Security Certificates: Finding the right balance
The matter of “Security Certificate” is garnering news headlines again. Today, the federal court struck down a certificate against a Mississauga resident.
Security Certificate is a deportation instrument that the government can employ to deport non-citizens because of alleged threat to national security. When there’s potential of torture, deportation is suspended while the individual is held in detention indefinitely, i.e. forever. During that period the accused has no ability to see what he/she is being accused of or given the opportunity to defend themselves. In February 2007, the Canadian Supreme Court struck down the existing law citing violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The law didn’t allow the accused the opportunity to test the evidence against him/her and federal court judges were not given the chance to review those cases in their entirety.
The Supreme Court gave the government a full year to improve the law. The Conservatives dragged their feet for months and didn’t table their proposal until the deadline was near. It was clear that the Conservatives wanted to minimize debate on their bill pressuring Parliamentarians to pass it quickly before the deadline expired.
The revised bill included several improvements including the introduction of a “special advocate” to represent the interest of the accused. But the special advocate proposal contained many restrictions. In 2008 I tabled my own private member bill in the House of Commons to improve on the existing law. The suggested improvements were derived from witnesses who came before parliamentary hearings.
The serious questions that many people have about the security certificate process are legitimate. Today’s squashing of a security certificate is the second in few months.
It goes without saying that we need to be very vigilant against potential threats against our country and our fellow citizens. But to label someone a “terrorist” or to deny them fundamental rights must not be taken lightly. It is reasonable to expect that the accused has the right to defend themselves and respond to the allegations against them. How many times have we seen individual lives been destroyed by flimsy evidence, tunnel-vision or hearsay?
I don’t agree with the notion that defending civil rights curtails advancing our national security agenda. I have faith that our security needs will remain preserved while ensuring that innocent individuals are not destroyed in the process.
Some want Canadians to believe that those individuals are “terrorists” and don’t deserve rights. Tell that to Maher Arar. This is not about giving “terrorists” or “criminals” more rights than they deserve. It is about ensuring that innocent people are not victimized.
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