by Andrew Duffy
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
Date: March 4, 2016
The federal government has taken another step toward the deportation of Ottawa’s Mohamed Harkat, filing a confidential report that says the terror suspect should be sent back to Algeria despite facing some risk of torture.
The report was prepared by Anne-Marie Charbonneau, manager of the danger assessments section of the Canada Border Services Agency.
It recommends to the senior government official who must ultimately decide Harkat’s fate — someone known as the minister’s delegate — that he be deported to Algeria because of his terror-related activities and the danger he poses.
If Harkat is not removed, the report warns, he would be free to “resume his contacts with members of the Islamic extremist network.”
“Mr. Harkat’s presence constitutes a real threat to the security of Canada and Canadians, as well as the security of other nations and their citizens,” concludes the risk assessment report, portions of which have been viewed by the Citizen.
The Harkat case was thrust back into the news this week after the Citizen revealed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s brother, Alexandre, wrote a letter to the Liberal government, asking that deportation proceedings be halted.
Harkat has repeatedly expressed his belief that being deported to Algeria would result in his torture or death.
Charbonneau concedes that the human rights situation in Algeria remains a concern and that deportees who have been linked to terrorism face increased risks of harm.
While noting it’s impossible to say that Harkat faces no risk of torture or other cruel treatment, she concludes that he’s unlikely to face such harm upon deportation.
Charbonneau says his risk has been lowered by his high-profile and by the diplomatic assurances received from the Algerian government, which pledged to respect international prohibitions against torture.
The report also suggests Harkat’s wife — if she decides to stay in Canada without her husband — will not be financially disadvantaged since he has contributed little to their household income.
In an interview, Sophie Harkat said she was outraged by the hypocrisy of that suggestion when her husband has been effectively barred from employment by the government’s unfair labelling of him.
“You don’t know how much Mo wants to go back to work: He’s desperate to work, desperate,” said Harkat, noting her husband maintained three jobs — two at gas stations and one at Pizza Pizza — before his arrest.
“He’s applied for I don’t know how many jobs and he never gets called back.”
A 2013 medical report found that Harkat suffers from post-traumatic stress and depression.
Harkat’s defence team will now have the opportunity to make its own submissions to the minister’s delegate, who will have to weigh Harkat’s risk of being tortured in Algeria against the risk he poses to Canadians if he remains in this country.
A decision on deportation is expected later this year.
That decision, however, can be appealed to the Federal Court of Canada, and there’s every reason to believe that the case could end up in the Supreme Court for a third time.
The high court has yet to define the “exceptional circumstances” under which Canada can deport someone to a country where they face the risk of torture.
Earlier this week, Alexandre Trudeau appealed to the Liberal government to end the deportation proceedings, saying that Harkat “poses no danger whatsoever to the public or to public safety in Canada.”
He is among dozens of high-profile Canadians who have sent letters to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on behalf of the Justice for the Mohamed Harkat Committee, a lobby group trying to bring public pressure to bear to end the government’s 14-year campaign to deport him.
Harkat supporters have been encouraged by recent Liberal initiatives, including proposed changes to a law that allowed the government to strip citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorism, and Foreign Minster Stéphane Dion’s vow to seek clemency for all Canadians involved in death penalty cases abroad.
The Liberal government of then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien first ordered Harkat’s arrest in December 2002 on a security certificate, which allows federal officials to present evidence in secret.
Sophie Harkat said she doesn’t have the strength for another Supreme Court challenge and just wants the marathon case to end: “We don’t ask for an apology; we don’t ask for money. We just want it to end.”
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