Canada

Canada drags its feet on international convention against torture

posted on September 21, 2020 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by Lital Khaikin
Source: Canadian Dimension
URL: [link]


Date: September 18, 2020

Canada still hasn’t ratified OPCAT, revealing apathy of Canadian politicians toward human rights standards

Protocol against torture

Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic revealed cracks in Canada’s social services, but it has also shone a stronger light on the shameful conditions endured by inmates in both criminal and immigrant detention centres. Now Canada is facing increasing scrutiny of detention conditions and how they exacerbate racial and economic discrimination.

Earlier this spring, for example, refugees detained at the Laval Immigration Holding Centre held a hunger strike against the abusive treatment meted out by guards and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). Well into June, over a hundred inmates at the super-jail in Lindsay, Ontario went on a hunger strike to protest unsanitary conditions and disregard for dietary needs and restrictions. And just a few months ago, the Canadian military was sent in to report on Québec’s long-term care homes, where the province’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks resulted in thousands of preventable deaths, and where seniors were subject to despicable neglect and deprived of their dignity.

What these cases have in common is a lack of consistent oversight and accountability mechanisms to ensure humane treatment. But here in Canada, the connection has rarely been made with a solution that has been embraced by many other countries.

Over 30 years ago, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force as most of the world’s countries agreed to ban the use of torture and establish international standards to hold one another accountable. Through an arduous 11-year process, the United Nations followed this up with another agreement, requiring countries to adopt a preventative mechanism for inspections and oversight of state detention facilities.

This treaty came to be known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). It entered into force in 2006—the same year that Canada was elected to the UN Human Rights Council. But somehow, despite early leadership in developing the Convention Against Torture, almost 15 years of successive Canadian governments have failed to make the prevention of torture in Canadian facilities a priority.

The definition of torture is wide-ranging; it includes “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental” that is intentionally inflicted to obtain information, to punish, to intimidate or coerce, or “for any reason based on discrimination” with the instigation or consent of a public official. OPCAT is thus relevant not only to police and military facilities, but also any places where people are deprived of freedom. These include immigration detention facilities, senior care centres, psychiatric facilities, and group homes.

OPCAT forces government departments and institutions to decide on how they will meet standards of humane treatment. For Canada to ratify OPCAT would mean creating what’s known as a National Preventative Mechanism (NPM), which would serve as an independent body that visits places of detention to ensure that conditions conform to international standards. It would also integrate existing inspections and oversight mechanisms, like Canada’s Office of the Correctional Investigator.



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Open Letter to Minister Goodale: Reject Information Obtained Through Torture

posted on April 12, 2017 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

Source: International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) URL: [link] Date: April 12, 2017 The Honourable Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Safety 269 Laurier Avenue West Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P8 January 30, 2017 Dear Minister Goodale, We are writing to you about the urgent need for Canada to revise the Ministerial Directives on torture issued by the previous government to conform to the unconditional ban on torture in international law. Doing so now would send an important signal to Canadians and to the international community that Canada will under no circumstances use information from a foreign country that was likely obtained under torture, or share information that could likely lead to an individual being tortured. As you know, in 2011 the government introduced a ministerial directive that allows, under exceptional circumstances, for information garnered under torture by a foreign country to be transmitted to and used by Canadian security agencies. The same directive also provided guidelines for instances when Canadian agencies could share information with countries that are know to engage in human rights abuses, even if doing so would likely result in torture. One year ago, you committed to reviewing these directives. We hope that, after consideration, you are now prepared to make revisions that will ensure compliance with Canada's binding international obligation to oppose torture in all instances, without exception. Doing so would be consistent with recent steps taken by the government to strengthen Canada's efforts to combat and eradicate torture by initiating steps towards accession to the UN's Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. A decade ago, the public inquiry into the case of Maher Arar clearly documented that irresponsible sharing of intelligence information from and to Canada can and does result in torture. Notably Commissioner Dennis O'Connor made an explicit recommendation that intelligence information should never be shared by Canadian agencies if it is likely to lead to torture. The Ministerial Directives explicitly run counter to those recommendations. Notably the 2008 report from the Iacobucci Commission that examined the cases of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin similarly documented the grave risk of sharing intelligence without regard for the risk of torture. Beyond these important national level findings and recommendations we also draw your attention to the fact that the UN's pre-eminent body responsible for overseeing the obligation of states to end torture, the UN's Committee against Torture, has also raised concern. In its 2012 review of Canada's record, the Committee called on Canada to amend the Ministerial Directives to ensure conformity with international obligations. The international context makes Canada's actions all the more urgent. This week, the New York Times reported the United States administration is considering a review of its use of CIA black sites. The same day, US President Donald Trump told ABC News that he is open to the return of torture during interrogations, saying he believes "torture works." Both these revelations raise troubling questions about the very real risk that intelligence sharing between our two countries may again become tainted by concerns about torture. We believe that Canadians deserve clarity, and that the best way to do so would be to revise the Ministerial Directives so as to fully conform with international law and to pass legislation that creates a clear prohibition on sharing information likely to be derived from, or at risk of leading to, torture. Sincerely, Amnesty International Canada British Columbia Civil Liberties Association Canadian Civil Liberties Association Canadian Muslim Lawyer Association International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group Ligue des droits et libertés National Council of Canadian Muslims Open Media Link to the open letter


How can Canada condone torture?

posted on December 04, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by Gerald Caplan Source: The Globe and Mail URL: [link] Date: November 24, 2016 Gerald Caplan is an Africa scholar, a former NDP national director and a regular panelist on CBC’s Power & Politics

Canada ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture in 1987, yet a good number of Canadians have been tortured with the complicity of public officials. To be more precise: Torture – physical, psychological or both – has been inflicted by our prisons and our security and intelligence services on many Canadians – a disproportionate number of them indigenous or people with a Middle Eastern background – as well as on foreign citizens. When examples of such incidents are exposed, Canadians are outraged. But only rarely are they revealed. For example, as we’ve been shocked to learn recently, solitary confinement in our prisons seems to be as Canadian as maple syrup, even though the United Nations says solitary lasting more than 15 days amounts to torture. The Toronto Star recently reported that over the course of five months last year, more than 1,600 inmates suffered solitary confinement at two Ontario jails. Many were indigenous people. The Globe and Mail has written extensively about Adam Capay, the young indigenous man kept in solitary for more than 1,500 days – more than four years. Ontario government officials knew but did nothing until they were publicly exposed. The Ontario Human Rights Commission says there is an “alarming and systemic overuse of segregation” in Ontario jails. No one has been held accountable. Nor must we forget that during Canada’s participation in the war in Afghanistan, Afghan prisoners were often turned over by Canadian troops to U.S. and Afghan authorities. It was widely known that torture would be the fate of most of them. Despite pressure, Canadian governments, including this one, have refused to hold an inquiry. No one has been held accountable. Then there are those mystifying “security certificates,” a troubling tool that allows Ottawa to deport non-citizens it deems a threat to national security. The following Muslim men have been arrested under security certificates: Hassan Almrei, Adil Charkaoui, Mohamed Harkat, Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub. None was charged, but all were imprisoned for between four and seven years as they awaited deportation. All but one suffered solitary. No one has been held accountable. Many will have seen the deeply disturbing documentary The Torture Files by Terence McKenna that ran over three nights on CBC-TV in September. It names both the victims and at least two of the Canadian officials complicit in their torture in Syria. The victims are men of Middle Eastern heritage but with no links to any form of terrorism. They include the following individuals: Abousfian Abdelrazik, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati, Abdullah Almalki, Maher Arar, Arwad al-Boushi and Muayyed Nureddin. We can add Omar Khadr, who was psychologically tortured at Guantanamo Bay by both U.S. and Canadian officials. The Canadians who were instrumental in the suffering of the other men were also named in two separate federal inquiries. One was Franco Pillarella, then Canada’s ambassador to Syria. False information was given to U.S. officials about Mr. Arar, a Canadian citizen, by Canadian officials, even though he was innocent of any crime. The Americans duly passed him on to Syria – to be tortured like all the others. Mr. Arar was jailed in what he described as a “grave” – six feet long, three feet wide, seven feet high – for 10 months. It was like being buried alive. He was also tortured repeatedly. Incredibly, as is well documented, Mr. Pillarella actually co-operated with the Syrian torturers, supplying them with questions to be asked of three Canadians. He kept being appointed to new diplomatic posts until he resigned. A second Canadian is featured in the McKenna documentary, a Mountie named Michel Cabana. Mr. Cabana passed on false information that led to Mr. Almalki being detained when he visited Damascus. His cell was described by Amnesty International as being similar to Arar’s. He was “subjected to a vicious cycle of torture. He was beaten with an electric cable, strung up to the bars of a window and lashed with leather belts.” Two commissions of inquiry concluded that Mr. Almalki, Mr. Elmaati, Mr. Nureddin and Mr. Arar were all wrongfully targeted by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP. Cabana was promoted to RCMP assistant commissioner, a position he holds to this day. U.S. President Barack Obama banned the CIA’s widely used torture techniques in 2009, but president-elect Donald Trump, who embraces the use of torture with much enthusiasm, could easily reverse that order. In Canada, the previous government had told CSIS that it could use information derived through torture. The Liberal opposition was outraged. As well, the Conservative government’s anti-terrorist Bill C-51 was interpreted as opening the door to CSIS to use torture in its work, even though information thus acquired is notoriously unreliable. The Liberals were outraged. Yet the new, Liberal government is still “assessing” the issue, even though Canada has agreed to sign the UN’s optional protocol to the Convention against Torture allowing for the inspection of detention centres, where torture often takes place in secrecy. A number of heroic Canadians have dedicated themselves to ending the use of torture by Canada. They include, among others, Matthew Behrens, Monia Mazigh, Amar Wala, Barbara Jackman, Roch Tassé and his International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. Why should their efforts be needed at all? Torture is both immoral and useless as a tool to fight terrorism. It outrages Canadians. How can our governments condone it for even one more day? Copyright 2016 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Canada To Sign UN's Anti-Torture Protocol After Years Of Delay

posted on May 05, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by The Canadian Press Source: Huffington Post URL: [link] Date: May 2, 2016 OTTAWA — Canada is prepared to join a key United Nations anti-torture agreement more than a decade after it was first passed. The UN's optional protocol to the convention against torture allows for the establishment of national and international systems for inspecting detention centres where torture often takes place in secrecy. It was first approved by the world body in 2002. Although dozens of countries have signed on, Canada has not ratified the protocol. The Harper government twice promised to do so, but never did. The new Trudeau government will follow through, says Chantal Gagnon, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, says the Trudeau government plans to make good on the commitment. "The minister just announced that we agree that the government of Canada should join this important protocol," Gagnon said of what Dion had to say at a private reception earlier Monday. "We are taking the first step towards doing so by beginning formal consultations on the optional protocol with provincial and territorial governments." Move welcomed by activists

Mohamed Fahmy, who spent more than a year in a prison in Egypt, welcomed the move on Twitter, calling it history in the making. Activist groups have been pressing for ratification for years; Amnesty International Canada has yet another news conference on the subject scheduled for Tuesday. Supporters of the protocol say it is an important step in freeing the world from the practice of torture. They say Canadian ratification would strengthen the country's ability to press other countries to open detention centres to increased scrutiny. With files from Mike Blanchfield

Copyright ©2016 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. "The Huffington Post" is a registered trademark of TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. All rights reserved. 2016©




Liberals must end Canada's 'previous complicity in torture,' says victim

posted on May 05, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by Mike Blanchfield (CP) Source: CBC News URL: [link] Date: May 3, 2016 A prominent Canadian victim of abuse behind bars in Syria is calling on the government to cancel controversial directives that allow for the sharing of intelligence that could lead to torture. Abdullah Almalki, a Canadian who was imprisoned and tortured in Syria for almost two years, said Tuesday it is time the Liberals ditched the policy that was enacted by the previous Conservative government. Almalki said the current government must end Canada's "previous complicity in torture." Almalki and other human rights activists said cancelling the directives is the next logical step for the government after it announced Monday it was prepared to join a key United Nations anti-torture agreement more than a decade after it was first passed. Almalki was part of a group of human rights activists that praised Monday's surprise announcement by Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion. But they said the government must go further, and cancel the torture directives. "Many of the prisoners I've interviewed have reverted to saying things that necessarily didn't happen or they were told to confess in order to avoid the torture," said Mohamed Fahmy, the Canadian journalist who was imprisoned in Egypt. Alex Neve, the head of Amnesty International Canada, said his organization has been campaigning for years to get the controversial torture directives thrown out. "It certainly would be very much in keeping with the spirit of what we heard yesterday ... to rescind that very troubling ministerial direction and bring our intelligence sharing practices into line with our international obligations," said Neve. Fahmy and Neve warned Dion and the provinces not to dither and to bring Canada into full compliance with the anti-torture convention within one year. The federal government must now consult with the provinces on the legal way forward for Canada to formally join the UN anti-torture convention. © The Canadian Press, 2016


Canada to join UN anti-torture protocol after more than a decade

posted on May 05, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by The Canadian Press Source: The Globe & Mail URL: [link] Date: May 2, 2016 Canada is prepared to join a key United Nations anti-torture agreement more than a decade after it was first passed. The UN’s optional protocol to the convention against torture allows for the establishment of national and international systems for inspecting detention centres where torture often takes place in secrecy. It was first approved by the world body in 2002. Although dozens of countries have signed on, Canada has not ratified the protocol. The Harper government twice promised to do so, but never did. The new Trudeau government will follow through, says Chantal Gagnon, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, says the Trudeau government plans to make good on the commitment. Copyright 2016 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved.


A Letter to Minister Toews on the Use of Torture-tainted information

posted on September 12, 2012 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by ICLMG and 10 civil society organizations Source: International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group URL: [link] Date: September 6, 2012 The Honourable Vic Toews, PC QC MP Minister of Public Safety House of Commons Ottawa, Canada K1A 0A6 Re: Use of Torture-tainted information 6 September 2012 Dear Minister Toews: We are writing to you today to express our opposition to the government's directives that would allow for the use of information that was likely extracted through torture. These directives are currently in the public spotlight following disclosure through an Access to Information request. It is important to note that Canada is a signatory to numerous international agreements including the Convention Against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child. All of these conventions emphasize the illegality of the use of torture and, as such, it is imperative that the Canadian government upholds its international obligations by unequivocally denying the right of any state to torture citizens or non-citizens. To accept/ share information from states where torture is known to occur would be to renege on these international commitments. Furthermore, it would send the wrong signal, implying that there is a "market" for such information. As such we urge the Canadian government to direct its various national security agencies including the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency, and CSIS to discard information likely obtained through the violation of human rights and to refrain from sharing such information. In 2006, Justice Dennis O'Connor, in his Report of the Events Relating to Maher Arar, recommended policies that now appear to have been ignored. Specifically, recommendation 14 which stated, "Policies should include specific directions aimed at eliminating any possible Canadian complicity in torture, avoiding the risk of other human rights abuses and ensuring accountability." We, the undersigned, strongly believe that the Canadian government and its institutions are responsible for the safety and well-being of Canadians. However this duty must align itself with international agreements, and with Canada's own Charter obligations. The Government of Canada must condemn the use of torture, without caveats. Sincerely, Ihsaan Gardee Executive Director CAIR-CAN Roch Tassé National Coordinator International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group Gail Davidson Executive Director Lawyer's Rights Watch Canada Brent Patterson Political Director The Council of Canadians Dave Coles President Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada James L. Turk Executive Director Canadian Association of University Teachers Vincent Gogolek Executive Director BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association Carmen Cheung Senior Counsel BC Civil Liberties Association Nicole Filion Directrice générale Ligue des droits et libertés Warren Allmand, P.C., O.C.,Q.C. Carol Dixon Presiding Clerk Canadian Yearly Meeting-Religious Society of Friends(Quakers) Rita Morbia Executive Director Inter Pares



Supreme Court appointments need to be transparent

posted on May 18, 2011 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by unsigned editorial
Source: The Montreal Gazette
URL: [link]
Date: May 18, 2011

MONTREAL - By the time Stephen Harper’s term as prime minister is over, four years from now, more than half the judges who make up the country’s top court will have stepped down.

Some departures – like the two announced last week by Justices Ian Binnie and Louise Charron – are by choice, others because the judges will have reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. As head of a majority government, Harper will be free to impose his vision on the nine-member court.

Canadians who believe the current Supreme Court justices are too inclined to make decisions that are Parliament’s to make will look forward to a Harper-influenced court.

Those who think the Supreme Court is already too timid in protecting Charter rights and civil liberties fear a highly politicized court too deferential to Parliament.

Unfortunately for most Canadians, figuring out whether either scenario is plausible requires the analytical ability of a Kremlinologist at the top of his or her game. Little is known by the general public about the current sitting justices – how many of them can you name off the top of your head? – and far less about those who might replace them.

The process by which judges are appointed to the top court traditionally ensured that they remained close to anonymous and their workings opaque. Until 2006, a prime minister together with a justice minister made the selection behind closed doors. The public was provided with a bare-bones announcement: a name and a province of origin.

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Photos From "Day For Democracy" in Ottawa

posted on April 07, 2011 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

Thanks to Philippe Parent for these pictures taken at the April 6th "Day For Democracy" in Ottawa. CLICK HERE to see more photos from the event.
Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar speaks to a crowd gathered in downtown Ottawa, April 6, 2011


Vic Toews named new Public Safety Minister

posted on January 19, 2010 | in Category Canada | PermaLink

by Mia Rabson Source: The Winnipeg Free Press URL: [link] Date: January 19, 2010 Toews shuffled to plum Public Safety post

OTTAWA -- Manitoba senior cabinet minister Vic Toews was just sworn in this morning as Canada’s new Public Safety Minister. Toews has been the Treasury Board President since 2007 and was the Justice Minister for a year before that. He is the MP for Provencher, a role he’s held since 2000. Toews, 57, is replacing Ontario MP Peter Van Loan, who is moving to International Trade. In total Prime Minister Stephen Harper shuffled 10 of his cabinet ministers. His main front bench ministers are staying put -- Jim Flaherty in finance, John Baird in transport, Tony Clement in Industry, Peter MacKay in Defence and Lawrence Cannon in Foreign Affairs. Manitoba's other cabinet minister, Steven Fletcher, is staying put as the minister of state for democratic reform. Stockwell Day is being tapped to stick handle the upcoming hard times in Treasury Board. The job entails keeping a hold on the country's purse strings, and with a $56 billion deficit to overcome, the government's agenda will include a severe tightening of those purse strings in the months and likely even years to come.

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