Saturday, February 24, 2007

Supreme Court redeems Canadian rights

Yesterday, in what will undoubtedly come to be known as a historic judgement, the nine justices of the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that security certificates violate the Charter.

For those outside of Canada, or who do not follow security law generally, a brief background:

Security certificates can be issued by the executive (in the person of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration1 and/or the Minister of Public Safety, which is a brand-new post-9/11-hysteria position) to deem any resident non-citizen "inadmissable" to Canada--this is obviously a misnomer, since the person has been admitted, and may have legal status, e.g. as an accepted refugee who has not yet applied for citizenship. The grounds usually involve serious criminality, e.g. human rights abuses, ties to organized crime, and the like. I doubt many Canadians object to--or were even aware that--a certificate was used against Ernst Zundel, famed anti-Semitic whackjob. One was not issued against anti-Tutsi hatemongerer Leon Mugesera, because he faced a more straightforward deportation process.

So what's wrong with security certificates? Well, for one thing, since 9/11 they have ben largely used against people for "national security" risks, which is a much greyer moral area than deporting genocidaires. Secondly, the proceedings against a person held on a security certificate can take place entirely in secret, secret even from the accused, because the prosecutors might have to advance evidence that is sensitive for national security reasons. This breaches one of the fundamental rules of law, audi alteram partem: the right to know the case against you, and to respond to it. To call the system Kafkaesque2 would not be an overstatement.

You may find the decision itself here: Charkaoui v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2007 SCC 9

Also the Beeb has a brief article here

  1. Things I learned today: CIC Minister Diane Finley wears tinted lenses at all times because of a thyroid disorder.
  2. Referring of course to Kafka's The Trial.

No comments: