NCCM concerned security certificates decision puts fairness in jeopardy
-For Immediate Release-
(Ottawa – May 14, 2014) Following the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada to uphold the constitutionality of the security certificate system in the case of Ottawa resident Mohamed Harkat, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a prominent Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization, expressed concerns about upholding a process which can lead to indefinite detention and deportation to torture.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision acknowledges that the security certificate regime is an imperfect system. Mistakes will happen. As noted in the Maher Arar Inquiry report, such mistakes are more likely to affect members of the Muslim community than other Canadians,” says Faisal Bhabha, NCCM Legal Counsel.
The Court ruled that restrictions on counsel, secret evidence and closed proceedings do not necessarily make the security certificate process unconstitutional. It unanimously held that trial judges can ensure that justice is done on a case by case basis.
“A strong right to legal counsel has traditionally been the greatest bulwark against miscarriages of justice. A vigilant judge is important but is no substitute for a zealous advocate,” says Bhabha.
NCCM was an intervener in the case and argued at the Supreme Court that secrecy and prolonged detention have real social costs. Canadian Muslims, who are just as likely to be harmed by terrorism as any other Canadian, pay a disproportionate price.
“Many Canadian Muslims have experienced a climate of suspicion, are concerned about profiling and have been profoundly disheartened by well-known miscarriages of justice caused by unreliable national security intelligence,” says NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee.
“It is our hope that trial judges will consider those costs as they balance the government’s desire for secrecy with the rights of individuals subject to the security certificate regime,” adds Bhabha.
Faisal Bhabha, Legal Counsel, 613.254.9704
Ihsaan Gardee, Executive Director, 613.254.9704; 613.853.4111