MCM SLAMS GOVERNMENT FOR RUSHING TO PASS CONTROVERSIAL BILL C-3December 5, 2007
Montreal, Quebec, December 5th, 2007- The Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM) condemns the recent acts of the Conservative government to rush Bill C-3 through Parliament, without giving a fair chance to all concerned organisations to voice their opinions on the matter in a public hearing.
"We are extremely disappointed to see that Parliament is rushing to pass this Bill at a dangerous speed, without allowing community organizations to be involved in the public hearings for the proposed new legislation," stated Salam Elmenyawi, president of MCM. "Instead of allowing for a public debate over this controversial Bill, Parliament is trying to silence and shut out the voices of those who will be the most effected by these draconian measures. It is highly irresponsible and unethical to have wasted the time granted by the Supreme Court only to rush a half-baked bill at the last minute."
MCM reprimands the Conservative government for showing such utter disregard for justice, fairness, Canadian security, as well as the victims of the Security Certificates. Furthermore, we express our concern over the fact that the new bill does little to address the inadequacies of the old bill. We are especially concerned over the addition of the 'Special Advocate' and contend that the addition of this provision is nothing more than a fig leaf to cover up a flawed process.
"Did the Supreme Court strike down the old law only so that a dangerously similar new law could take its place? Bill C-3 is still fundamentally unjust, discriminatory and in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," declared Elmenyawi.
MCM demands that the government request an extension of the February 23, 2008 deadline, in order to allow the Bill to be adequately debated and to give the public a chance to voice their concerns. MCM notes that the Supreme Court has granted extensions in similar situation in the past.
We also urge the government to seriously take into consideration the following issues before moving forward, in order to correct the more egregious flaws this bill would maintain and to uphold fundamental justice:
- An extension to the deadline to pass the Bill is required, as community organizations were not given the chance to be heard in the public hearings.
- In introducing a "special advocate" the government should, minimally, avoid repeating the mistakes that have already been made and recognised in the United Kingdom. Otherwise, it will not advance the cause of justice and will be of a very little benefit in protecting the constitutional rights and freedoms of the person named in the Certificate.
- The Bill allows for the use of secret evidence, the use of foreign evidence (often obtained under torture), the use of summary evidence and intelligence reports based on vague assessments, the use of hearsay, newspaper clippings and other sources of unreliable information, all of which are used to raise suspicions against the defendants and unfairly uphold the security certificates against them. Such practices must be banned.
- The Bill maintains a very low standard of proof to uphold the Certificate (essentially, reasonable suspicion). This low standard of proof cannot be tolerated in a matter that holds such serious and severe consequences for the innocent, including associating them with terrorism, stigmatizing them and putting their life and that of their family at risk. It is imperative that the standard of proof be raised to the same level used in criminal cases.
- Under the proposed bill, deportation to torture continues to be a possibility. This is unacceptable, especially in Canada. Deportation to torture must be clearly banned in the new bill.
- Under the proposed bill, indefinite loss of liberty (imprisonment, house arrest or preventive conditions) continues to be a possibility. This possibility must be clearly banned in the new bill.
- To avoid the flaws of the old bill, the Parliamentary Committee must recommend that the new bill respects natural justice and due process, such as the right to a full appeal, the right to know the precise charges against one, the right to impartial and transparent hearing, the right to know the evidence against one, the right to properly test and cross-examine the evidence, the application of fair rules of evidence, the right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise, and the right to full and complete defence.
- The parliament must fully implement the recommendations of Justice Dennis O'Connor, in the Arar Commission. Furthermore, the parliament must promptly move to establish a system of proper checks and balances to prevent the mistakes made by Canadian security agencies from re-occurring and to avoid the use of racial and religious stereotyping.
We believe that properly addressing the above issues will go some distance towards helping to restore the appearance and operation of justice and therefore strengthen our national security. It is imperative to protect the appearance of justice by respecting fundamental justice and by the implementation of the proper checks and balances to encourage self-policing and to avoid putting our justice system to disrepute.
The Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM) is an umbrella organization representing a number of Islamic institutions in the Montreal region. There are over 175,000 Muslims in Montreal, about 825,000 in Canada and 1.5 billion worldwide.