Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail
, is more on the problems confronting our national security
Five terror suspects: $60-million
Ottawa's controversial security-certificate program to rid Canada of alleged spies came with a multimillion-dollar price tag
Thursday, Oct. 01, 2009
Ottawa has spent $60-million over the past two years in its failed attempts to deport a handful of immigrants accused of having ties with al-Qaeda, The Globe and Mail has learned.
According to sources, the money has been used to fund legal cases involving five men detained under security certificates – a long-standing program that Ottawa has used in the hopes of ridding the country of suspected terrorists.
Security-certificate cases have become paralyzed in the courts and polarizing for the public, and are on the verge of becoming obsolete. On Wednesday, a Federal Court judge formally quashed the case against Adil Charkaoui, the Montreal-based Moroccan being detained on a security certificate, after lawyers representing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said the spy agency could not abide court-ordered disclosures of its secrets. Mr. Charkaoui is contemplating a multimillion-dollar lawsuit for the six years he spent under a federal detention and surveillance regime.
While public discussion of security certificates has long centred on legal principles, budgetary officials are now conducting a review to determine whether taxpayers are getting value for the money spent on litigation.
“The Treasury Board Secretariat has required that a comprehensive evaluation be conducted for the Security Certificate Initiative in 2009-2010, in its second year of funding,” reads a Justice Canada letter soliciting feedback from legal insiders this past summer. “The evaluation will focus on assessing the continued relevance and performance of the Security Certificate Initiative which includes the Special Advocates Program.”
The multimillion-dollar legal bill is being spent on both prosecution and defence, and it is not uncommon for as many as six lawyers on each side to square off in security-certificate cases.
It's these costs that are being put under a microscope as part of Ottawa's continuing “strategic reviews,” which are examining a host of federal programs. The Treasury Board is trying to assess the security-certificate program through “interviews, surveys and a review of documents and performance data.”
While the Justice Canada letters circulated to insiders don't affix a price to the program, some who were contacted by the Treasury Board say they were told it was pegged at $60-million over two years.
Value for money becomes a question given how ineffective security certificates have become. The federal government's legal battle to deport Egyptian Mahmoud Jaballah, is a decade old, having been launched in 1999. Cases against three other al-Qaeda suspects are also continuing, and unlikely to result in deportation because doing so would send them to homelands where they would probably be tortured.
However, proponents say the security-certificate process would be a bargain at any price, given how the tool was painstakingly created to balance civil liberties with national-security imperatives. Anil Kapoor, part of the “special advocate” class of lawyers recently created to fight these cases, said “the public does win. If any security-certificate procedure prevents one terrorist attack or ensures the release of an innocent person, it will be well worth the price.”
While the government did contact Mr. Kapoor for his views, he did not disclose the amount of tax dollars that have been spent.
When the Supreme Court found the security-certificate process was tilted in favour of the state – given how Crown lawyers could advance their arguments in secret, judge-only hearings – Parliament's fix was the creation of the special advocates to go to bat for the detainees in the secret hearings. This has added to the program's bottom line.
The special advocates don't charge the government exorbitantly – $275 an hour, which is more expensive than Legal Aid, but less than what many could charge in other cases. However, all the special advocates had to be screened for Top Secret clearance, and they often travel to fight their cases.
Similarly, the Justice Department has had to adjust, by redoubling its prosecutorial efforts. Justice is also compensating federal agencies – CSIS, the RCMP, and Immigration Canada – who are using more money and more personnel in these cases.
This is another “front” in the war against security. The first front was opened by activists
like Alexandre (Sacha
) Trudeau who championed the case of Hassan Almrei
. Their implicit assumption was that the bumbling, jack-booted, American influenced security services had to be wrong and any ethnic
had to be all right.
Rarely do we hear anyone in the national commentariat
suggest that the Islamists
and jihadists might
be trying to infiltrate Canada in order to mount attacks against our country and our people.
I do not know
if Almrei and Charkaoui and all the others are guilty or innocent; like 99.99% of Canadians I have no idea
about the evidence the government might have; I cannot judge
the level of threat. But neither can Sacha
Trudeau or any of the journalists. Even the judges cannot “judge” because the issues they are currently, deciding are not about security; they are about the applicability of Canadian law to people in Canada. The fact
is that every single person “in Canada” – with one foot on the tarmac – is fully protected by all the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
, which is now enshrined in out law and, indeed, is a Constitutional principle, is wrong and I think
it must be changed. Changing it is much, much easier said than done.
The “change” I want is to a layered
• Canadian citizens, in Canada, must
access to all
the protections provided in the Charter;
• Canadian citizens outside Canada can access most
provisions of the Charter but it cannot be used to shield
them from the full force of the laws in the places in which they reside or where they are visitors: if a Canadian is arrested for trafficking drugs in Singapore (where the punishment might involve capital punishment
) that person cannot expect Canada to ride to the rescue, waving a copy of our Charter;
• Landed immigrants, in Canada, are entitled to many (even most) protections afforded by the Charter but they can be, should be deported whenever they are convicted
of a crime (most crimes? just some crimes?);
• Legal visitors to Canada, including those “admitted to Canada” and awaiting an upgrade
in their status to e.g. landed immigrant have fewer protections. They may, for example, be deported on some
(national security related) suspicions
; and, finally
• Those who are either illegals
or those who have yet to clear immigration have NO protection at all, not even when they blurt out a refugee claim.
This is something akin to what Australia has now. We are not likely to get there. It would involve invoking the “notwithstanding” clause, probably over and over again, in the face of a veritable firestorm of outrage and protest – including some real Molotov cocktails tossed at government buildings – and a barrage of legal and political challenges. It is not clear to me that any living politician has the wherewithal to even try it here in Canada. That being the case, our defences are weak; we are vulnerable.