Groups outraged at being shut out of public hearings on new security certificate legislation
Conservatives accused of forcing Bill C-3 through Parliament despite broad public opposition
Ottawa, 27 November 2007 – Groups who have been on the forefront of the campaign against security certificates are demanding an opportunity to be heard in public hearings on the proposed new legislation, Bill C-3. The request was made in a strongly-worded letter (see below or www.jerome.koumbit.org/adil/en/node/212) sent today to the Parliamentary Committee charged with reviewing C-3. The letter accused the Conservative government of attempting to force the unpopular bill through Parliament without public debate.
Community organizations and human rights groups are normally allowed to comment on proposed legislation before it is adopted. However, groups who applied to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security were informed on Friday that the application process had closed. It closed on Thursday, less than two days after the bill was referred.
“We were more than disappointed to learn that we are being denied the opportunity to appear before the standing committee,” said Adil Charkaoui, whose constitutional challenge led to the Supreme Court ruling in February.
“It is shocking that no Muslim community association, none of the groups who work directly with the detainees – Justice for Mohamed Harkat Committee (Ottawa), the Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui (Montreal) and the Campaign against Secret Trials in Canada (Toronto) – no family members, and none of the detainees’ lawyers are being given a chance to respond,” said Mary Foster of the Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui. “They have the most intimate knowledge of these cases, they are the most immediately affected.
They are in a position to speak about the serious social consequences to targeted communities. They brought the issue to the attention of the public.
But now they are being shut out and silenced.”
International organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and CAIR-CAN, all of whom have actively engaged on the issue for years, are also absent from the witness list.
“This is a matter of an undemocratic law being forced through Parliament in an undemocratic manner,” stated Marie-Ève Lamy, of the Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui. “The addition of this special advocate changes nothing. If they succeed in forcing through C-3, we will be in essentially the same position as before the Supreme Court decision: secrecy, no fair trial, indefinite detention, house arrest and deportation to torture on the basis of suspicion … It’s outrageous.”
“The Conservatives have created a false emergency which is serving to silence opposition. Where is the emergency? They are simply fear-mongering, trying to scare the public and opposition parties into accepting a new security certificate without debate,” said Lamy. “Let’s recall that the government has had since last February, when the Supreme Court decided to leave this illegal law in place for another year. Why did the Conservatives leave it until the last minute? Why are they pretending that they can’t ask the Court for an extension, as has been done in the past? This is a kind of bullying that cannot be tolerated in a democracy.”
“Bill C-3 raises issues of profound importance for Canadian society. It directly affects the fundamental rights of tens of thousands of people living in Canada who don’t have citizenship, and has far-reaching consequences for all of us,” said Foster. “Yet it is being railroaded through Parliament at a pace that allows for no serious opposition. Why? Are the Conservatives afraid of an open and democratic discussion on this issue?”
Community organizations in Montreal and elsewhere are responding by organizing a popular day of action against the new security certificate on Friday, 7 December. Visits will be organized to the riding offices of MPs who voted for the new law at second reading, to deliver a strong message that C-3 is not wanted by their constituents.
Source: Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui; Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada