Groups call for detainees to be freed from Laval facility amid COVID-19 outbreakposted on February 24, 2021 | in Category Canada | PermaLink
Source: Presse Canadienne
Date: February 24, 2021
Several community groups are calling on Ottawa to free those who are being kept at an immigration detention centre in Laval after a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.
According to information obtained by Solidarité sans frontières, several detainees are on hunger strike to protest poor standards of hygiene at the Centre de surveillance de l’immigration de Laval, saying they are at great risk.
At least five cases of COVID-19 were recorded among the detainees, but 12 to 15 people are in isolation at the facility. Visits have been cancelled since last March — a situation that severely limits their access to legal support and aggravates their isolation, the groups say.
According to accounts from detainees, they are being held in cramped quarters that are badly maintained and there is lots of dust in the air, which causes some to have breathing difficulty and irritations. The detainees say they are not even able to wash their clothes.
Those being held at the CSI Laval are awaiting deportation, are undocumented immigrants or entered Canada in an irregular manner, so they are considered to be flight risks.
However, the groups say their detention is both cruel and dangerous during the pandemic.
© 2021 Montreal Gazette, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.
Canada drags its feet on international convention against tortureposted on September 21, 2020 | in Category Canada | PermaLink
Source: Canadian Dimension
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 Tortureposted on April 12, 2017 | in Category Canada | PermaLink
How can Canada condone torture?posted on December 04, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink
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 Delayposted on May 05, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink
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
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Liberals must end Canada's 'previous complicity in torture,' says victimposted on May 05, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink
Canada to join UN anti-torture protocol after more than a decadeposted on May 05, 2016 | in Category Canada | PermaLink
A Letter to Minister Toews on the Use of Torture-tainted informationposted on September 12, 2012 | in Category Canada | PermaLink
Supreme Court appointments need to be transparentposted on May 18, 2011 | in Category Canada | PermaLink
Source: The Montreal Gazette
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 Ottawaposted on April 07, 2011 | in Category Canada | PermaLink
Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar speaks to a crowd gathered in downtown Ottawa, April 6, 2011