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Mohamed Harkat: Let him stay

Chantal Sundaram

March 31, 2016

UN Convention refugee Mohamed Harkat, one of the Secret Trial Five arrested under Canada’s unjust Security Certificate process, continues to face deportation to Algeria.

But with the support of his family, friends, and a nation-wide campaign, Harkat is asking Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to use special ministerial discretion to stop the deportation. Harkat is preparing a formal submission in early May requesting that Goodale decide it would not be “contrary to the national interest” to let him stay in Canada.

In the lead-up to this new effort to stop what could be a deportation to torture or worse, a wave of letters, both testimonials from those who know Harkat personally and statements from major organizations from across Canada, flooded into Minister Goodale’s office at the end of February. The letters support the formal submission and back-up the assertion that Harkat does not pose any kind of security threat to Canada.  

Trudeau’s brother: “sunny ways”

One such letter was signed by Justin Trudeau’s younger brother, Alexandre (“Sacha”) Trudeau. He stated he made an exception to his policy of not lobbying the Liberal government as a relative because his involvement with Security Certificates predates Justin’s entry into politics.

For years Sacha Trudeau supported another of the Secret Trial Five, Syrian Refugee Hassan Almrei, even serving as a surety for him, and his appearance in court generated front page coverage and major media attention to the Security Certificate issue for the first time. He even made a 2006 documentary that chronicles these efforts, and the injustice of Security Certificates in general (“Secure Freedom”).

Now, his letter, like those of hundreds of others, urges the minister to use his discretion to exempt Harkat from deportation as he poses no danger whatsoever to the public or to public safety in Canada: “Make this decision of yours another shining example of your government’s commitment to sunny ways.”

Not over yet   

However, just at this same moment, the Canada Border Services Agency presented Harkat with a confidential report that concluded he does pose a security risk to Canada. Harkat’s lawyer Barbara Jackman asserts that the report does not rely on any current evidence. Harkat and his lawyer are preparing a response to the report, also to be submitted in early May.

Just as outrageously, the Canada Border Services report also concluded that Harkat should be deported to Algeria despite facing “some” risk of torture there—in contravention of Canada’s supposed commitment not to deport to torture. Amnesty International Canada has warned that returning Harkat to Algeria would indeed put him at risk of torture since many terror suspects are held in “incommunicado detention” where they are routinely denied access to family, lawyers and doctors.

Whether this disgraceful record on civil liberties, entrenched under Harper, can cede to “sunnier ways” will depend on Harkat’s supporters. Luckily, there is no shortage of them. Green Party leader Elizabeth May, former UN ambassador Stephen Lewis, torture victim Maher Arar, and Omar Khadr lawyer Dennis Edney number among them, as do the many who have taken time to write highly personal and heartfelt letters about why Moe should stay in Canada.

In the words of Moe’s lawyer, Barbara Jackman:“those are the people who are best able to judge the kind of character he is.”

For more information visit

Join the conference Ideas for Real Change: Marxism 2016, including the panel “Racism, the security state and C-51” with Sophie Harkat, organizer with the Justice for Mohamed Harkat campaign

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