Bill C-36, Security Certificates and now Bill C-7
State terror, yes, in Canada
By JAMILÉ GHADDAR*
"Five Muslim men have been held, as of June 2004, a collective total of 144 months in Canadian prisons, much of it in solitary confinement, without charge, without bail, on secret 'evidence' which neither they nor their lawyers are allowed to see. They are men with wives and children they cannot touch or hug. None has ever been convicted of any criminal offence in Canada. Welcome to Canada's own Guantanamo Bay."
HAMILTON (June, 2002) -- Very few people in Canada know about the "security certificate" process or Bill C-36. Yet it is one of the most pressing and shocking issues facing the Canadian people. The security certificate dates back to 1991 and was reintroduced in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in 2002. With Bill C-36 -- the Anti-Terrorism Act passed hastily after 9/11 -- similar violations of rights are extended to all citizens. These bills have created a process of secret trials in Canada. Yes, in Canada. But who in the federal elections will speak of this? Secret trials whereby people can be held indefinitely without charge or bail, in solitary confinement indefinitely and be refused visitations. And never will they see the evidence brought against them.
These pieces of legislation are at the heart of the attacks that have been mounted on civil rights and international norms since 11 September 2001. Various people have been held on security certificates, managed by CSIS (Canada's dishonoured spy agency), and today five men with families and dreams and fears are being held in solitary confinement, some as long as four years. They are helpless as they watch our alleged justice system shred their lives into pieces in secret trials where they are not allowed to see the evidence against them. If convicted, they will be severed from their lives and families in Canada and deported to places where they face torture and even death.
Condemned by major civil liberties and lawyers' associations across the country, Bill C-36 and the security certificates are used to threaten and terrorize Arab and Muslim communities across the country. "Who is next?" people ask themselves as reports flood in of CSIS using this legislation to force people to spy on their communities, to directly threaten Arab and Muslim people from organizing politically. Similar legislation, the USA Patriot Act, has allowed whole military units to invade some of the poorest immigrant communities in the US in the dead of night as never seen before. Canadian police, RCMP and CSIS have been training in these operations in the US Of course, the question is why is such training necessary?
This is the reality of a world at the mercy of the "war on terror," launched after the attacks of 9/11 by the US, supported by Canada and various US allies and constituting a new phase of US imperialism. The "war on terror," creating ever more terror in the world, begins with increasingly blatant external aggression. Thus, justification is provided for the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the undermining of the United Nations and escalated threats and bullying against nations such as Iran, Syria and north Korea. Internally, it is manifested in an increased militarization of society and the mounting of attacks against civil rights from the USA Patriot Act to Canada's own Bill C-36 and security certificates.
The pretext for these attacks is the need for international and national security. Security (we are meant to understand) begins by violating the rights of nations, communities and people. It means that might makes right. Without proof, countries can be invaded and occupied. Populations are terrorized, cultures attacked and puppet regimes installed. The sovereignty of a nation is denied at the whims of the imperialists. Without proof, people can be arrested, detained, deported, tortured and imprisoned in the regular prison systems or in specially-designed concentration camps such as Guantanamo Bay. Thus, the Secret Trial Prisoner Five, the five Muslim men held on security certificates in Canada, are denied their right to a fair trial by the racist attacks of the Canadian state.
In this world, people and nations do not have rights. The Canadian people are to accept the fact that rights can be superseded at the whim of the state, in submission to the US and corporate agenda. It is the same principle that is used in the attack against the workers, internationally and nationally. Thus, the people who create the wealth in society are denied their claim on the social product. The monopolies and the capitalist class expand their wealth by taking over the wealth produced by the working people, from sweatshops across the Third World to workers in our communities, from Stelco to Algoma, Air Canada to the health workers of B.C. What role will this legislation play in the state's attack against the workers? Can it be used to attack worker's on strike, who can be labelled a "national threat"? Political organizers have already been threatened with this legislation. Unions and workers that take a stand against monopolies and their state representatives, that refuse to accept wage concessions, pensions cuts and deterioration in their work standards can be arbitrarily labelled "national threats" and denied their right to a fair trial.
The people of the world, the Canadian workers and people are facing a wholesale attack against the rights they are entitled to by virtue of being human. These attacks take place in the context of the neo-liberal agenda. This agenda effects every aspect of society and life. Poor families are attacked as social spending is cut to satisfy debt payment and corporate tax cuts. The youth are told to pay for their own education or go without. Pensions are being slashed and reduced for seniors and retiring workers across Canada while others have no pensions at all. The health system and its workers are being attacked through contracting out and the threat of privatization. The Canadian workers and people must look at these frightening developments, security certificates and Bill C-36 in this light. People should be wary then of all suspensions of civil rights and vigorously condemn the attacks against the Muslim and Arab communities in Canada. The people must discuss seriously what all these things mean and how to take a principled stand and organize to defend their interests and rights at this crucial time.
Bill C-7, the Public Safety Act
In response to the events of 11 September 2001, the Government of Canada quickly introduced anti-terrorism legislation as part of its "security agenda." In December 2001, Bill C-36, the Anti-Terrorism Act was adopted which later proved to threaten civil liberties, decrease privacy, and justify the targeting of Arabs and Muslims as "terrorists."
The latest legislation to be given Royal Assent is the Public Safety Act (Bill C-7, previously known as Bill C-17). Made law on May 6, it amended several other laws and will further threaten civil liberties and human rights in Canada. The Act threatens to erode the right to privacy for Canadians and calls for the increased sharing of personal data (including passenger information) between law enforcers, intelligence agencies, security authorities and governments.
Bill C-7 was not put through an extensive public debate, nor was it examined in the context of existing anti-terrorism legislation. It gives unlimited power without parliamentary review to eight different ministers in the form of Interim Orders, with an explicit exemption from the Orders being examined for their legality or constitutionality. It gives these orders under the Quarantine Act, and provides National Defence with a reserve pool of military judges to prepare for the event of martial law.
Opponents of the bill provide the following questions Canadians should consider:
o Why are eight different ministers given the Executive power on their sole authority to issue Interim Orders in lieu of laws without first consulting Parliament, and why does the bill exempt the Orders from being even examined in advance for their legality or constitutionality?
o Why does the government want to establish a reserve pool of military judges in the event of martial law?
o Why do we need searches without warrant?
o Can the Interim Orders under the Quarantine Act be used to order forced vaccinations and/or internment as in the US Homeland Security Act?
o Why does the government want to remove the protections of the Privacy Act of their personal data collected by the government within Canada?
o Why does the government want to give the personal data of Canadian travelers without any control on how the information will be used? If you are black-listed in the United States, will you be black-listed from flying in Canada? What can you do about it if you are?
o What is the demonstrable need for such databases in a democratic society? Why does the US get all the personal data of Canadians even when they are not flying to the US?
Demand the Repeal of Bill C-7!
*Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada candidate in Hamilton Centre
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