Saturday, December 18, 2010

RCMP Invades Eid celebrations

Open letter: Why is An Agency Complicit in the Torture of Canadian Muslims Allowed to Have a Booth at Eid celebrations?

(The following letter was sent to organizers of Ottawa's Eid celebrations in September, 2010. Three months of silence have greeted this letter, so it is now being published in an open forum to encourage discussion on this topic)

Dear Friends

I trust that you and yours had a wonderful Ramadan and Eid Celebration.

I am writing because I read in a Sept. 12 Ottawa Citizen article entitled "Spirits high as festivities mark end of Ramadan" that individuals attending Eid celebrations at Carleton University could, among other things, "meet a member of the RCMP's national security community outreach team."

While I appreciate the openness and kind nature of Ottawa's Muslim community, I was rather shocked to see that a representative of an organization that has been found to be complicit in the torture of Canadian Muslims would be welcomed at such a holy event. Indeed, Ottawa resident Abdullah Almalki is one such individual who, along with his family, has faced over a decade of the most hellish existence imaginable, in large part due to the unjustified targetting, spreading of false information about, and harassment at the hands of the RCMP.

While it is unclear why, exactly, the RCMP was there, the intention behind inviting them, and the goal of the RCMP in appearing – both of which I would be curious about – are nonetheless not nearly as significant as the powerful symbolic value posed by the agency's presence at this community function.

It has been almost two years since the Canadian government's internal inquiry, headed by former Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci, found that the RCMP's sharing of information with the U.S., and sending questions to Syrian interrogators, likely contributed to Mr. Almalki's torture. Iacobucci also found that Canadian officials (including from the RCMP) falsely labeled Mr. Almalki as a threat in communications with American, Syrian and other foreign agencies before his detention, without taking steps to ensure those labels were accurate or properly qualified, without attaching caveats, and without considering the potential consequences for Mr. Almalki.

Iacobucci found that the RCMP labeled Mr. Almalki in communications with Syria as "linked through association to al Qaeda" and an "imminent threat" and did so "without taking steps to ensure that the description was accurate or properly qualified", and that the words "imminent threat" in particular were "inflammatory, inaccurate and lacking investigative foundation."

As someone who is gravely concerned about our government's complicity in torture, I have read the inquiry reports from Mr. Iacobucci (concerning the cases of Mssrs. Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, all tortured as a result of Canadian intelligence agencies falsely labelling them as threats) as well as Judge O'Connor (concerning Maher Arar, also tortured as a result of the RCMP's false targetting and labelling). It is well nigh impossible to come away with anything but a negative impression of the RCMP's behaviour, which clearly constitutes complicity in criminal harassment, racial profiling, and torture.

Despite the half-hearted apology Mr. Arar received from the RCMP, Mssrs. Almalki, El Maati and Nureddin have yet to receive an apology, compensation, or an official clearance of their names. Further, none of the agencies involved (RCMP, CSIS, DFAIT) have taken the steps necessary to ensure accountability for decisions that clearly led to the men's torture, and in the case of the three men above, the government is now denying that they were in fact tortured, despite the findings of expert medical practitioners and two judicial inquiries.

This brings me back to the article in the Ottawa Citizen and the RCMP's presence at the Eid celebrations. The very presence of a "national security" representative implies that the Muslim community is the breeding ground of threats to national security. This in itself contributes to the false notion that Muslims have to be watched and are not to be trusted. We know of both the RCMP's and CSIS's record of extortion in the Muslim community, threatening those who will not spy on their communities, and their presence here suggests one more effort to infiltrate and control the community.

I believe very much in the power of nonviolence, and the transformative nature of dialogue with one's opponents, especially when they are engaged in activities that are harmful to the community. However, that attempt to heal community does not involve a welcoming embrace of those who have wronged until there has been an acknowledgment of the wrong, and measures have been taken to right the wrong.

The RCMP has not done this in the cases of Muslim brothers Almalki, El Maati and Nureddin. To have the RCMP present at this holiest of days is, to be blunt, an insult to these men, their loved ones, their community. It is a tacit form of approval for their behaviour, an implicit message that all is well and there is no cause for concern. They are thus no more held to account by the Muslim community than they are by the federal government.

I am hoping that you will reconsider any such invitation at next year's celebrations, and be wary in future public events that having members of such agencies as the RCMP present is, in its present state of denial, an act that serves to paper over the very real, painful, unresolved issues that afflict a growing number of members of the Muslim community.

I look forward to speaking further with you about this, and look forward to your reply.


Matthew Behrens
Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture

No comments: