Thursday, December 29, 2011


(apologies for the belated nature of this report; the issues, however, remain urgent, so see at the bottom what you can do to help)


In the early morning hours of October 26, an Ottawa communiqué was produced by the RCMP’s home-grown Crisis Management Cell (Al Qaeda is not the only disreputable and shady organization that organizes itself with cell structures). The communiqué warned of an impending evolving situation at the Prime Minister’s Office and called on Special Operations as well as Ottawa Police to attend to the scene.

The cause of the crisis, apparently, had to do with “anti-torture” protesters who were set to gather that morning at 9:30 am. While the special bulletin did not explain the whys and wherefores, it would have been obvious to anyone who had been in the city for the previous three days, during which copious amounts of crime scene tape had appeared, accompanied by evidence flags and hooded “detainees,” at a variety of Canadian government agencies and private corporations complicit in torture.

Members of the Crisis Management Cell were also concerned, no doubt, with the banner headline of that morning’s Ottawa Citizen, which revealed that just-released internal RCMP documents indicated that the Mounties knew that the alleged case against Ottawa engineer Abdullah Almalki was completely unfounded. Yet the Mounties nonetheless made up dangerously inflammatory allegations about him that resulted in 22 months of torture in a Syrian dungeon. No one in the institution has been held to account. (for more on those memos see )

Indeed, October marked three years since the release of a report based on the highly secretive and biased Iacobucci Inquiry, which, despite its major structural faults (the three men at the inquiry’s focus were not allowed to attend the completely secret process), nonetheless found that Canada was complicit in the men’s torture. Despite a subsequent Parliamentary committee’s recommendations, and a vote by the majority of the House of Commons calling for an apology, compensation, and accountability, Prime Minister Harper, as well as the complicit institutions and individuals, have failed to comply with that vote and simply do the right thing.

Hence, public pressure to jump-start a process of accountability to mark that anniversary sprang into action, and for three days, members of Crime Scene Investigation: Ottawa (CSI Ottawa), a fully realized subsidiary of Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture, had been showing up at dozens of locations, reading aloud damning documents from federal inquiries, court decisions, and independent research that focused both on the cases of three Canadians targeted for torture – Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati, and Muayyed Nereddin – as well as the larger pattern of complicity in torture that has ruined the lives of countless Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and refugees.

And so individuals dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods, accompanied by others in CSI jackets and one booming sound system, set out to mark the city’s numerous shameful connections to torture. The first day began during the bitterly cold and damp morning rush hour on Monday, October 24 in the city’s east end where, after the group members parked their vehicles in the massive St. Laurent shopping centre parking lot, they headed out on the torture trail leading to the RCMP.

Much of the territory along Coventry Road is owned or leased to the RCMP, and the Mounties control a number of buildings in the area. They are so pervasive that when CSI organizers had sought to park nearer to the Mounties’ main headquarters on Vanier Parkway, they were told area lots were reserved only for the RCMP. A Catholic Church located next to the RCMP HQ was approached as well, but CSI organizers were informed that the church cannot take a position on a “political issue” (a remarkably ironic comment given the fate of the central figure of the Christian church, tortured to death), and besides, they rent their parking lot to the Mounties as well.

Stop #1 was a smaller RCMP detachment, which was quickly surrounded by hundreds of feet of crime scene tape in English and Arabic, as well as evidence flags. Speakers read out the history of the RCMP’s endless crimes, from the murder of striking labourers and the spying on a wide range of political organizations to their hundreds of illegal break-ins, ethnic cleansing of First Nations communities, barn burnings, taserings, and more. All this was framed in the context of a legendary RCMP Commissioner’s internal letter informing his fellow horsemen that should they have to engage in illegal activities, the Mounties will stand by their men, receive their regular salary along with legal assistance, funding to pay any fines and, if a jail sentence portends, a job waiting for them when they get sprung. Copies of this letter and related readings from CSI Ottawa are available at the following links:

A number of RCMP employees came out of the building to see what was going on. One of them told a CSI member that this whole torture business was a major mess for which the agency should apologize, while another refused comment. The group headed west, past Enbridge (where the company’s connections to paramilitary violence, including assassination and torture of pipeline opponents in Colombia had been a major issue this past decade) and Starbucks, which opened an outlet within a stone’s throw of Guantanamo Bay’s torture centre. Notably, Starbucks has stated it “refrains” from taking a position on the illegality of Gitmo, preferring to open “We Proudly Brew” outlets wherever US troops invade and torture.

The main campus of the RCMP was shortly festooned with miles of yellow crime scene tape while major sections of the Iacobucci report detailing RCMP complicity in the torture of Mssrs Almalki, El Maati and Nureddin were read out. While some Mounties laughed, others listened silently. As the group handed leaflets to passing employees headed out for an early lunch or a jog, comments ranged from un-repeatable epithets to closed windows and middle digit salutes. One Mountie who was polite enough to roll down his window was asked if he had read the Iacobucci report as well as the O’Connor report (which focused on the torture of Maher Arar). He said he had.

“What do you think of the findings that the RCMP was complicit in torture?” he was asked.

“That’s not the way I read it,” he replied, driving away.

The group headed back east, stopping in at one of the War Dept.’s satellite buildings. A number of readings were blasted into the building, and many employees stared out from behind the tinted glass. Reports on the torture of detainees transferred by Canadian troops were accompanied by an extensive history of the School of the Assassins (SOA), a Columbus, Georgia-based torture training school which regularly has Canadian soldiers as teachers and students.

As noon approached, the group took a pre-lunch stop at PetroCanada, which, with its parent, Suncor, remained complicit in the torture and murder of thousands of Syrians by refusing to pull out of that blood-stained nation (a far cry from their quick exit from Libya earlier this year). Notably, Suncor did finally pull out of Syria in December, and while they say they were responding to sanctions, the role of public pressure cannot be dismissed, especially given how the corporation set up a special link on their website responding directly to the emails and fact sheets then being distributed by a number of groups across Canada.

Meanwhile, one CSI investigator reported that our group had been followed by a bald man in a silver Mazda. He was, apparently, watching the group while they were at the RCMP, and, remarkably showed up right next to the cars of the CSI demonstrators in the St. Laurent parking lot.

As the day wore on, the group encountered wind and heavy rain, but this did not dampen their spirits as they went to CSIS, Canada’s complicit-in-torture spy agency. On behalf of Ahmad El Maati, who was unable to attend, the group again demanded, as Ahmad had three years earlier, that someone from CSIS come down and look us in the eyes to explain why they subcontracted Ahmad’s torture in Syria and Egypt. Frightened by this outburst of democracy, CSIS went, as it always does with demonstrations, on lockdown, and no one could get in or leave.

In general, the area was a muddy mess, as construction on the new super secret Communications Security Establishment headquarters next door continued.

Meanwhile, that unmarked silver Mazda showed up again, and the group decided to confront the driver of the vehicle.

First off, he explained, it was sheer coincidence that when he went to get a sandwich for lunch, he was parked alongside one of the unmarked demonstrators’ vehicles in the acres of parking lot. When asked why he was following the group, he claimed he was not following us, but was in fact “ahead of” us, and that his role was to ensure our safety.

When we informed him he was 11 years too late to ensure the safety of Mr. Almalki, who was there with us, the man, who eventually identified himself as Wayne Russett, an “Aboriginal and Ethnic Liaison Officer,” we asked what he thought of the Iacobucci findings that his organization was complicit in torture. He said he was only a small fish and those decisions were made higher. We informed him that such arguments did not wash at the Nazi war crimes Nuremberg Tribunals and they would not wash now.

He insisted his role was to “help us,” but Almalki asked how he was helping when Russett was engaged in exactly the kind of behaviour the RCMP employed against the Almalki family 10 years prior, when numerous unmarked cars and unidentified officers terrorized his family, at one time following Almalki’s wife and children right into the library, among other intimidating actions.

The discussion went back and forth for quite some time, with Mr. Russett clearly uncomfortable yet strangely not rolling up his window. It was as if he somehow knew something was wrong and wanted to look good in our eyes. He said, for example, that he meets regularly with “ethnic communities,” but we explained such meetings were not about helping, but about targeting specific individuals in communities who happen to speak up for people’s rights. We told him we, as a community, did not want him to be following us, and told him to back off. He said he would see us again.

The group eventually had to leave for other crime scenes, and wound up at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). The sound system again was incredibly useful in booming into the building the many crimes DFAIT officers have committed in the torture of not only these three men, but also Abousfian Abdelrazik (see more at ). Security at the building told us we could not be there, but we continued anyhow, putting up the crime scene tape and handing out information packages. At one point it appeared that Foreign Affairs Minister Baird was about to leave, but he could not be confronted by the forces of democracy in Canada, and so he waited inside until the coast was clear. We were able to slip some information into his vehicle,, but security was nervous, and eventually called in a squadron of Ottawa police, who arrived just as the CSI Team headed out to plan the next day’s activities.

Tuesday was freezing in the nation’s capital, but this did not stop the intrepid CSI investigators from setting up shop on the steps of the Supreme Court of Canada. Told by the torture-complicit representatives of the Mounties that we had to stay at a distance, the CSI crew expertly moved forward to where the Crime Scene tape needed to be displayed. Among the cases we discussed were the court’s utter failure to comply with international law when it comes to allowing for deportation to torture (the Suresh decision) as well as their failure to take action demanding Harper repatriate Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay.

The group moved on to the Dept. of “Justice,” and a half dozen entered the premises with the hooded “detainees” as well as a copy of the indictment of George Bush which Dept. lawyers refused to act upon when the former US president was here earlier in the month. One detainee who needed to use the restroom was denied access for “security” reasons, and two security officers were sent down to listen to how the Justice Dept. was found to be complicit in torture in both the O’Connor and Iacobucci inquiries.

What is remarkable is the extent to which all the agencies relied on Justice Dept. lawyers for advice on sending questions to torturers in Syria and Egypt, knowing these could resulting the torture of Canadian citizens. Justice Dept. lawyers also “advised” when the original unfounded, false, inflammatory, and ultimately dangerous allegations were made up against these Canadian citizens. Again, as with the lawyers advising the Bush White House on the “legality” of torture, Canada’s Justice Dept. has failed to prosecute its members and come clean.

Given the massive size of the department—it spans two city blocks—the group had to try multiple entrances, eventually coming upon a “Serving Canadians” booth that offered pamphlets on how to deal with grave miscarriages of justice. Unfortunately, there was no section on how to deal with a failure of governments to be accountable when complicit in the torture of their citizens. All the representatives would offer the group was an 800 number to call to make their concerns heard.

Out into the cold, other sites that morning included the embassy of Colombia (with whom the Canadian government now has a notorious free trade agreement that proposed a fine for acts of political assassination committed against labour leaders), Cisco Systems (the subject of a lawsuit by Chinese dissidents who say Cisco allowed the government tracking technology that could be used to repress free thinkers), L-3 communications (producers of deadly weaponry, refugee rejection technology, and interrogators complicit in torture), the embassy of Honduras (where repression continues post-coup), the headquarters of Canada’s association of war producers, and Starbucks. The Commercial Office of Spain was also investigated for its role in the torture of Ivan Apaolaza Sancho (see

The group also noted the presence in downtown Ottawa of Burson Marsteller (who cleaned up images for torturing juntas such as that of Argentina) and Hill & Knowlton (another PR firm putting white out over criminal regimes). Sophie Harkat, whose husband Moe has been subject to a rendition-to torture secret hearing security certificate for close to a decade, spoke at the Federal Court, while the torture and murder by UK troops of Iraqi civilians, as well as their traditional role in colonial torture around the globe, actually brought out foreign affairs specialist named Clive, who had to be reminded these were facts, and not, as he insisted, “allegations.”

Following a talk at Occupy Ottawa, the group headed to the War Dept., where we read out the powerful testimony of a former Afghan translator, Malgarai Ahmadshah, on Canadians knowingly transferring Afghans to torture (from the age of 8 to 90). Military Police scrambled about, barking orders not to stand on War Dept. property, not to record on War Dept. property, not to take pictures on War Dept. territory. They also pleaded with the group to leave because a major fire drill was about to empty the contents of the massive downtown HQ. Thanking the military police for the tip, the group decided to stay and once again read Ahmadshah’s incredibly painful and courageous testimony, in the hope that fire drill evacuees would hear it again. Alas, as at other institutions like CSIS and the RCMP, employees are not allowed to know the full truth of their organization’s illegal activities, and so the Fire Chief and other War Dept. men waited until the group left.

But not before we spoke with one CF member in fatigues who asked what this was about. We asked if he was familiar with the detainee issue. He smiled knowingly. “I’ve been over there two times,” he said.

We asked if he had anything to say about the torture of detainees.

He said he was familiar with the issue because as a member of the Military Police, he was involved in that transfer. He said he could not say much, but concluded by looking at the group, sighing, and stating, “It’s a good thing you’re here. It’s great what you’re doing.”

Other stops that afternoon included PAE (which provides police training to regimes with nasty human rights records), Public Safety (an oxymoron if ever there was one), Immigration and Canadian Border Services Agency (the latter two involved in consistent repression at home and deportation to torture).

Day two ended at the Spanish Embassy, where high officials were afraid to come out upon seeing Crime Scene Tape. Again, the powerful testimony to the case of Ivan Apaolaza Sancho was read out for the embassy and neighbours. Eventually, a man who appeared to be the ambassador exited, refusing to speak bout incommunicado detention and torture of people in his country, while other staff laughed. They waited until the Mounties showed up, asking, “Is this normal?” The Mounties looked befuddled, wondering where the CSI group got its yellow tape and evidence flags.

On Wednesday morning, Mounties stationed themselves and their vehicles on the interlocking brick outside the Prime Minister’s Office. CSI investigators immediately surrounded their vehicles and placed “Evidence: Do Not Touch” flags in the earth between the bricks all around the Mounties’ vehicles. Detainee jumpsuits and black hoods were laid out as well, surrounded by evidence flags, and for almost three hours, a litany of Canadian complicity in torture was read out in front of the PMO, including a powerful piece by Moazzam Begg (a former Guantanamo detainee denied entry to Canada a week before) and Ahmad El Maati, who could not be there but sent a statement.

Numerous well dressed white men running around eventually made their way into the PMO, with one of them yelling out “It isn’t true.” When a former Supreme Court Justice guards the reputations of security agencies with total secrecy and still finds them complicit in torture, and is not believed by these men, what reality do they live in?

As the group concluded the three days of activities, some headed south to participate in the annual gathering outside Columbus,. Georgia’s School of the Assassins, while others discussed a return trip in October, 2012, with a commitment to keep up the pressure on the many cases of Canadian complicity in torture. Canada will have to answer questions about the complicity in front of the United Nations Committee Against Torture next May in Geneva.

Meanwhile, the full press conference featuring Abdullah Almalki and Amnesty International’s Alex Neve is available at (click on the left hand link to videos and press conferences).
A Radio documentary documenting the CSI events, produced by Omme-Salma Rahemtullah, is available at

Many thanks to those who came from far away—Montreal, Kitchener, Toronto, Belleville, Hamilton, and many more!

1. Call or email Prime Minister Harper’s office and demand that he respect the will of the House of Commons and enact the changes necessary so that justice can be achieved for Mssrs. Almalki, El Maati, and Nureddin, and so that others will not suffer the same fate. Tel: 613-992-4211. Fax: 613-941-6900. EMail:

2. Sign the petition to end the culture of impunity. To get a copy, email

3. Get involved and learn more. Visit for further information.

Learn about other cases of Canadian complicity:

4. Support the work of Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture. Cheques can be made out to Homes not Bombs and mailed to PO Box 2020, 57 Foster Street, Perth, ON K7H 1R0

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