Sunday, October 19, 2014

Honouring Those Killed by Deportation from Canada, Thursday, October 23, Ottawa, 12:30 pm

 Honouring Those Killed by Deportation from Canada, Thursday, October 23, Ottawa, 12:30 pm

Canadian Border Services Agency (office of CBSA President Luc Portelance)

191 Laurier Ave. West (at Metcalfe, next to Library), Ottawa

 (For those in the national capital region, please join us for the vigil....   Letters demanding a stop to deportations can be sent from anywhere—see below)

Two weeks after the release of inquest findings into the hanging death in CBSA custody of Mexican refugee Lucia Vega Jimenez (who justifiably feared a forced return to violence in Mexico), join us as we gather to honour the memory of Jimenez and other refugees who have lost their lives in this country while facing deportation or following forced removal from Canada.
                                                                    Lucia Vega Jimenez
 Every year, the CBSA spends $100 million to jail and deport refugees in an inhumane assembly line of misery that not only regularly violates the law, but also serves no social purpose, ruins lives and tears apart families and communities, spreads fear, and forces many into situations of further violence, torture, and death. (More info at http://rabble.ca/columnists/2014/01/canadas-government-sponsored-law-breakers-push-border-out )

Included in countries to which CBSA seeks to deport individuals are Mexico (a country deemed "safe" by Canada despite the recent massacre of student protesters and an Amnesty International report finding a 600% increase in torture since 2003), Iran, Syria, and Egypt.

 CBSA President Luc Portelance has spent most of his career in agencies that view refugees as security threats and criminals – the RCMP and spy agency CSIS. As BC Lawyer Phil Rankin (among many others) has repeatedly pointed out, refugees like Lucia Vega Jimenez "are not criminals, but what we’ve done is create a criminal model. In this case, it led to a death....If you keep doing business as usual, there will be more (deaths)."

Join us Thursday, October 23 at 12:30 pm in Ottawa to honour the memory of some of those whose lives were lost as a result of Canada's inhumane deportation system, and to demand an end to deportations. There is no rational explanation for why this country detains and forcibly deports human beings (83,635 people deported from January 2009 to June, 2014;  some 10,000, including children, annually detained).

Some Disturbing Findings

85,635 human beings were deported from Canada between January 2009 to June, 2014

CBSA's "removal" costs for 2013/2014 fiscal year were $43,120,600

CBSA's costs to detain refugees simply because they are refugees, 2013/14, $55,195,949

Last year’s landmark Harvard University study,  Bordering on Failure: Canada-U.S. Border policy and the Politics of Refugee Exclusion, concluded: “Canada is systematically closing its borders to asylum seekers, and circumventing its refugee protection obligations under domestic and international law… Canada sets a poor example for other countries, and contributes to the deterioration of refugee protection around the world.”

WRITE A LETTER

Although he may feel insulated in his sixth floor office from the human rights concerns of refugees, Luc Portelance needs to hear from you. Let him know how you feel about the deportation process, and demand an end to this barbaric practice.

Luc Portelance, President's Office

Canadian Border Services Agency

6th Flr., 191 Laurier Ave. West

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0L8

Phone: 613-952-3200

Fax: 613-948-3177

Email: luc.portelance@cbsa-asfc.gc.ca

Organized by the Anne Frank Sanctuary Committee and Homes not Bombs, http://homesnotbombs.blogspot.ca, tasc@web.ca, 613-267-3998


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Just Say No to War: A nonviolent vigil on Parliament Hill

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Just Say No to War: A nonviolent vigil on Parliament Hill
Monday, October 6, 3-5 pm
AND an email campaign to the Prime Minister's office from wherever you are


While politicians inside the House debate timelines, benchmarks, exit strategies, and the intent to add Canadian fighter jets as part of the slaughter from the skies playing out in Iraq and Syria (and fail to even open a debate on the 1,000+ troops and Canadian bombers that are now near the Ukraine border), join us in front of Parliament for a nonviolent vigil to Just Say NO to War. To say no to:

- the macho posturing of those beating the drums of war.
- the excitement bubbling in the offices of Canadian weapons dealers whose profits have fueled the current conflicts and whose instruments of murder are being tested in the new "theatre" of war.
- the complete failure of imagination of those in power who label whole groups of people as beyond human and worthy only of being murdered.
- a perverted mindset that believes in war as a solution to any problem, even though wars are directly or indirectly responsible for 190 million 20th-century deaths (90% of whom were civilian).
- the inability of those inside the House to understand that war is terrorism.
- the Canadian government's role in brokering the $14 billion weapons deal for General Dynamics of London, Ontario to supply the regime of Saudi Arabia, which imposes severe repression against women and regularly beheads people.
- a Canadian war economy that is built on theft of the poor: while the Harper government refuses to reveal the cost of bombing Syria/Iraq and occupying Eastern Europe, hundreds of thousands remain homeless, millions are hungry, wait lists for children with mental health issues are growing exponentially, money is used for warfare and not childcare, and overcrowded women's shelters are turning away countless targets of violence here at home.

War is NOT the Answer

IF YOU CANNOT MAKE IT TO OTTAWA:
1. Consider organizing a vigil wherever you are
2. Email the Prime Minister to let him know you oppose war under all circumstances. The Harper government may act like it doesn't care what you think, but it outspends all previous governments in monitoring protests, emails, letters, media, etc. So every email counts! You can email Harper from this weblink: http://pm.gc.ca/eng/contactpm   OR write directly to stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca, and cc opposition leaders Mulcair, Trudeau, and May at thomas.mulcair@parl.gc.ca, justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca , and  elizabeth.may@parl.gc.ca

Sponsored by Homes not Bombs: Because Canada should build homes, not blow them up
(613) 267-3998

Also see: http://rabble.ca/columnists/2014/09/isis-their-barbarism%E2%80%A6-and-ours

"There is nothing as vile as the arrogance of the military mind. Of all the plagues with which the world is cursed, of every ill, militarism is the worst: the assumption that war is the answer to human problems." Rabbi Abraham Heschel

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ISIS: Their Barbarism...And Ours



By Matthew Behrens
            The incessant drumbeat of war, accompanied by the harsh propaganda of  “barbarism” and “brutality” directed at individuals in Syria and Iraq, is as wearily familiar as that used to demonize the German “Hun” a century ago and dozens of other “enemies” in the interim. The PR industry, which is the landing pad for many politicos from the conservatives to the NDP, is having a field day, from allegations that “Islamic militants” are murdering seniors in hospital rooms (perhaps an update of the Hill & Knowlton-created falsehood that Iraqis ripped babies from incubators after the 1991 invasion of Kuwait) to claims that a group with no air force, weapons of mass destruction, overseas military bases, aircraft carriers, and hundreds of billions in other war infrastructure presents the greatest threat known to our generation.
            Needless to say, many of the actions of the group known as ISIS, ISIL, and IS (not to be confused with the folks hawking newspapers at lefty events) are reprehensible, from the targeting of specific groups based on their identity (i.e., Shia Muslims) to gross violations against women. And while members of this group should be condemned for their actions – which, combined with the major gains they have made over the summer,  do raise significant questions about the future of the region – it is important to note that they are no different from the actions of NATO and its members whenever they go to war, with perhaps the difference that much of the “west’s” brutality is conducted from afar, whether 30,000 feet in the air or 10,000 miles away.

AFGHAN LIVES HAVE NO VALUE
Indeed, as Amnesty International reported in August’s “Left in the Dark: Failures of Accountability for Civilian Casualties Caused by International Military Pperations in Afghanistan” (http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA11/006/2014/en), thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed since 2001 by NATO forces in everything from bombing strikes to night raids, almost always without follow-up investigation and accountability. Richard Bennett, Amnesty's Asia Pacific Director, said “Evidence of possible war crimes and unlawful killings has seemingly been ignored.” That endless reign of terror was added to last week with yet another U.S. air strike that killed 14 civilians in the eastern part of the country, with Bennett concluding, “The lack of accountability for killings of civilians by US/NATO forces in Afghanistan sends a message that foreign troops have free rein to commit abuses in Afghanistan and that the lives of Afghan civilians have little or no value.”
Ordering atrocities from afar has long been standard operating procedure for western governments, including the torture by proxy that Canada’s intelligence agencies have engaged in with Egypt and Syria, and Barack Obama’s curt, callous comment, “We tortured some folks,” an attempt to soften the impact of a U.S. Senate report on complicity in torture due out soon.  One source who has seen the report told the London Daily Telegraph in early September that the CIA took some detainees “to the point of death,” noting that the “waterboarding” euphemism was not simply dropping bits of H20 on a facecloth, but instead, “They were holding [detainees] under water until the point of death, with a doctor present to make sure they did not go too far. This was real torture.”
Such criminality is given the executive stamp of approval when Obama says he will not prosecute Bush or Clinton-era officials for such policies; similarly, no one in Canada has ever been charged, much less prosecuted, for high-level Canadian complicity in torture over the same time period. As reported here last month, Canada’s official policy is to trade information with torturers, in flagrant violation of all international legal norms.
Acknowledging such home-grown violence is important in contextualizing (though certainly not condoning) the actions of ISIS and related groups.
            Meanwhile, in taking a page from the Hill & Knowlton playbook, among others, the boys from ISIS know the value of a gruesome video, which tends to dramatize and inspire fear far beyond their actual capacity to do damage to people halfway around the globe. And so the beheading videos have become a focus for incessant condemnation from countries like the U.S. (which regularly executes people via lethal injection) and Canada (which until 1962 murdered over 700 people by the equally brutal means of hanging, a slower version of beheading). Recent reports of young men playing soccer with severed heads are unfortunate reminders of the sickness of militarism and desensitization that comes with warrior societies, and are reminiscent of the soccer games U.S.-trained and Canadian-supported soldiers played with dead babies in El Salvador during the 1980s.

OBAMA’S LONG-DISTANCE BEHEADINGS
            The beheading mania sheds a light both on what is patently and obviously barbaric (youtube videos featuring heads coming off at the hand of a masked individual) and what is barbarism conducted from the comfort and safety of North American bunkers. The latter are located in places like New York and California, from which soldiers operating unmanned aerial drones are able to launch Hellfire missiles against schools, weddings, and other gatherings, especially those which include what Barack Obama views as “military-age males” who are likely up to no good, all of which are justified “unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/29/1095594/-WOW-to-avoid-counting-civilian-deaths-Obama-WH-reclassified-Militants-to-include-civilians# ). When the Hellfires explode, they create what they were named for: severed bodies, including heads, lie scattered about the towns and villages where thousands have been murdered from afar on Obama’s direct orders, emerging from his “Terror Tuesday” morning meetings, during which he approves his kill lists. Indeed, the Assassinator in Chief was quoted during one of these meetings as stating: “Turns out I’m really good at killing people. Didn’t know that was gonna be a strong suit of mine.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/03/obama-drones-double-down_n_4208815.html
            The late Gloria Emerson is a former war correspondent whose elegy on the American invasion and war against Vietnam, Winners and Losers, is a deeply felt cri de coeur against a society that makes war and carries on as if no slaughters are committed with our tax dollars and in our name. Emerson noted in the 1970s a growing trend in which “our military technology is so advanced that we kill at a distance and insulate our consciences by the remoteness of the killing.”
            So our barbarism is a few steps removed, but it remains no less stomach-churning. We don’t see the bloodied and dismembered victims on the ground after Canadian and U.S. bombers drop cluster bombs, “daisy cutters,” napalm, white phosphorous, and thousand-pound bombs on villages with thatched huts, but our fellow citizens show up by the hundreds of thousands for annual war shows in which these same killing machines are flown above our heads to great applause and appreciation. We rightfully condemn anyone cheering on scimitar-based beheadings, yet think nothing of our neighbours clapping for a B-52 bomber back from the mass beheading of whole villages.

TARGETING WATER, PROMOTING DISEASE
            The barbarism that is ISIS has its roots in the barbarism that was Canadian and “coalition” war policy in the obliteration of Iraq in the 1991 “Gulf” war and subsequent sanctions, which claimed millions of lives in what some UN experts called a genocidal campaign against the Iraqi people. When Canadian CF-18s went on their bombing runs over Iraq in 1991, it was a particularly barbarous mission that consciously, deliberately targeted Iraq’s civilian infrastructure and electricity supply, knowing this would eliminate the desert country’s ability to provide clean drinking water to its citizens. One January, 1991 U.S. military document, “Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities,” noted that wiping out Iraq’s water purification systems “could lead to increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease [cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid]” http://www.progressive.org/news/2001/09/5166/secret-behind-sanctions-how-us-intentionally-destroyed-iraqs-water-supply#sthash.3qG9ouWy.dpuf
            Another related document, “Effects of Bombing on Disease Occurrence in Baghdad,” bluntly concluded: “Increased incidence of diseases will be attributable to degradation of normal preventive medicine, waste disposal, water purification/distribution, electricity, and decreased ability to control disease outbreaks. Any urban area in Iraq that has received infrastructure damage will have similar problems.” The document notes that “particularly children” will be adversely affected.
            Of course, by 1996, some half million Iraqi children had been murdered by the slow and steady constriction imposed by the US, Canada and other nations, which then US Ambassador to the UN (and seriously under-rated war criminal) Madeleine Albright told CBS’ 60 Minutes “was worth it.” (The slow destruction of whole peoples by poisoning their waters and then preventing the provision of proper purification systems is well known to Canada, where First Nations boil water alerts have gone on for decades. A report last week reminded us that almost 50% of Ontario’s 133 First Nations communities continue to exist under boil water alerts lasting as long as 20 years.   http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/10-first-nations-with-more-than-10-years-of-bad-water-1.2755728  
           
HARPER SUPPORTS THE SAUDIS WHO BEHEAD PEOPLE
But the Harper government is not interested in solving decades-long water pollution problems, preferring to focus on ISIS beheadings. But it is a very selective view, for Canada blithely ignores Saudi Arabia for carrying out the same atrocities.


            During August 2014, the Saudi government publicly executed almost one person a day, including at least 8 beheadings for alleged apostasy, adultery, drug-offences, and “witchcraft.” The response of Harper and company to such a regime, which also refuses women the right to drive or do much of anything without the permission of male guardians, is to reward the beheading leader of the Middle East with two of the largest weapons contracts in Canadian history, totalling $14.8-billion. The contracts were brokered by the Canadian Commercial Corporation for General Dynamics Land Systems in London, Ontario, making Saudi Arabia the largest recipient of Canadian military products for perhaps a decade to come. Such Canadian-made armoured vehicles have been used to repress freedom demonstrations in neighbouring Bahrain and will no doubt be used to clamp down on any visible signs of dissent in the Saudi kingdom.  
            The deal for Saudi war materiel also conveniently ignores that country’s role in supporting ISIS and similar groups. As Patrick Cockburn writes in The London Review of Books, the Saudis, other Gulf monarchies and Turkey are literally the “foster parents” of ISIS, and without their financial support, the group could not have made the gains it did this past summer, taking over both a wide swath of northern Iraq and becoming the dominant opposition to the Assad regime in Syria. Will the possibility of an ISIS takeover of Syria turn Assad’s regime back into the “friend” of Canada, a role it so clearly played when, on behalf of CSIS and the RCMP, it tortured Canadians Abdullah Almalki, Maher Arar, Ahmad El Maati, and Muayyed Nureddin? 

QUESTIONING THE ROOTS OF VIOLENCE
            As ISIS proves itself the latest wet dream of weapons manufacturers the world over (another crisis to spur arms sales!) and offers macho photo ops for politicians of all stripes who “visit the front lines” of this “new war,” it does provide Canadians with many opportunities to question and act upon the roots of violence in our own society, from the despair and destruction wrought by our centuries of colonial domination of First Nations to the thousands of workers in London, Ontario who churn out military equipment for one of the globe’s worst human rights pariahs. Our distance from most of this becomes that insulating blanket Emerson wrote about; our willingness to do anything about it is a true reflection of our values.


           


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Productive Week for Canada’s Desk Torturers


Productive Week for Canada’s Desk Torturers
May 15, 2014
By Matthew Behrens
                  Two judicial decisions released last week remind us that the concept of national security is incompatible with democracy: the former almost always trumps the latter, and various enemies-du-jour are regularly created and then served up on the altar of “security.” In each instance, profoundly disturbing decisions were dealt to Mohamed Harkat, facing deportation to torture in Algeria based on secret hearsay, and Hassan Diab, facing extradition to France on clearly trumped up allegations likely gleaned from torture.
                  When doubts are raised about the fragility of democratic rights, the national security state relies on its courts to provide legal reassurance that torture, indefinite detention without charge, secret trials, overseas military occupation, the iron curtain of governmental secrecy, and other crimes of state can be rationalized as necessary byproducts of certain organizations’ duly-authorized mandates.
                  In Canada, both individual judges and courts have served this role most obediently. Their decisions almost unanimously start from the proposition that scandal-plagued bodies like CSIS, the RCMP, and the Department of Justice are composed of well-intentioned functionaries who may, in moments of excessive zeal, cross some boundaries. Although those crossed boundaries implicate Canadian officials in severe human rights violations, no one is ever held to account. Consider that despite two judicial inquiries finding Canadian complicity in the torture of four of its own citizens – a complicity usually overseen by Justice Department lawyers – no one has been charged, much less tried, for their involvement in torture. Rather, complicit individuals have received promotions (http://www.canada.com/story.html?id=20490e79-ee5b-4cc7-bdb9-46870e4cf3e0) or otherwise retired from public life and are now serving as commentators for the CBC (http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/As+It+Happens/Features/ID/2431990227/) or receiving puff profiles in the Toronto Star (http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2007/05/26/extop_spy_breaks_silence.html)
                  In the Harkat and Diab cases, judges have again closed ranks behind the national security state, protecting the technocrats who, like the notorious Schreibtischtäter –  desk murderers of the Nazi era –  do not have to wipe the blood from their hands, as they simply shift paper about, blithely disconnected from the human wreckage they cause. Canada’s desk torturers work at such institutions as the Canadian Border Services Agency, the RCMP, CSIS, and Communications Security Establishment, all of whose employees operate under the rubric of internal memos that have directed them to exchange information with foreign intelligence agencies even when there is a “substantial risk” of torture. Canada’s War Department is the latest to join their ranks (http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/tories-secretly-gave-canadian-military-ok-to-share-info-despite-torture-risk-1.2608713). Needless to say, such memos have been given the go-ahead by Justice Department lawyers. At the same time, CSIS itself acknowledged in a 2008 memo that if torture-tainted intelligence were dismissed, the secret trial regime would collapse. (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/12/03/csis-letter-torture-canada-public-safety_n_1127501.html)

Harkat: Still No Right to See the Case
                  In last week’s Harkat ruling, the Supreme Court clearly got it wrong. The decision appears to have been written on the run, without due consideration of last October’s full-day argument by intervening groups on issues from racial and religious profiling to complicity in torture and secrecy creep undermining immigration proceedings. It is at times shockingly illogical and contradicts its landmark 2007 Charkaoui ruling that found the security certificate regime unconstitutional because it denied the detainee the right to know and meet the case against him.
                  The secret system considered by the court in 2006 is largely the same one that exists now, with the exception of one significant change, the introduction of security-cleared lawyers called special advocates who can see some of the secret case but cannot speak with the detainee about what is revealed behind closed doors. Thus, the individual affected still cannot properly instruct counsel about what is being heard in his absence. Special advocates, which essentially saved the secret trial regime, were brought in courtesy of some high-profile, liberal immigration lawyers and the Federal Court itself, and passed Parliament with the full backing of the Liberals. Their current leader, Justin Trudeau, spoke last week both of his love of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and also of how he thought the Charter-violating Supreme Court ruling was a good one. http://globalnews.ca/video/1331197/trudeau-welcomes-supreme-courts-clear-decision-on-mohamed-harkat/)
                  In Charkaoui, the Court remarked that “one cannot be sure that the judge has been exposed to the whole factual picture.” That has not changed: Harkat cannot comment on, much less instruct the special advocates, on something he is not allowed to know or see. As the court said then (and seems to ignore now), “without full disclosure and full participation throughout the process, he or she may not be in a position to put forward a full legal argument,” and that without disclosure (especially in this case), “the named person may not be in a position to contradict errors, identify omissions, challenge the credibility of informants or refute false allegations.” Indeed, since that named person does not know what has been put against him or her, “he or she does not know what the designated judge needs to hear.” Ultimately, nothing has changed: “How can one meet a case one does not know?” the Court asked in 2007, and should have asked again in 2014.
                  Harkat continues to face deportation to torture in Algeria because Federal Court judge Simon Noel unjustifiably believes that Harkat lied. Noel heard things about Harkat in secret that Harkat knows nothing about, and after Harkat answered certain questions in public, Noel decided that he preferred the uncontested hearsay heard in secrecy. We know that this hearsay is uncontested because a key plank of Harkat’s Supreme Court appeal was based on the fact that when his special advocates sought to cross-examine informants during a secret session – which would seem an obvious thing to do given that one of them had failed a lie detector test, a fact CSIS deliberately withheld from the court for over a decade – they were turned down. Noel said the informants deserved “informer privilege.” As the Supreme Court noted in its decision, the polygraph test on one source “revealed him or her to be untruthful.” So why wouldn’t the special advocates be allowed to cross-examine someone with this mark against them? The Court replies that there is nothing to worry about, because the hearsay evidence will be accepted only if a judge concludes it is “reliable and appropriate.”

Supreme Court Sides With CSIS
                  But how can a judge independently come to that conclusion when hearing only one side of the story, without the benefit of a fully briefed lawyer cross-examining the source of that hearsay? The deference shown to CSIS here is remarkable: the Supreme Court worries that if CSIS sources had to testify, even in secret session, this may have a chilling effect on the agency’s “ability to recruit new sources.” This despite ongoing reports from targetted communities indicate that most potential CSIS “sources” would hardly be reliable since they are coerced into spying in exchange for status in Canada. Indeed, one source in the Harkat case appears to have had special inspiration to continue producing “intelligence” because he carried on a torrid affair with the CSIS agent handling him.
                  While the Supreme Court found that CSIS sources did not enjoy informer privilege, they try to have it both ways by then declaring there is no “unlimited ability to interview and cross-examine human sources.” The ruling states that such examination should rarely if ever be allowed and, without any explanation whatsoever, concludes there is no reason to allow Harkat’s special advocates to cross-examine the secret informants whose allegations were used against him. The Court is satisfied that “the admission of hearsay evidence or the denial of the opportunity for special advocates to cross-examine sources do not render” the scheme unconstitutional. 
                  Further, the Supreme Court ruled in a remarkably illogical moment that while the destruction of all original notes and transcripts of recordings in the Harkat case violated his Charter rights, there was no problem, because Judge Noel “reasoned that the summaries of the conversations were prepared in a way that ensured their accuracy.” Yet how would he know this if he had not seen the original documents, examined the translator, and had cross-examination to test for reliability, accuracy, and the biases inherent to the process?
                  The court also criticized the government for wanting a secret hearing at the Supreme Court level, complaining “it only served to foster an appearance of opacity of these proceedings, which runs contrary to the fundamental principles of transparency and accountability.” Fine words, but why has the court not released a transcript of the closed proceedings for all to see?

Why Not Charge Him If a Case Exists?
                  Like other secret trial detainees, Harkat has always argued that if the government actually has a case, he should be charged in an open court with a fair trial. The government claimed Harkat’s lack of citizenship prevented them from charging him under the Criminal Code (with its higher standards of proof and procedural protections), yet the recent VIA Rail plot (alleged to have been planned by two non-citizens) is proceeding under the auspices not of the immigration act’s security certificate regime, but under the criminal code.
                  The Supreme Court is well aware of this glaring difference, even acknowledging in last week’s decision that the secret trial regime is “in some respects more advantageous for the state than criminal proceedings. It has a lower standard of proof and is more protective of confidential national security information than the criminal law.” The Court even acknowledges but does not act on the fact that a citizen facing such serious allegations is entitled to a balancing act that considers state secrecy and individual rights, but this does not exist for non-citizens. There is no further comment on this two-tiered justice, other than to adopt a Father Know Best approach that tells Harkat: you have to trust the judge, who has broad discretion to look after your rights and make sure you are “reasonably informed” of the case. Ironically, that is exactly what the Federal Court judges were saying before this process was found to be unconstitutional: trust us. Thus, the Supreme Court has taken a major step backwards, concluding Harkat knows the case because the judge says he does. End of story.  When so much rides on a discretion that can only be exercised on a case by case basis, the lack of solid legal precision means whether one wins or loses may come down to the pick of the judge.
                  Harkat has a long legal road ahead of him, and his ultimate fate will once again rest with the Supreme Court, which will have to decide whether Canada will respect the absolute prohibition on deportation to torture, a legal obligation that the Supreme Court refused to uphold in the infamous 2002 Suresh decision by claiming certain “exceptional circumstances” could justify sending someone to face electric shock on the genitals.

Diab Enters Kafka Land
                  Both the security certificate regimes of 2007 and of 2013 contain the exact same section that allows a judge to admit into evidence and base a ruling on anything not normally admissible in a court of law. This means, therefore, that Harkat and anyone else subject to the secret trial process never has been and never will be in a court of law. It’s a problematic netherworld that also seriously impacts Dr. Hassan Diab, whose battle to stop extradition to France for a crime he did not commit suffers from similarly low legal standards that are ultimately based on the political prerogatives of Canada’s national security state. How else to explain the fact that he continues to face an uphill legal battle even though finger and palm prints, handwriting, and physical descriptions of the alleged suspect in a 1980 bombing do not match those of Dr. Diab?
                  Last week’s dreadful Ontario Court of Appeal (OCA) decision dismissed the well-reasoned arguments of Diab’s legal team with remarkably similar reasons to those of the Supreme Court: judges must be allowed major discretion; the intelligence agencies of our extradition partners do not engage in nefarious activities because they have signed treaties; and even though Dr. Diab has yet to be charged with an offence, he is told to trust the French and sort things out from an overseas prison.
                  France has been trying to flex its anti-terrorism muscle with respect to the 1980 Rue Copernic bombing, pursuing a case against Diab that a Canadian judge  found “weak”, “suspect,” and “confusing,” and “the prospects of conviction in the context of a fair trial, seem unlikely.” Unfortunately, that same judge ordered the extradition of Dr. Diab because the standards are so low and inconsistently applied in different Canadian jurisdictions.   Indeed, the appeals court quotes the reality that “trial judges, properly applying the relevant principles in the exercise of their discretion, could in some situations come to different conclusions,” which is what appears to have occurred here.

Diab Sought Without Being Charged
                  Equally problematic is the fact that, as the OCA points out, “It is well settled that the [Extradition] Act does not allow the extradition of a person for mere investigative purposes. Extradition is not to be used as a tool by foreign states to question people as potential witnesses or suspects.” Yet that is precisely the position in which Diab finds himself. The OCA also notes the case against Diab is “circumstantial,” and that four of the five pieces of evidence offered to demand his extradition were “insufficient” to justify uprooting his life, with the fifth piece a highly discredited handwriting report almost dismissed by the trial judge because it was “highly susceptible to criticism and impeachment” and relied on “questionable methods and on an analysis that seems very problematic.”
                  So why has the case proceeded? Because under Canada’s extradition law, the duty of a Canadian court and the Minister of Justice is, first and foremost, to the government seeking an individual’s extradition, and as the Supreme Court of Canada has found, extradition is, in the end, not a legal issue, but a political decision: is the government of Canada willing to risk its relations with one of its extradition partners, or is it willing to sacrifice one of its citizens (or a refugee or permanent resident who is also sought) in the name of maintaining happy diplomacy?
                  In the same manner that Mr. Harkat has been told by the Supreme Court that he needs to trust in the judge hearing the case without him, Diab is similarly instructed to grin and bear it because Canada cannot be seen to mistrust the judicial system of a democratic country. Yet Human Rights Watch has criticized French counter-terrorism courts for relying on secret intelligence from countries known to routinely use torture. When the Canadian Minister of Justice was asked to seek assurances that the French did not in fact carry on in such a manner, he instead figured he needn’t ask because he concluded Diab had not made a “plausible connection” to the fact that torture-derived intelligence from the close working relationship between the French and Syria intelligence agencies in the 1980s (when Diab lived in Lebanon) was connected to his case. (Notably, the French officials clearly state they have no idea where the intelligence came from, in the same way Harkat had no access to original documents or individuals who could be cross-examined).
                 
In the same show-trial way Harkat is given “an opportunity to be heard,” we are told Diab should trust the French since he will be provided a similar “opportunity.” But in addition to the secret allegations he faces, the French Courts, as Diab’s team argued,  “cannot properly determine the reliability of the intelligence allegations made against him because they are not allowed to know the sources of the allegations but, rather, presume that all information received from intelligence officers is reliable; the defence cannot effectively probe or question the underlying material in an intelligence report, and intelligence officers are not required to answer when cross-examined; and French courts use intelligence as evidence to prosecute [alleged] terrorists and have admitted torture-derived statements as evidence in the past.” The OCA says since France is a party to the Convention Against Torture, no such thing could occur (even though it does occur with regularity in Canada, also a party to the treaty).
                  While much of the Diab decision deals with the complexities of extradition law and interpretation of this seriously flawed regime, we also are reminded that this is not about law. In making submissions to the Minister of Justice following judicial committal for extradition, the OCA says this stage of the process is “viewed as being largely political in nature…the nature of this decision is clearly not of central importance to the legal system or outside the Minister’s area of expertise,” which is why the Minister must be granted deference by the court.

The Court’s Impermeable Bubble
                  The bubble in which the Ontario Court of Appeal judges live is impermeable. After quoting from a European Court of Human Rights decision deploring the use of torture evidence, the judges smugly state, “Canada shares these values,” adding the Minister should decline to extradite someone where the case they face will include torture-derived evidence. In the spirit of the Suresh exceptional circumstances case of deporting to torture, the OCA says if a “real risk” of torture-derived evidence will be used, the Minister should “generally [not always] refuse to order surrender.” The problem here is that the Department of Justice is the same agency approving the use of torture information here in Canada; why would the Minister think twice about France’s use of such information when it has been so firmly accepted as part of the Canadian discourse?
                   “There may be rare and exceptional circumstances where deportation or surrender to face a substantial risk of torture or a real risk of the use of torture-derived evidence could be justified; generally, however, as we have said, the Minister should refuse to surrender in such circumstances,” the OCA concludes.
                  The rulings in both the Harkat and Diab cases do not bode well for the men, their families, and their communities. The courts have clearly said they are prepared to violate international and domestic legal commitments with respect to torture, and to sacrifice both of these men’s lives for the national security state. The response that such violations demand from the rest of us is a challenge we must commit ourselves to meeting.
                  In the interim, get involved by contacting Justice for Mohamed Harkat (http://www.justiceforharkat.com/ ) and Justice for Hassan Diab (http://www.justiceforhassandiab.org/)

Canada’s Coup-Supporting Corporate Cowboy Diplomacy



Canada’s Coup-Supporting Corporate Cowboy Diplomacy
By Matthew Behrens
            When US Secretary of State John Kerry bloviated last fall about officially ending the Monroe Doctrine (the U.S. belief that God grants only Americans the right to interfere with the internal affairs of other western hemisphere countries), one wonders if Stephen Harper and his foreign affairs pit bull John Baird immediately took the concept on for themselves. Perhaps they also adopted a bit of manifest destiny thrown in for good measure. How else – other than through the lens of someone who truly feels anointed by the heavens – can one begin to understand Harper’s messianic foreign policy, one in which he and John Baird play tag-team John Waynes making the world safe for Canadian corporate profits?
            While it is true that Canada has always had a sense of manifest destiny – the notion that a little bit of Canada goes a long way in “developing” nations, whether that means invading Russia after World War 1, overthrowing the Aristide government in Haiti, or maintaining a genocidal occupation of First Nations – it has not always been trumpeted as loudly as in recent years. Indeed, one can almost hear the alarums playing in their heads as the PM and his trusted sidekick globetrot over to Ukraine, imagining themselves as Churchillian figures standing up against the Russian bear as they support the junta ruling post-coup Ukraine. Needless to say, Ukraine is a pearl awaiting exploitation, as global natural gas producers and investment bankers salivate over this region where Chevron hopes to frack $10 billion of shale oil out of the landscape and the IMF imposes gut-wrenching austerity that will drain away social programs and economic diversity in favour of privatization and evaporation of state funds into the hands of the wealthy few.
            The Ukraine mess is also a boon for weapons manufacturers who, frightened at the slight decline in potential orders as governments try to tighten their belts, now have a new excuse to keep the taps flowing, one as welcome as when the U.S. invited Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait and then, playing bait and switch, rallied the weapons corporations together with massive new funding that most thought would have made for a great post-Cold War peace dividend. Harper’s dispatch of 6 CF-18 fighters to the region (with nary a whisper of outrage from the opposition in Ottawa) is also great PR for a government that will soon use their overseas presence as an advertisement to entice us into supporting the stealth fighter purchase for the purpose of NATO interoperability. For Lockheed Martin stockholders, it’s Christmastime.
            The Ukraine debacle represents the latest in a pattern of Harper/Baird supporting coups and ignoring human rights violations as a nasty but necessary part of doing business. (Though let’s not blame the conservatives too much, for the liberals have a long tradition of supporting gross human rights violations as well. We all too easily forget the war criminality in which Lester Pearson immersed himself over Southeast Asia. Who can forget the Trudeau government’s shamefully immediate recognition of post-coup Chile’s General Pinochet, guaranteeing Canadian mining interests the “stability” they desired to continue business as usual?).

Harper’s psychological apocalypticism
            That Harper can boldly state the Crimea crisis represents the worst threat the world has seen since the end of the cold war reflects what the brilliant U.S. social critic and psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton identifies as “a psychological apocalypticism in which all prior products of the human mind give way to a new collective mind-set” that is “pure, perfect, and eternal.” In the pure and perfect minds of Harper and Baird, there has been no invasion and slaughter of Iraqis claiming over two million lives since 1991, nor the imposition from without of PTSD on an entire nation of people in Afghanistan, drone strikes claiming thousands of lives, genocide in Rwanda and Sudan, or any other horrors that have often been the product of U.S., Canadian, and NATO policies and actions. For Harper, this is his World War II moment, an opportunity in his own pure mind to cement his footprint in history.
            Nonetheless, Harper and Baird’s foreign policy has been touted much of late in editorial pages, picking up on Baird’s idea of a “principled” approach to the world. On March 27, Canada’s foreign affairs minister pounded his podium and declared: “Challenging and confronting those who threaten freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law” is where he wants his representatives abroad to “distinguish themselves.” Of course, such rhetoric is used equally easily by the likes of Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush, and is emptier than a California aquifer in the middle of that state’s record-breaking drought.
            For anyone willing to take even a cursory look at the Harper/Baird record, it is clear that this duo is acting as the advance guard to sell the world Canadian weapons that can be used by repressive regimes and private militias who are defending Canadian mining and petroleum companies from the democratic aspirations of peasants, labour organizers, and journalists who question why their air, water, land, and rights must be despoiled in the interest of Canada’s economic prosperity. Canadian trade officials are now openly embedded into Canadian business organizations and trade associations, such as the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), which claims half of its $12 billion in annual revenues come from overseas sales http://www2.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/archives/story.html?id=7ac5a3a6-ed4a-4133-9db9-5535727cbafd. Ottawa has made no secret of its desire to grow its arms export market, including to such rights violating countries as the U.S., Mexico, Pakistan, Bahrain, Iraq, and Egypt. In fact, back before he became a convenient whipping post, the Ukraine government of Viktor Yanukovich was the recipient of over $80,000 in weapons, some of which may well have been used in the repression of last winter’s protests.

Canada Supporting Coups
            Canada’s global mining industry similarly presents Canada with an opportunity to support the coups and repressive regimes that host them. In Guatemala, for example, where some five dozen unionists have been murdered in the past five years, favoured trade status with the EU and US is under threat for that government’s failure to investigate these murders. Canada has been silent no doubt because conditions are perfect for record mining company profits (http://www.miningwatch.ca/news/road-justice-speaking-tour-bring-attention-guatemala-mining-conflict-need-remedy-canada)  In the same neighbourhood, Canada supported the 2009 coup in Honduras by opening up free trade talks, while Nobel Laureate Jody Williams noted, “The Canadian embassy remains silent on the human rights abuses committed by mining companies, while playing a prominent role in facilitating high-level meetings for corporations.” (http://www.canadians.org/fr/node/8298) John Ralston Saul writes that some three dozen Honduran journalists have been killed since 2009 with impunity: only two convictions have been registered in these crimes. (http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/Canada+should+press+Honduras+free+speech/9719393/story.html)  
            Ottawa has treated post-coup Egypt with kid gloves as well, refusing to condemn the overthrow of the democratically elected Morsi government, claiming in retrospect that because Morsi tended toward the autocratic, there was no need to return him to power (an argument one could perhaps use in the case of Stephen Harper as he bulldozes through with omnibus legislation and his “Fair Elections” Act). Canada continues regular relations with Egypt while that country holds Canadian citizen and Al Jazeera reporter Mohamed Fahmy, and pretends all is well as 529 individuals were sentenced to death last month following an in absentia trial lasting less than one hour.  The Egyptian government, meanwhile, has not been held to account for the murder of over 1,200 civilian protesters and the mass jailing of over 16,000 people  (http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/24/egypt-shocking-death-sentences-follow-sham-trial), and Canada has increased weapons sales to Egypt by 83% (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canada-exporting-arms-to-countries-with-suspicious-human-rights-records/article15817569/). Not to be worried about the ongoing repression, Canada maintains at least 13 trade commissioners in its Egyptian embassy (http://www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca/eng/find-trade-contacts-list.jsp?cids=304&search=+Submit+)
            Just to the west of Egypt lies the mess in Libya, created with the full cooperation of the Harper government (and its NDP opposition, which had no trouble fully supporting the illegal NATO bombing campaign that ousted the Gaddafi regime). There are no headlines calling out for justice in Libya, where dozens have reportedly been tortured to death, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights noting that “members of the armed brigades freely admitted, and even tried to justify, the physical abuse of detainees.” http://www.refworld.org/docid/524fe6634.html  These are the same militias who worked hand-in-hand with Canada and NATO, but in the Harper paradigm, it’s a new day in Libya, and the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service declares: “Whether you are looking to export, invest, attract investment, or develop innovation and R&D partnerships in Libya our trade commissioners are available when and where you need them.” The commission’s website does caution about travel risks and terrorism, but not a word about torture. http://www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca/eng/office.jsp?oid=154
            Meantime, Canada and the United Arab Emirates AE have signed a nuclear cooperation agreement even though the government’s own internal briefings shows Ottawa is well aware of human rights abuses, noting “international human rights organizations believe that national security has been used as a pretext by the U.A.E. government to suppress dissent and repress activists asking for democratic reforms.” http://www2.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/archives/story.html?id=1f0c4679-27b5-4e92-b514-8c804fa6fddb

Economic Diplomacy Rules the Day
            Given Canada’s focus on “economic diplomacy” with the world, it makes sense that the profits being made from exporting coal to China (Canada has gone from shipping $13 million in 2007 to well over $1 billion now) cannot be tampered with by speaking out forcefully on behalf of Canadians illegally jailed there, such as Burlington’s Huseyin Celil, a Uighur who continues to suffer in extreme isolation behind bars while Harper welcomes a China Investment Corporation office in Toronto.
            Similarly, for all the self-serving rhetoric about liberating women in Afghanistan as an excuse for the illegal occupation of that country, Canada has been fairly tight-lipped about repression of women in Saudi Arabia, to which $10 billion in light armoured vehicles (which were used to help suppress Arab spring demonstrators in neighbouring Bahrain) are being sent from London, Ontario.
            While President Obama tries to thaw out relations with Iran, Ottawa goes harder on Tehran, even declaring that country a state sponsor of terrorism. Perhaps Canada’s role as a petro state has something to do with the stance, for as the Financial Post baldly stated last September 27, a warming up of relations with Iran means Iranian oil could flood the world market, driving down the price of Canadian petroleum products. And while Syria is now on the backburner (with Canada conceding fewer than ten Syrian refuges have actually made it to Canada), Canada waited until after the Olympics to drive home the point that Russia has continued to support the Assad regime. While Harper was making that point one fine day in September, 2013, the very same day two trade ministers were in Moscow to bolster economic ties with Canada as a “top of mind” partner. Russia was called a priority market, and two-way trade grew exponentially from $179 million in 1999 to over 2.65 billion in 2012. The “evil” Putin was in power most of that time, and invaded other territories (South Ossetia in 2008, Chechnya in the 1990s), but with little sense of outrage from the so-called west.  
            While space does not permit a comprehensive overview of Canadian foreign policy here, the trends are clear. The idea that Canada will be, in the words of Mr. Baird, pressing for human rights, the rule of law, and freedom in its dealings with the world is so Orwellian as to debase the oft-used term. It’s not so much a double standard as it is a single standard, the one that emerges from the state of exceptionalism with which the Canadian government views itself on the world stage. In this pure and perfect world, there is no such thing as contradiction or irony, complicity with torture and human rights abuses, legacies of colonialism and economic strangulation. No, there is only the truth of economic prosperity as tweeted and facebooked by government ministers and regurgitated by a pliant press.

Canadian Weapons Repress Women
            In this cynical game, the problems of the world – torture, refugee crises, poverty, environmental destruction – are an annoying but easily dismissed backdrop best reflected in the rah-rah statement of Jayson Myers, president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. While Human Rights Watch found that “In Saudi Arabia, 2013 was another bad year for human rights, marred by executions and repression of women and activists,” Myers gushed (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canadian-firm-wins-arms-deal-for-saudi-arabia-but-concerns-raised-about-human-rights/article16897175/) upon the recent news that the Saudi dictatorship would be receiving billions in Canadian weapons: “This is an Olympic win for Canada and for Canadian manufacturers. It shows how great people in truly innovative companies like General Dynamic Land Systems Canada can compete internationally and bring home the gold. Like all victories, it’s been the result of a team effort in which the government has played a crucial role. All Canadians should be proud of this record achievement.”
            If that news doesn’t have you running the maple leaf up your flagpole, nothing will.