreal resident, has been in jail for 17 months after being arrested on suspicion of terrorism. He has been charged with no crime...... and neither he, nor his lawyers, can see any of the evidence CSIS used to justify his arrest. The law says CSIS needs only to convince the solicitor general (currently Anne McLellan), and the minister of citizenship and immigration (currently Judy Sgro), that a person poses a security threat to Canada. If the two officials then sign for that person's immediate arrest and detention, regional police, RCMP officers, or both, step in and do it. "It's a fundamentally flawed process that really cuts at the heart of the most basic of Canadian legal values, like the right to a fair trial, the right to know the evidence against you, the ability to actually conduct a credible cross-examination," said Riad Saloojee, executive director of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, at a small but news media-heavy rally in front of the federal court Monday afternoon. "They've done absolutely nothing to make Canada safer, All they've done is [they've] violated basic human rights standards and now, in the case of these five [men detained through security certificates], threatened to deport people to places where they would face imminent torture." Sophie Harkat, the wife of one of those five men, Mohamed Harkat, whose trial went into recess last week until December 6, was at the rally to denounce the process. Her husband faces deportation to Algeria if the federal judge decides, based on secret evidence, that he is in fact a threat to Canada. Sophie Harkat told XPress she's confident her husband will eventually be released because during his examination in court, federal prosecutors kept asking him the same questions over and over. McLellan recently said security certificates are a useful tool in the greater war on terror and defended, though not explicitly, a previous ruling (Ahani v. Canada, 1995) upholding their constitutionality. She was speaking to reporters last month outside an annual meeting on security issues with U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft. The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, alongside the Canadian Arab Federation and Muslim Lawyers Association, tried to convince the solicitor general otherwise a few months ago at a security roundtable, said Saloojee. And they will be briefing McLellan, in her other role as minister of public safety, next month when the government begins its review of Bill C-36, the draconian anti-terror legal package rushed through Parliament at the end of 2001. Security certificates and Bill C-36 have to be dealt with together in the context of 9/11, he said, "where it seems that justice is not blind, because the five people being held are either Arab or Muslim." -- Visit the URL where this report originated. There are some comments added by Ottawa XPress readers. Some informed, some not so informed. But most are sympathetic to Adil.