New Security Certificate Legislation

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Subject: New Security Certificate Legislation
  Here is an article from the Montreal Mirror. When will the Conservatives realize all persons in Canada are covered by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?


When Parliament reconvenes later this month, one of the first items expected to be on the legislative agenda is the third and final reading of Bill C-3, the Harper government?s long-awaited new security certificate law.

Last February, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that portions of the old security certificate law were unconstitutional, giving the government one year to amend it. In October, the feds unveiled C-3, touching off a wave of criticism from groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Canadian Bar Association and various United Nations agencies.

Security certificates have been around in one form or another for decades. They allow for the indefinite detention and/or deportation of non-citizens who are suspected of being a ?danger to national security,? without trial, based on secret evidence.

The main difference between C-3 and the former statute is the provision for a special detainee ?advocate? with clearance to view classified evidence. The presiding judge will be charged with appointing an advocate from a list compiled by the Minister of Justice. Once the advocate has seen the secret evidence, he or she will be prohibited from communicating with the individual?on whose behalf they?re ostensibly acting?without permission from the judge.
Challenges ahead

Lawyer Johanne Doyon represents Montrealer Adil Charkaoui, one of six people presently under security certificates in Canada. Accused of being an al-Qaeda sleeper agent, something he strongly denies, Charkaoui was released under strict conditions in February of 2005, after spending two years in detention.

Doyon worked on the challenge that struck down the previous law. She believes authorities already have all the legal powers they need to protect Canadians without resorting to security certificates and secret evidence. ?The Supreme Court said you can always get a warrant or arrest a person if it?s urgent,? she says. ?There are tools in the criminal law and immigration law to do that.?

Doyon would like to see security certificates abolished completely. ?We are talking about secret trials, with secret evidence,? she says. ?The accused doesn?t know the case against them. That?s far from a fair trial.?

In a statement released shortly after C-3 was introduced, Amnesty International Canada lamented that it ?falls dismally short of what would be required to meet minimal international and constitutional fair trial guarantees.?

?Even if this special advocate model was improved?and there are many ways in which it could be improved?it still wouldn?t be adequate,? says Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty Canada.

Unlike Doyon and others, Amnesty isn?t calling for the complete elimination of security certificates. Instead, they?re urging the government to adopt a system whereby a representative of the individual?s own choosing, such as thier lawyer, can be cleared to view classified evidence and consult with them afterwards.
Secrets and politics

The use of security certificates has raised other concerns as well. Canadian law bars the use of evidence obtained through torture, but Neve worries about the difficulties of ascertaining the origins of evidence used in the security certificate process. ?The procedure is so secretive that it?s very difficult to determine whether evidence that is being put forward might actually have been the result of torture.?

The Web site of the Department of Public Safety touts security certificates as ?an important tool to protect Canadians from terrorist threats.? It also states that 27 security certificates have been issued in the last 14 years, with only six being issued since Sept. 11, 2001. Officials with the Department declined numerous requests for a phone interview, but responding to questions submitted by e-mail, Melisa Leclerc, director of communications for the Minister of Public Safety, launched an attack on the federal Liberals and St?phane Dion, accusing them of being ?soft on terror,? compared with the Conservatives, who ?will not waver when it comes to safeguarding the security of Canadians.?

The Liberals, nevertheless, are widely expected to support C-3 on third reading, meaning it will likely pass. The NDP has said they will vote against, while the Bloc?s position is less clear.

While they might not agree on a solution, most of C-3?s critics seem to agree on one thing: if it passes, it won?t take long before it?s back before the courts.

?It will be challenged, and it won?t stand up to the challenge,? says Ligue des droits et libert?s member and lawyer Philippe Robert de Massy, who testified before the House Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on C-3.

?For sure. If they adopt it as it is, there will be another challenge,? says Doyon.

Amnesty?s Neve concurs. ?That?s one more reason why the bill should be changed. Surely, the government wants to put forward a system that is not once again going to end up snarled in lengthy, time-consuming, expensive court appeals,? he says. ?Yet that?s exactly what they?ve done.?


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