Ottawa — The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), on International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, urged the Canadian government to take concrete steps to reclaim its reputation as an international human rights leader.
Since 2001, several incidents have shaken the belief of citizens and the international community that Canada is a human rights leader.
Civil liberties have been undermined and several human rights abuses have occurred as a result.
“In the past, the Canadian flag was equated with human rights. However, after Arar, the Security Certificates’ secret trials, Omar Khadr’s imprisonment and the war in Afghanistan, Canada’s reputation as a human rights leader has been tarnished,” said Ihsaan Gardee, CAIR-CAN Executive Director.
“Today, on International Human Rights Day, Canada must take concrete steps to reclaim its reputation as an unequivocal defender of human rights. If we do not, then we will continue to see stains on Canada’s record and our credibility to advocate on issues of international human rights will be eroded.”
A short listing of some of the recent smears on Canada’s human rights reputation are below:
Mislabelling and torture: Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin, all Canadian citizens, were tortured overseas after being mislabelled by CSIS and the RCMP. The Arar and Iacobucci inquiries were struck to determine the level of Canada’s complicity in these acts. The Arar Inquiry report by Justice Dennis O’Connor outlined recommendations on how Canada can prevent other abuses.
The most significant recommendation in the Arar report was the creation of a powerful independent oversight body for all national security agencies. This recommendation has yet to be implemented and Canadians have yet to receive a written report on the status of other recommendations.
Currently, Abousfian Abdelrazik is seeking refuge in the Canadian Embassy in Sudan. He claims that he suffered torture in Sudan and had several, ongoing interactions with CSIS while in Canada.
Omar Khadr: Canadian citizen Omar Khadr is the only westerner being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He is currently being subject to the ad-hoc military tribunals system created by George Bush. All Canadian parties, with the exception of the Conservatives, have called for Khadr’s reparation.
Security Certificates: Since 2002, there has been a growing movement calling for the abolition of security certificates, legislation that allows for secret trials, where a person cannot see the case against them. Security certificates were deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2007. However, they were resurrected by the Conservative government after minor changes were made to the legislation. Security certificates are again being challenged at the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, five men, Adil Charkaoui, Mohamed Harket, Mohammed Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah and Hassan Almrei still remain named under security certificates with unprecedented monitoring and imprisonment.
The other Brenda Martins. Canadians held without fair trial overseas: Huseyin Celil, a Canadian of Uyghur ethnicity, a Chinese Muslim minority, has been sentenced to life imprisonment in China, under dubious circumstances. The Conservative government has tried to secure his release but to no avail. Celil still remains imprisoned in China.
Mohamed and Sultan Kohail, 23 and 17, were recently sentenced by a Saudi court to death and 200 lashes plus a year imprisonment. They were involved in a school yard brawl that resulted in the death of Monzer Heraki. Advocates say the Kohail brothers are innocent and have not been afforded a fair and through trial.
Bashir Makhtal, a Canadian citizen of Somali ethnicity, is currently being held in Ethiopia, after being illegally rendered from Kenya. His contact with Canadian authorities and access to lawyers has been limited since his arrest.
Benamar Benatta: On September 12, 2001, Benamar Benatta was deported to the U.S. from Canada in what has been called an “illegal transfer.” He was held in U.S. detention incommunicado and was treated as a September 11 terror suspect, but was cleared in November 2001. Somehow he ended up being held in detention for five years. Today, a call for a public review has been made.
Afghanistan: A week ago Canada counted its 100 soldier killed in the Afghanistan war, a conflict that has become increasing unpopular with Canadians and has tarnished Canada’s image abroad. Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan marks a departure from our military’s historic role as peacekeepers and has moved us towards armed conflict.
As a result of the war in Afghanistan, thousands of innocent Afghan civilians have died, opium production has increased and Canadian families have suffered tragic losses.
CAIR-CAN recognizes and appreciates that, when compared to other states, Canada`s human rights record is far advanced. However, this does not take away from the deep erosion of civil liberties since 2001 and the human rights issues mentioned above.
Lastly, Canada`s dealings with the First Nations People have been far from adequate, deserves special attention and needs to be resolved.