The CLC is disappointed by a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that says it is constitutional for the government to use security certificates in detaining and trying people in Canada who are not citizens. The court’s judgment relates to the case of Citizenship and Immigration v. Harkat. Mohamed Harkat is a native-born Algerian and permanent resident of Canada who was arrested in 2002 on suspicion of posing a security threat to Canada and he was imprisoned under security certificates. He has been not been convicted of any crime.
The security certificate system is inherently unfair in allowing non-citizens to be detained without charges, based on evidence which they are not allowed to see, and which would otherwise be inadmissible in a court of law. A person, such as Mr. Harkat, who is subject to a security certificate may also face deportation to a country where he or she could be at risk of torture or death.
In 2007, the Supreme Court found a previous security certificate program to be unconstitutional. Parliament later amended the system, primarily by providing for adding special advocates – that is, lawyers who participate in all the proceedings but whose powers and communications with accused individuals are severely restricted.
The court’s new judgment released on May 14 acknowledged that the amended security certificate program is not perfect and has limitations, but concluded that the special advocates and judges involved can reduce the essential unfairness of the process.
The CLC believes that, despite the best efforts of special advocates and judges involved in these cases, the security certificate program will continue to deprive individuals of their human rights.
The CLC also believes that the court’s ruling leaves Canada in contravention of its international obligations. Various United Nations human rights bodies have urged Canada to change the system and other groups, including Amnesty International, continue to call for the elimination of the security certificate regime.
The Canadian government insists that these special powers, and the disregard for fundamental human rights, are justified in order to protect against international terrorism. History, however, holds many examples of governments encroaching unduly upon the rights of individuals in the name of enhanced national security. The security certificate program is one of those examples. The government has adequate policing and legal tools at its disposal and the flawed security program should be disbanded.