Security Certificates – Five terror suspects: $60-million
Ottawa’s controversial security-certificate program to rid Canada of alleged spies came with a multimillion-dollar price tag
Ottawa has spent $60-million over the past two years in its failed attempts to deport a handful of immigrants accused of having ties with al-Qaeda, The Globe and Mail has learned.
According to sources, the money has been used to fund legal cases involving five men detained under security certificates – a long-standing program that Ottawa has used in the hopes of ridding the country of suspected terrorists.
Security-certificate cases have become paralyzed in the courts and polarizing for the public, and are on the verge of becoming obsolete. On Wednesday, a Federal Court judge formally quashed the case against Adil Charkaoui, the Montreal-based Moroccan being detained on a security certificate, after lawyers representing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said the spy agency could not abide court-ordered disclosures of its secrets. Mr. Charkaoui is contemplating a multimillion-dollar lawsuit for the six years he spent under a federal detention and surveillance regime.
While public discussion of security certificates has long centred on legal principles, budgetary officials are now conducting a review to determine whether taxpayers are getting value for the money spent on litigation.
“The Treasury Board Secretariat has required that a comprehensive evaluation be conducted for the Security Certificate Initiative in 2009-2010, in its second year of funding,” reads a Justice Canada letter soliciting feedback from legal insiders this past summer. “The evaluation will focus on assessing the continued relevance and performance of the Security Certificate Initiative which includes the Special Advocates Program.”
The multimillion-dollar legal bill is being spent on both prosecution and defence, and it is not uncommon for as many as six lawyers on each side to square off in security-certificate cases.
It’s these costs that are being put under a microscope as part of Ottawa’s continuing “strategic reviews,” which are examining a host of federal programs. The Treasury Board is trying to assess the security-certificate program through “interviews, surveys and a review of documents and performance data.”
While the Justice Canada letters circulated to insiders don’t affix a price to the program, some who were contacted by the Treasury Board say they were told it was pegged at $60-million over two years.
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