Canada’s sloppy counter-terrorism that led to $31M payout

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Recent news that the federal government settled for $31.25 million with three Canadian men falsely accused of terrorist links, imprisoned, and tortured overseas, was met with some public backlash. Social media comments include variations on ?waste of taxpayer money,? ?wouldn?t mind a little torture for $10 million,? or ?why should Canada pay for a foreign country?s actions??

Read the rest of the article at the Ottawa Citizen.

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Proposed security bill omits essential check on abuse of power

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The federal government has tabled Bill C-59, An Act Respecting National Security Matters, its response to concerns about the extensive powers and accountability failures of the 2015 Anti-Terrorism Act, Bill C-51. Bill C-59 has its positives, including necessary accountability measures for security agencies CSIS, CSE and the RCMP. It clarifies CSIS powers; removes concerns around definitions of the crime of terrorism; introduces some safeguards for the No Fly List; and tries in part to address concerns about information collection and sharing.

Read the rest of the article at the Ottawa Citizen.

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Canada shouldn’t assume U.S. is a safe third country for refugees

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?s Saturday tweet ? ?For those fleeing persecution, war, and terror, Canadians will welcome you regardless of your faith? ? is being praised around the world.

The Friday before, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order stopping refugee admissions for 120 days, and halts travel for 90 days of nationals from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Syrian applications are indefinitely on hold. U.S. human rights lawyers have called this an effective ?Muslim ban.?

Trudeau?s tweet was bold and courageous. But now, Canada must take concrete steps if it?s serious about protecting refugees.

Read the rest of the article at the Ottawa Citizen.

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In the age of Trump, Trudeau must ensure Canada is not complicit in torture

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be forced to choose whether Canada stands firm against torture, or whether Canada will be swayed by an American administration that tortures. U.S. President Donald Trump has stated repeatedly that he believes ?torture works.? He did it again last week, even while acknowledging his defense secretary disagrees.

Read the rest of the article at the Ottawa Citizen.

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Off the Street: Legalizing Drugs (Foreword)

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An unflinching analysis of one of the major issues of our time ? the shift from criminalization to regulation of recreational drugs.

The ?war on drugs? has failed. The cost of trying to control the production, sale, and use of recreational drugs through the criminal law is too high: unjust incarceration, illicit markets, tainted substances, exploited children, and an untaxed industry.

But there is an alternative.

The watchwords for governments controlling the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, junk food, and gambling are ?permit but discourage.? All are legal, but harmful consumption is decreased by targeted regulatory strategies.

That same approach should be adopted for drugs. Legalization and regulation can attack the underground economy, drive down excessive use, provide revenue for prevention, treatment, and counselling, and better protect children.

Off the Street: Legalizing Drugs calls for a thoughtful, national discussion of the legalization and regulation of recreational drugs ? the ?least bad? way forward.

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We still don’t have the right balance between security and civil rights

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The Liberals campaigned on a promise to fix the ?problematic? aspects of Bill C-51 ? which passed into law as the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 last year ? but have yet to close the deal. As the Oct. 22 two-year anniversary of the tragic shooting of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo looms, concerns regarding the act, and accountability, remain.

Read the rest of the article at the Ottawa Citizen.

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Speaker’s Corner: A story of unchecked power

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In March of this year, two men died within a week while in the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency in Ontario ? one in an immigration holding centre and the other in a jail. One of them reportedly committed suicide, and the cause of death of the other is still unknown. In December 2013, a woman in CBSA custody in British Columbia died in hospital after trying to hang herself at an airport holding centre; the death was not publicly reported until a month later.

Read the rest of the article at Law Times.

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When religious freedom should take a back seat to equality rights

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Should we accommodate an Orthodox religious man?s request to avoid sitting next to a woman by asking the woman to switch her seat on an airplane? This is one of the questions that have arisen since reports on Monday that a Porter Airlines flight attendant asked a female passenger to move after a male passenger gestured that he could not sit beside the woman, presumably because of his religious beliefs.

Read the rest of the article at the Globe and Mail.

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Bill C-51 incompatible with Canada?s commitment to constitutional supremacy and rule of law

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Bill C-51 creates new laws and amends existing laws to create new powers and crimes. One of these new laws is the security of Canada information sharing act, which I will refer to as SCISA. We do not question that government needs to share information to protect against the terrorist threat. Proper information sharing as an effective and indispensable counterterror tool has been recognized by the Arar commission, the Air India commission and by the international community, particularly after 9/11 and UN Security Council Resolution 1373.

Read the rest of the article at

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Canada’s Anti-Terror Bill Is Gift-Wrapped in Rhetoric

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There is no question the government must keep Canada safe from terrorist activities and threats, but Bill C-51 is not the answer.

Bill C-51 is wide-sweeping in powers and gift-wrapped in rhetoric. But contrary to the messaging, it does not provide any necessary new tools to fight terrorists. We already have an arsenal of tools in the Criminal Code and other existing anti-terror legislation, which provides Canadian law enforcement and agencies with robust powers to fight terrorists. It was existing laws that successfully empowered Canadian police to thwart, arrest and charge suspects in the Toronto 18 and Via Rail terror plots. (The Toronto 18 were convicted and are serving sentences, the Via Rail suspected are currently being tried). Bill C-51 simply increases government power in ways that can threaten innocent Canadians and undermine democratic values. Below, I highlight five serious concerns in Bill C-51.

Read the rest of the article at Huffington Post.

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Acting for Freedom

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The Canadian Civil Liberties Association celebrates its fiftieth anniversary with this overview of its activities–sometimes quiet and sometimes strident–as a watchdog and safeguard for Canadians and their rights as citizens. Through a series of discussions and interviews, a picture of Canada over the last half-century evolves. From the Charter of Freedoms to life and death matters such as abortion and the death penalty through to public security vs. the right to privacy, and a look forward into issues concerning the next fifty years, comes a picture of Canadian society, past and present. This is a fascinating look at civil rights, of which many Canadians may be unaware or take for granted–until they are needed on a personal level. Illustrated with political cartoons and photographs.

See the book on 49th Shelf.

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Quebec’s Charter of Values Disregards Human Dignity

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Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values would ban the donning of “conspicuous” religious symbols by government sector employees, teachers, judges, and those working in hospitals and daycares. The banned religious symbols will include hijabs, niqabs, turbans, kippas, and large visible crucifixes by on-duty employees. Those providing or receiving public services will be required to reveal their faces. The stated justification for the Quebec Charter of Values is to preserve the neutrality of the state and secularism.

Read the rest of the article at Huffington Post.

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Why Pussy Riot is Our Riot

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Who is Pussy riot and why should we care?

If you have Internet access you’ve likely heard of Pussy Riot. They ‘re a Russian female punk rock band, comprised of ten members aged 20-33, formed apparently in response to Vladimir Putin’s 2011 decision to run a third time for President of Russia, and — like punk rockers the world over since the Sex Pistols sang “God Save the Queen” in 1970s Britain — performing with eccentric and provocative theatrics and costumes accompanying biting lyrics to convey a particular message.

Read the rest of the article at Huffington Post.

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What to Think About on Prisoner’s Justice Day

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August 10 is International Prisoner’s Justice Day — a day now recognized around the world, but which began in Canada 37 years ago.

On August 10, 1974 a Canadian man, Edward Nalon, died in the segregation unit of an Ontario prison. The next year and every year since, prisoners across the country observed a day of mourning, refusing to eat or to leave their cells, and refusing to forget the unjust death of Nalon and also of other prisoners. Though deprived of their liberty, Canadian prisoners have shown they are not deprived of moral courage and by marking August 10 they stand up for prisoner justice — and prisoners and non-prisoners around the world have stood with them.

Read the rest of the article at Huffington Post.

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Canada Could Do More to Stand Up for Torture Victims

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June 26 is International Day in Support of Victims of Torture — a day that requires reckoning.

Today we recognize the human beings who fall prey to torturers. Yearly, torturers show increasing ingenuity finding ways to inflict maximum pain and maximum suffering — with or without visible scars. A torture victim may never completely recover the “wholeness” of their lives — but they benefit from support in rehabilitation, redress and compensation, as they seek to repair and rebuild life. Too many, like Canadian Zahra Kazemi, die abroad at the hands of their torturers.

Read the rest of the article at Huffington Post.

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Omar Khadr Has the Right to Return to a Canadian Prison

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Many Canadians have conflicting views about Omar Khadr. Beginning with his father’s reported connections to Al Qaeda, the Khadr name has become deeply unpopular.

In Canada however, we apply the rule of law. This is why everyone, even the reviled among us, is afforded due process, fair trial, and the full protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A free and democratic society demands due process.

Read the rest of the article at Huffington Post.

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What Humphrey Bogart’s “Rick” Would Think of Bill C-31

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Wednesday was Refugee Rights Day, which got me thinking about?Casablanca. There is a great — though pitiable — scene in the movie where a young Eastern European woman, Annina, confides in Rick (Humphrey Bogart), the saloon owner, prompting him to let her unsuspecting husband win at the roulette table. Why? Because she and her husband fled Nazi Bulgaria but are now stuck in Casablanca, trapped in limbo without proper travel documents.

Read the rest of the article at Huffington Post.

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Let’s renew our commitment to civil liberties

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Canadians have an opportunity to reflect on how the 9/11 terrorist attacks ten years ago, changed our country.

Prior to the attacks, we demonstrated a high level of commitment to certain core values — rule of law, due process, equality, habeas corpus, presumption of innocence, and the absolute prohibition against torture. These values lay at the heart of our Constitutional and international law obligations.

Read the rest of the article at

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