Monday, October 17, 2005

Blights on our record

Amnesty International will be presenting a report to the U.N. about human rights violations...in Canada. The TorStar's Olivia Ward reports that A.I. will put the following charges on the record:
"failing to protect citizens and refugees in danger of deportation to countries where they may be tortured; and by issuing "security certificates" that deny suspects' rights to challenge their detention when they are held as potential threats to national security."
[...] "the treatment of refugees, the report urges suspension of Canada's Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States until it is determined whether safeguards can prevent rights violations. The agreement says those who pass through one country en route to another can only make their asylum claim in the first country they enter. Refugees forced to make claims in American states may be "treated in a manner that does not conform to international law." The report notes that asylum seekers may face arbitrary detention, serious human rights violations, and imprisonment in "prison conditions which may constitute cruel treatment." Amnesty also takes Ottawa to task for failing to uphold the rights of aboriginal people, including the development of logging, oil and gas industries on the territory of the Lubicon Cree of northern Alberta."

You can read A.I.'s full brief to the UNHRC here (pdf format). While the charges regarding the treatment of First-Nations people have been made repeatedly (and appropriately!) for decades, the charges related to the so-called "security certificates" are relatively recent. I would call them our "post 9/11" blights. And they are disgusting. [click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading] Bill C-36, the "Anti-Terrorism Act," allows for the detention of people based on "secret evidence". These so-called "security certificates" allow for detention without charge or bail. Even defense lawyers are prohibited from viewing the evidence against their clients. Four men remain detained under Security Certificates. Adil Charkaoui--a fifth victim of these certificates--was released on bail in February 2005. The Supreme Court is currently reviewing the constitutionality of these certificates.

This is very short-notice but I just discovered that there will be a special film-screening event in Toronto tomorrow night, October 18th, at the Innis Town Hall (7:30 PM). The films will address "the ways in which "security consciousness" creates a climate of repression against immigrants and refugees." Speakers will include: Heather Mallick, Columnist, Globe and Mail, Sharryn Aiken, Professor of Law, Queen's University, former president of Canadian Council for Refugees, and Ahmad Jaballah, oldest son of secret trial detainee Mahmoud Jaballah, held without charge on a secret trial security certificate since August, 2001 in Toronto.

It's time to correct our course and regain our spot among the best protectors of human rights. In the words of Alex Neve, secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada:
"Canada is an important global voice, and many people look to it for leadership in human rights. Canada does many things that are praiseworthy, and we should be proud of them. But that will be undermined if it's increasingly apparent that there are flaws in our own record."

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