Tue 12 Feb 2008
Byline: BY JIM BROWN, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day says the Conservative government fully expects its new legislation to deport foreign-born terrorist suspects will be challenged in the courts.
But he boldly predicted, in testimony before a Senate committee yesterday, the bill will survive the test.
What’s more, he said, it will ensure Canada does a better job of safeguarding the rights of the accused than any other western democracy.
”I’m confident and convinced that we have the best approach possible,” said Day.
”I believe it will withstand scrutiny at the Supreme Court level …. I believe that we can stand on this legislation, not just with confidence, but with a degree of justifiable civic pride.”
That assertion was challenged by a parade of legal experts, human rights groups and Arab-Canadian organizations, all of whom condemned the Tory effort.
They were joined by two men who have been before the courts for years, fighting allegations by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service they have ties to al-Qaida. Both deny any terrorist links, and both say the bill sponsored by Day won’t help them.
”This grave injustice has no end in sight for my family and I,” said Algerian-born Mohamed Harkat, who spent over three years in jail before being released on strict bail conditions.
”I demand justice. I wish to clear my name and move on with my life.”
Adil Chakaoui, a native of Morocco, spent nearly two years behind bars before also being released on bail — but with restrictions on his movement so stringent that he says he’s not really free.
”My rights have been flouted for a very long time,” said Charkaoui. ”It’s always CSIS that wins. I’m fighting a system that is without pity.”
The Supreme Court of Canada, in a landmark judgment a year ago, struck down the previous security certificates, the legal tools used by Ottawa to deport terrorist suspects who don’t hold Canadian citizenship.
The old regime allowed indefinite detention and eventual removal from the country based on secret intelligence presented to a judge behind closed doors, with few details ever disclosed to defendants.
The new law would improve bail procedures and permit special, security-cleared lawyers to attend the secret hearings, challenge government evidence and protect the rights of the accused.
Critics say the changes don’t go far enough and maintain that the new regime is also likely to be overturned as a violation of the Charter of Rights.
Nevertheless, the bill passed the Commons, with Liberal MPs supporting the Tory government. It must clear the Senate and become law by Feb. 23 to meet a court-imposed deadline. But since Parliament isn’t sitting next week, the upper house is under pressure to ram it through by this Friday.
Amir Attaran, a University of Ottawa law professor, urged senators to reject that timetable and instead call on the government to go back to the Supreme Court and ask for more time.
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