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Supreme Court’s Harkat ruling is a profound injustice

The Supreme Court decision Wednesday to uphold the Security Certificate process is devastating news for Mohamed Harkat, his wife Sophie, and his family. The ruling is a serious blow to human rights in Canada and preserves a deeply undemocratic practice.

Despite some reports, the Supreme Court did not rule that Harkat is or has ever been a terrorist. In fact the court didn’t even rule that he has committed any crime whatsoever. The Supreme Court only ruled that Security Certificates are a “reasonable” process, despite the fact that they are based on hearsay, innuendo, and secret information.

While the Supreme Court has ruled Security Certificates are constitutional in this decision, in 2007 the Supreme Court found them to be unconstitutional. So which are we to believe?

In response to the 2007 ruling on constitutionality the Harper government added so-called “special advocates” to the Security Certificate process. Special advocates are court-appointed lawyers who supposedly defend the accused in secret hearings. This has not resolved anything and it is an unacceptable process that only perpetuates a two-tiered justice system in Canada. 

There is no substitute for a fair trial, which Mohamed Harkat and the Secret Trial Five have been denied for far too long. Special advocates are a far cry from restoring the human rights violated by Security Certificates. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruled special advocates to be an adequate way of compensating for a fundamentally flawed process. And in the decision this week, the court has curtailed the already limited powers of special advocates.

International law is clear that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty and have the right to a fair trial. Mohamed Harkat has not had anything resembling a trial at all, let alone a fair one, and is presumed guilty based on information obtained through torture, the originals of which have since been destroyed.

Security Certificates are a form of oppression, a blatant human-rights violation, and have thus far almost solely been used against Arab and Muslim men. 

We at the Council of Canadians are unequivocally opposed to the secret trials, deportation to torture, and a two-tiered justice system, which Security Certificates represent. That Security Certificates are allowed to continue sends a very worrying message to the rest of world about where Canada stands on human rights and international law. This must come to an end.

Now is the time for us to raise our voices even louder and ask our government and Members of Parliament: Are you in favour of a law that allows arbitrary detention, the use of secret information, indefinite detention and deportation to torture? Are you in favour of a two-tiered justice system?

A court ruling that upholds a bad law doesn’t make it a good law. Security Certificates are still an insult to justice and democracy. The Supreme Court decision today highlights more clearly than ever before, it is time to abolish them entirely.

Parliament has a responsibility to end this injustice. And it’s up to all of us to call on our MPs to take action. Please take action now by signing the declaration against Secret Trials at www.harkatstatement.com.