Saturday, December 22, 2012

Canada Rejects Christ as "Failed" Refugee Claimant

(This piece was originally published in 2004; most of the issues remain relevant to today's worsening crisis over Canada's mistreatment of refugee claimants. Notably, Adil Charkaoui and Hassan Almrei are no longer subject to security certificates, while Mohamed Harkat heads to the Supreme Court in 2013 to challenge his ongoing secret trial ordeal)




Jesus to be Deported on National Security Grounds Despite Fears of Persecution; Alert Issued for Unauthorized Entry of Suspect Going by the Name of Claus

OTTAWA -A few days shy of his birthday, a young man by the name of Jesus Christ has had his refugee claim rejected by Canada. Christ, locked up in a solitary confinement cell for many months, now faces deportation to torture.

In a related development, two people claiming to be Christ's parents, Joseph and Mary, had sought to obtain refugee status in Canada, but since they arrived in the U.S. first, they were told they could not come here under the new Safe Third Country agreement. Their deportation hearing is expected in the next few weeks somewhere in upstate New York.

Government lawyer Donald MacVishus hailed the deportation order against Christ as a major victory in the war against terrorism. "It is clear this man is a threat, that no one would honestly want him in our midst," he declared. "I think the court can take judicial notice of the fact that this man is not merely a simple coin flicker to beggars on the Jericho Road, but someone who wants to change our whole way of life! He is part of a worldwide conspiracy with connections throughout the Middle East to every known bearded terrorist!"

Christ, looking haggard in a prison orange jumpsuit, his long, wavy hair and flowing beard in a bedraggled state, last appeared in court earlier this week as his lawyers attempted to call forward for cross-examination certain pieces of secret evidence which have been used against him. The Federal Court judge insisted the law allows for such secrecy, and declared that Canadian national security would be compromised if the case against Christ were revealed. After washing his hands, the judge left the court.

Lawyers had asked for information about CSIS interviews with Christ, but because CSIS does not record interviews nor make verbatim notes, there was little to go on. "The Service noted that Christ appeared unusually calm when pressed about his possible association with prostitutes, beggars, and lepers," read a short half page of notes which were eventually declassified. "Christ also seemed hesitant when asked whether an individual named Joseph was his father, a sign that he was withholding the true nature of his character."

A last-minute appeal to Immigration Minister Judiss Sgrewyu on humanitarian and compassionate grounds was rejected with the declaration that "Canada must not become a haven for queue-jumpers and terrorists."

Originally detained for carrying reading materials written in ancient Hebrew which immigration officials found "suspect," Christ was also deemed to be a security threat because he allegedly uses a number of aliases, including Prince of Peace, Jesus of Nazareth, and the Son of God. He had travelled to Canada, like most refugees, on a false passport, because if he had used his real name on travel documents, Roman authorities may have picked him up before he could have fled the country.

Christ was also deemed inadmissable to Canada because of his criminal record; he, like all refugees coming to this country, are considered not worthy of being accepted even if those convictions have occurred in countries where there is no due process or internationally recognized legal system. Worse, refugees who have been convicted of minor offences which would be deemed "summary" (or lesser) offences if convicted here in Canada have their record interpreted as indictable (or more severe) upon their arrival here, regardless of the circumstances.

Christ had fled Palestine due to fears of persecution by Roman occupation authorities, who were concerned about his outspoken statements and actions on behalf of the poor and downtrodden of his country. Unfortunately, since Canada has no refugee appeals division (promised in the 2001 immigration act but still not realized), he has no real options. While his pre-removal risk assessment concluded that Christ was at substantial risk of torture or worse if deported back to Roman occupied lands, the immigration minister's delegate concluded that Christ could pose a danger to the Canadian public and economy.

"This is a man who fanatically and militantly talks about peace which, if it broke out, could cost thousands of military manufacturing jobs and the loss of possible star wars contracts," the immigration report notes. "Under C-36, our anti-terrorism act, Christ's language and subsequent peacemaking actions are both clearly seen as a terrorist threat. Section 27 (3h) marks as a terrorist anyone who 'Interferes with the design, development or production of any weapon or defence equipment of, or intended for, the Canadian Forces, including any hardware, software or system that is part of or associated with any such weapon or defence equipment.'"

The report also noted Christ has spoken extensively about equitable distribution of wealth and against individual and corporate greed, again marking him as a terrorist in the eyes of Canadian law (Section 27 (3j) of C-36 names as a terrorist anyone who "adversely affects the stability of the Canadian economy, the financial system or any financial market without reasonable or financial justification.")

In another mark against Christ, the minister's delegate points out one particular incident in which the refugee applicant was "particularly violent, overturning a table used by moneychangers in a temple frequented by Canadian money speculators." Canada's criminal code notes as well a terrorist is anyone who "damages property outside of Canada because a person or entity with an interest in the property or occupying the property has a relationship with Canada or a province or is doing business with or on behalf of the Government of Canada or a province."

"Therefore," the immigration report concludes, "we determine that the threat which Christ poses to Canada is greater than the risk to him if deported."

Human rights groups have criticized the occupation Roman Empire for ongoing torture, racial and religious profiling, crucifixions, and a general climate of repression in the Holy Land. They have also noted that Christ's life would be in grave danger is deported

Canada, which claims not to deport individuals to torture, is nonetheless prepared to deport Christ just as they are doing in the cases of Mohammad Mahjoub and Mahmoud Jaballah (both Egyptian refugees), whom the government's own pre-removal risk assessment found to be at substantial risk of being detained, tortured or worse if deported. Refugees and long-time secret trial detainees Hassan Almrei, Mohamed Harkat and Adil Charkaoui face similar fates if deported to Syria, Algeria and Morocco, respectively.

In a related development, critics of Canadian policies are also concerned about a border alert which has been issued to U.S. Homeland Security and Canadian Border Services Agency outposts looking for a bearded man in a red suit who may be expected to arrive in this country later this week.

The individual, a noted Red, or Communist, is, according to the bulletin, "NOT a U.S. or Canadian citizen, carries no passport, goes under a number of aliases including Jolly Old Saint Nick and Kris Kringle, carries suspicious looking sacks and avoids customs, has attended a non-registered flight school with respect to flying unauthorized aircraft that often include the use of animals, wears religious headgear, travels without reservations, has a big beard, and visits Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, and other suspect countries every year. The man is also known to promote dangerous notions of social equality. If this suspect individual is seen, please alert the CIA, RCMP and CSIS immediately, and do not be lulled into a false sense of security by the individual's seemingly laid back demeanour."

Generals at the Canadian-based NORAD early warning system, upgarded earlier this year to become more in tune with U.S. space weaponization plans, announced they are fully prepared to launch kill vehicles if necessary to stop this threat.

More information on these issues can be found by contacting Homes not Bombs, tasc@web.ca, http://homesnotbombs.blogspot.ca/

Friday, December 21, 2012

Harkats head back to Supreme Court after 10 years of secret trial nightmare

By Matthew Behrens

Most couples sitting in courtrooms are there for separation and divorce proceedings. Not so Sophie and Mohamed (Moe) Harkat, who have spent years in court because they desperately wish to stay together. The Ottawa couple have spent the past decade resisting with all their might the attempt to make their marriage a threesome by a secretive party who, in a manner that most relationship counsellors would mark as a major red flag moment, refuses to be open and honest, all the while it questions the authenticity of the Harkats' love for one another.

While the Harkats would agree with the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau that the state should stay out of the bedrooms of the nation, it is the secret trial security certificate legislation introduced by Trudeau that has resulted in Ottawa's perverse attempts to record, analyze and cross-examine the couple's most intimate moments. Under the secret trial provisions, the federal government can declare any refugee or permanent resident a threat to national security and then refuse to explain why. This relic of the Spanish Inquisition, which bears striking resemblances to the security laws under apartheid South Africa and Pinochet's Chile, continues to be pursued at the Federal Court of Canada, almost six years after it was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

December 10, International Human Rights Day, marked the 10th anniversary of this relationship between the Harkats and the secretive party, resulting in cameras at entrances to the Harkat home, phone taps on their line, a prohibition on cell phone and Internet use, being followed by armed men everywhere they go, having to find housing that will accommodate a parking spot for those who would surveil them, house raids by police with sniffer dogs, and dozens of other indignities.

TOTAL SURVEILLANCE
The ultimate insult is that whenever Moe moves in bed or goes to the refrigerator for a glass of juice, the government knows because of the GPS monitoring device permanently strapped to his leg.

The Harkats' story is eerily reminiscent of the stalker movie Fatal Attraction, but in this case, the Glenn Close character is played by agents of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the scandal-plagued, inept spy agency whose profoundly single-minded obsession with Moe and a series of allegations that they refuse to make public have resulted in the Kafkaesque nightmare that the Harkats continue to live daily. CSIS has yet to boil a cute bunny rabbit in the Harkat kitchen, but the ultimate goal of their efforts is equally gruesome: they seek to deport Moe to Algeria, where he would face torture.

This is not a case for mediation. It's equally unsuitable for a proper legal proceeding, given that security certificates by legislation are based on information not normally admissible in a court of law. Hearsay, guilt by alleged association, and the lowest standards of proof in any court in Canada make for a dysfunctional show trial in the Federal Court, which for 21 years has provided judicial cover for thinly veiled renditions to torture.

To mark their 10th anniversary, the Harkats received a rather peculiar but hopeful gift: a 2013 invitation to argue their case at the Supreme Court of Canada, which for the third time since 2006 will consider the draconian legislation that's been condemned by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and various United Nations bodies, in addition to thousands of people across the country.

SECRET TRIAL FIVE
During the 2006 hearing, five Muslim men were subject to the draconian process, four of them detained without charge at the Guantanamo North facility in Kingston, one under house arrest. When the court unanimously found the process unconstitutional because it denied the named individual the right to know the case against them, the issue went back to the government. The detainees themselves called on Ottawa to treat them as they would any Canadian citizen under similar circumstances: if evidence actually did exist, charge them in a fair and open criminal proceeding, with the attendant procedural safeguards and protections, or let them go free.

But the government, along with a clearly biased Federal Court, chose to return to their old ways with some window dressing changes. Indeed, one Federal Court judge showed her preferential option for the powerful when she declared, "I do not believe that the Supreme Court intended the previous rulings are to be revisited or that current proceedings necessarily are to be altered as a result of its determination." In addition, the Federal Court played partisan when it funded a study on continuing this process with the addition of special advocates, security-cleared lawyers who could see some of the secret case. That was the change introduced by the Harper minority government and passed with the shameful complicity of the Ignatieff Liberals. The secret trial process began anew for five Muslim men in February, 2008.

Shortly afterwards, the case against Montrealer Adil Charkaoui was withdrawn, and in 2009, Hassan Almrei became the first of the five to win a case on its merits when it was discovered CSIS agents "were in breach of their duty of candour to the Court."

Since then, the Harkats learned one of the potential informers in their case was carrying on an affair with a CSIS officer investigating them. CSIS also withheld information indicating an informer had failed a polygraph test. The Federal Court refused to throw out the case, but did declare "it was found to be necessary to repair the damage done to the administration of justice and to re-establish a climate of trust and confidence in this proceeding."

Meanwhile, most of the draconian conditions against Harkat were lifted, and the couple suddenly had hope that the end was near. But the security certificate against Harkat was upheld in 2010 based solely on secret allegations Harkat was still not allowed to see and challenge. At the time, Harkat lawyer Norm Boxall asked, "What can an innocent person do other than to say 'I didn't do it,' and then to be told that they're a liar based on material they can't face?"

SUPREME COURT IN 2013
In 2013, the core issue, unremarkably, boils down to the same problem that the Supreme Court identified in its 2007 decision: how can one meet a case that one does not know? How the court decides the issue will impact not only Toronto's Mohammad Mahjoub and Mahmoud Jaballah, both of whom are still waging a defence against allegations that date back to the mid 1990s, but also a whole class of refugees who are increasingly being deemed "inadmissible" to Canada based on secretive allegations.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Harkat lawyers Boxall and Matt Webber note Harkat is not alleged to be a danger to Canada, and that the two main witnesses in the public portion of the secret hearing had no personal or direct knowledge of the case against Harkat. Much of the case was also based on summaries of alleged phone intercepts, the originals of which had been destroyed, as well as secret informants, none of whom were allowed to be cross-examined by the special advocates in a secret session.

Harkat's lawyers call the public proceedings "more a fa├žade than a constitutionally compliant opportunity to know and challenge" the allegations. In 2007, the Supreme Court found that that secrecy and non-disclosure, "coupled with the grave intrusions imposed on a detainee, makes it difficult, if not impossible, to find substitute procedures" that would satisfy an individual's Charter rights. The country's highest court also declared "fundamental justice requires substantial compliance with the venerated principle that a person whose liberty is in jeopardy must be given an opportunity to know the case to meet, and an opportunity to meet the case."

Clearly, the role of the special advocates -- who have taken on the tricky and problematic position of playing a restricted role in a secret proceeding while at the same time ferreting out significant details and the release of materials that no judge would be capable of doing on his own -- has made some difference in these cases. But it has not been enough, for they cannot be an adequate substitute to the detainee knowing the true nature of the case against them. The fact that two cases have been thrown out does not mean the system works or is compliant with fundamental rights. In Harkat's case, his lawyers note, Moe remains a "non-participant in the vast majority of the proceeding. The evidence that truly matters to him remains unknown."

CSIS RELIES IN TORTURE
Throw into the mix memos released last December in which CSIS acknowledged to the Public Safety Minister that none of these cases could stand if torture-gleaned evidence had to be removed, coupled with the major findings of CSIS malfeasance in two federal torture inquiries, and one can see that the house of cards is about to fall.

Significantly, with one bizarre exception, CSIS, after initiating 1-3 certificates a year from 1991 to 2003, has not issued a new certificate since May, 2003, a remarkable restraining of state power by grassroots organizing initiated and led by the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada since August, 2001. But the human damage left behind remains all too real, from the devastating physical consequences of 100-day hunger strikes, years in solitary confinement, the psychological torture of limbo and the threat of deportation to torture, to government-sponsored home invasions, the ripple effects on families and communities, and the scarlet letter of always being a "suspected terrorist" in Google searches.

But while security certificates appear headed for the dustbin of history, some of their more pernicious attributes remain in place under the Orwellian-named Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Barb Jackman, a lawyer who likely has more experience with such cases than anyone else in Canada (dating back to the 1980s), notes that security certificate proceedings represent the tip of a rapidly growing iceberg, stating that  "hundreds and hundreds of people [are] accused of being terrorists in the other secret process before the immigration division members. Those people are equally wallowing in the same kind of mistreatment [as the secret trial detainees]. It's just not on the public radar because it's not in the press. You might say the [security certificate] cases may end and that's the end of the problem. But it's not. They've created an octopus. I have an office full -- dozens of people -- who are facing secret hearings in another context before people who aren't even judges and certainly are not fair in the way that they handle the cases."

While advocates rally around the three remaining secret trial detainees at the Supreme Court, they recognize that their work is far from over as repressive measures continue to grow against increasing numbers of asylum seekers in Canada.

Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. 'national security' profiling for many years. This article originally appeared at rabble.ca


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Massive New RCMP Databank to Track Visitors to Canada


(this story originally appeared in the December, 2012 edition of Muslim Link)
By Matthew Behrens

            As major changes to Canada’s immigration system come into effect, one little publicized set of regulations will significantly impact privacy rights and, potentially, the future safety of those who wish to visit this country. Disturbingly, these regulations continue the trend of assigning the  presumption of guilt to anyone from non-European and Muslim-majority countries.
            On December 8, the Canada Gazette published a notice that biometric data (photographs and fingerprints) will soon be required for visitors from a list of some 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, territories governed by the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam and Yemen.
            Once the system is set up in the fall of 2013, it will affect as many as 300,000 people annually, impacting Canadian academic institutions, employers of so-called foreign workers, students from overseas, and the Canadian tourism industry. The cost of giving up such personal information will be $85 per person, in addition to a file held by the RCMP for at least 15 years.
            The government argues such measures are necessary to prevent the use of fraudulent documents and, in its standard canard, to maintain national security and the “integrity” of the immigration system. The list of countries was selected by immigration officials with the assistance of CSIS, the RCMP, Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (all agencies with a poor record of safeguarding individuals’ personal information, trading information with torturers, and mistreating members of Canada’s Arabic, South Asian, and Muslim communities).

Palestinians, But Not Israelis
            Notably, the regulations explain “Canadian foreign and trade policy objectives” were considered in creating this list which may explain why major trading partners such as China do not appear. Neither does Israel, whose Mossad agents have a history of using fraudulent Canadian passports to engage in assassination plots.
            Some exceptions are carved out for individuals under the age of 14 or over 79, as well as diplomatic staff and their families, refugee claimants, anyone coming to the Pan-American Games, and members of visiting armed forces.  The regulations claim this program will not affect those applying for permanent resident status, but provide no guarantee that this is where the invasion of privacy ends, for “future steps for broader implementation may be considered at a later date.”
            After two federal judicial inquiries found that the RCMP was complicit in torture for, among other things, improperly sharing information on Canadian citizens that was both false and clearly based on stereotypes arising from racial and religious profiling, critics are concerned about the agencies and countries with whom the Mounties will share this vast trove of new data. The regulations state the Mounties can share with Canadian law enforcement and the United States under a joint Canadian-U.S. declaration, “Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness.” That document states “we intend to work together to establish and verify the identities of travellers and conduct screening at the earliest possible opportunity. We intend to work toward common technical standards for the collection, transmission, and matching of biometrics that enable the sharing of information on travellers in real time.”
            Will the Mounties share personal information with overseas intelligence agencies in home countries that could in turn be used to harass, detain, and interrogate those who have visited Canada? Would questions arise about who was visited while here, the political opinions of individuals befriended in Canada, which mosque one prayed at, what the imam said during Friday prayer, what opponents of the regime may have been saying in Canada, and a host of other fishing expeditions that are not at all unrealistic given the findings of the above-mentioned inquiries?
            The government claims individuals worried about such basic civil liberties issues have no need for concern, as anyone who wants to visit will be informed as to the “potential uses of their personal information.” But how? Will that not be like providing those pages of fine print one sees in a credit card application when one needs a cash advance to cover the rent? Few people who need the credit read the terms and conditions anymore than it is likely that someone desperate to get to Canada will be provided a full tutorial of what the caveats mean, much less an overview of Canada’s history of abusing such provisos.

RCMP Holds Files
             This expanding era of data collection is based on a little-noticed field trial in which the CBSA and RCMP collected biometric data on some 14,000 temporary resident visa, study and work applicants in 2006/07. With the Harper government’s unrelenting rhetoric equating immigrants to Canada with risk and insecurity, it is unsurprising that this program is now on the books.
            “The fingerprints collected abroad would be sent to the RCMP for storage and would be checked against the fingerprint records of refugee claimants, previous deportees, persons with criminal records, and previous temporary resident applicants before a visa decision is made,” the regulations state, adding that since Canada does not currently have a biometric screening system, it will become a target for “bad faith travellers.”
            Bad faith travellers (one wonders, since this is directed at Muslim-majority countries, the extent to which this is an unintended pun) include “failed refugee claimants.” It’s a sweeping generalization that fails to account for the serious decline in acceptance rates that has little to do with the validity of a person’s requirements for asylum and more to do with poor advice, lack of an effective appeal, and increasingly narrow parameters in refugee decisionmaking.

Expanding Surveillance State
            In assuming that Muslim-majority countries produce “bad faith travellers” Canada is consistent with similarly broad targetting directed at these same populations either overseas or domestically. Examples of such profiling include the New York City “create and capture” program, in which police informants would attempt to bait Muslims into making inflammatory statements that could be used to justify future arrests, as well as the annual targetting by Toronto police of over 400,000 people during “non-criminal stops,” at which largely young black and brown-skinned men are asked their names, addresses, where they’re going, and who they’re with, all of which goes into police databanks. These numbers are higher per capita than New York City, and are matched in Ottawa, where racial profiling by police has led to human rights complaints and a new study that will document the ethnicity of those drivers stopped by police. (That study will not include pedestrians or cyclists similarly stopped, and, while likely confirming what most already know, fails to get at the root of the problem.)
            Overseas, Canadian Forces now collect iris scans of individuals they detain or who “act suspiciously,” with the view to supporting the work of other governmental departments. In other words, someone wrongly detained in Afghanistan who later seeks to come to Canada is already red flagged because they had previously been deemed “suspect” or of “bad faith”.  (The U.S. military has over 2 million such scans from Iraq and Afghanistan).
            How lethal does such targetting become? It certainly justifies President Barack Obama’s signing off on drone strikes, allowing him to claim civilian “collateral damage” deaths are so low because, as the New York Times reported May 29, Obama’a policy “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants… unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”
            Canada’s improper use of private information has led to overseas detention and torture, and its failure to implement the Arar Inquiry’s recommendations on information sharing – among other necessary safeguards to prevent the kind of guilty-until-proven-innocent logic of racial profiling – does not bode well for those supplying their prints and pictures to a visitor program that, within a decade, will possess over 3 million files.