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The Liberals and the Charter: don’t deport Harkat to torture

Chantal Sundaram

October 27, 2015

It is not a coincidence that Mohamed Harkat received his deportation papers in the middle of the federal election campaign.

Though it may have been eclipsed by the niqab debate, the affidavit for Harkat`s deportation to Algeria, and most certainly to torture, was yet another indication of Harper`s deliberate stoking of Islamophobia.

The deportation is the consequence of a “Security Certificate,” under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which allows for the imprisonment in Canada of refugees and permanent residents without charge.

Security Certificates allow for secret trials in which evidence is not disclosed to the detainees or their lawyers, and the full right to appeal is denied in a process that uses the lowest standard of proof of any court in Canada. And, they allow the ultimate injustice: deportation without charge to unfair imprisonment, torture or death.

But on October 19, voters sent a strong signal that they reject the overt Islamophobia and warmongering of the Tories. The Liberal withdrawal of Canada`s fighter jets from the Iraq-Syria mission was the first follow-through on that election mandate. The public sentiment demonstrated in the election is also a new opportunity to relaunch a movement to defend and regain civil liberties in this country.

But it will take public support and pressure to push the Liberals on this front. They voted for Bill C-51, and did not condemn last year’s second Supreme Court of Canada decision that deemed Security Certificates "imperfect," and secret hearings "uncomfortable," but still constitutional.  

On election night Liberal Adam Vaughn, who unseated Olivia Chow, declared the Liberals to be “the Party of the Charter.” The Liberals must be held to that: Security Certificates must be declared unconstitutional, counter to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and abolished.

Secure Freedom

A 2006 film made by Justin Trudeau’s own brother, documentary filmmaker and journalist Alexandre (”Sasha”) Trudeau, makes this very case. Secure Freedom, which aired on CTV on September 10, 2006, chronicles Alexandre Trudeau’s efforts to support Syrian refugee Hassan Almrei, one of the five men who have had Security Certificates issued against them. In fact, Trudeau offered to be a surety for Almrei, and his appearance in court generated front page coverage and major media attention to the Security Certificate issue for the first time. The film can still be purchased at The site contains a trailer and a riveting description:

“Trudeau is transformed from journalist to activist, testifying on Hassan’s behalf: ‘it’s not my business to know whether he’s guilty. He hasn’t been charged so I assume he’s innocent.’”

Soon, the legal drama reaches the front page, with the UN coming out strong against Security Certificates: ‘if human rights aren’t respected in Canada, then where?’

But the government insists it has assurances the men won’t be tortured if deported. Half a world away in Syria, Trudeau investigates these claims, meeting the lawyer who fought to free Maher Arar, the Canadian ‘rendered’ to torture in Syria by the CIA: ‘there are no assurances here. Only torture.’”

Justin should give his brother’s film another watch today.

Ultimately, Security Certificates must be abolished. But right now, it is critical that they not be used to send a man to torture in Algeria. As with Syria, there are no diplomatic assurances that can be relied upon in Algeria, and Canada must respect its United Nations commitment not to deport to torture – whether that means quashing the Security Certificate against Harkat entirely or at the very least quashing the deportation papers.

In the words of Sophie Harkat, Mohamed’s partner in life and in the fight for justice, government always has a choice. The Liberals have a chance to do the right thing, but they need to hear that this is what the public wants.

What you can do:

The Justice for Mohamed Harkat campaign is relaunching its efforts in an attempt to stop the deportation. They are requesting both support and donations to help with legal costs: donate here and sign the petition here. The award-winning documentary The Secret Trial Five is available for screening, and members of the campaign can be invited to speak to your group, union local, or classroom.

And contact your MP, no matter which party, to remind them that deportation to torture is unacceptable. 

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