On Friday, October 19th, 2012, nearly 100 attendees gathered at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law for a one day symposium entitled “The Social Cost of National Security: Assessing the Impact of Global Counter-Terror Initiatives on Canadian Society”. The conference was a partnership between the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Arab Institute — for whom this was their inaugural event — and was hosted by the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto.
The keynote address was given by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Mr. Ben Emmerson, Q.C. The Special Rapporteur emphasized the importance of observing international human rights standards in the implementation of counter-terrorism measures. Ensuring redress for victims of terrorism is important, however protecting the rights of victims does not legitimize violating the rights of others, and in fact only serves to increase the likelihood of retaliation and violence. The protection of the rule of law and human rights are crucial methods in challenging the spread of terrorism. A video of the keynote address can be found below.
>> Click here to read the live blog from the conference
>> Click here to read more about the conference, including a list of speakers and panels
>> Click here to listen to Ben Emmerson speak on CBC’s As it Happens
Mr. Emmerson’s keynote was a fitting start to the day’s panel discussions around the social impacts of counter-terrorism measures. Anil Kapoor, Yavar Hameed and Nathalie Des Rosiers began the first panel discussion by assessing the impacts of counter-terrorism legislation over the past ten years on security, immigration, and privacy, and the dangers surrounding complicity in torture and the use of secret evidence. Barbara Perry, Roch Tassé and Balpreet Singh examined the targeting of specific groups and individuals in the aftermath of 9/11, the role of the media and politicians in spreading Islamophobia and racialised images, and how targeting of specific groups has put a chill on freedom of expression and political dissent.
The afternoon discussions continued with an examination of key institutions and their role in national security, including Canada’s human rights commissions, national security agencies such as CSIS and the Canadian Border Services Agency, and the media. Charles Théroux, Pearl Eliadis and Sukanya Pillay examined how anti-terrorism legislation can lead to unfair discrimination and marginalization of minority communities; the potential “importing” of discriminatory practices under the umbrella of anti-terror initiatives; and the role that human rights institutions, such as the Canadian human rights commissions, could play in promoting social and systemic change.
Carmen Cheung, Reem Bahdi and Craig Forcese continued the discussion on oversight and accountability of national security agencies, looking at the how well the recommendations of the O’Connor Commission of Inquiry have been implemented, the implications of increased information sharing between Canada and the US, and the need to take a critical yet nuanced approach to government oversight mechanisms. The last panel of the day examined the role of the media in thinking about terrorism and counter-terrorism initiatives, and we were joined by Tony Burman, Rick Salutin and Naheed Mustafa. Each of these speakers has a range of experience working with national and international media, and the panel highlighted the important role that the media can play in bridging gaps between communities and bringing light to individual stories, the changing landscape of media in the face of cutbacks and new technologies, and the dangers of perpetuating stereotypes in the news.
Post-9/11 security measures have had a profound impact on individuals and society as a whole. Concerningly, these measures have at times resulted in secret evidence, the use or sharing of information procured from torture, arbitrary and indefinite detentions, racial profiling, and denial of due process and fair trial rights – measures that violate Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Canada’s international legal obligations. This conference gave participants the opportunity to pause and critically reflect on what has happened, but was also a time to re-energize our efforts and keep moving forward in the fight to ensure that fundamental civil liberties and human rights are protected.
Should the government help fund a non-profit homophobia census that collects info about homophobic incidents? Is there a danger to free speech or privacy if the incidents can include “mockery” or media coverage? Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of CCLA’s Equality Program, squares off with Ezra Levant. Click on the image to launch video in a new page.
Since February 2012, CCLA has been monitoring a freedom of expression case out of New Brunswick, in which a local blogger, Charles Leblanc, had been charged with criminal libel under Section 301, a contentious provision of the Criminal Code, for comments he made about a Fredericton police officer. CCLA wrote to the Fredericton police chief several times over the course of the past few months to express its concern about the use of a provision of the Criminal Code that has been found unconstitutional in several jurisdictions.
Watch Nathalie Des Rosiers, CCLA General Counsel, speak about concerns regarding lawful access legislation, as part of a project is a response to the serious threats to privacy, free speech and civil liberties raised by proposed lawful access legislation. To understand what is at stake in this invasive and costly bill, the (un)lawful access project brings together Canada’s leading privacy and surveillance experts offer their analysis in the hopes of stirring debate on these critical issues.
To coincide with the opening of Parliament, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has launched a photo-advocacy campaign to help spread the word and attempt to stop Bill C-4.
Bill C-4 would amend Canada’s immigration and refugee law. The government is trying to pass this bill into law, which could lead to gross civil liberties and human rights violations against people coming to this country.
People who have suffered the traumas of war, persecution or torture could arrive in Canada and be subjected to detention and discrimination at the hands of Canadian officials. Innocent people could be locked up for months – including children, seniors and people with disabilities.
In September 2010, CCLA hosted a major international conference to explore discrimination and immigration status in Canadian society. The two-day conference at the University Toronto examined variety of issues including the rights of migrant workers, immigrants and political participation, access to social services and health care, and the intersection of criminal law and immigration law. The videos below allow you to access every session of the conference in full.
The UN Resolution 1267 seeks to fight terrorism – specifically Al Qaida and the Taliban. It uses sanctions targeting individuals, which are meant to stifle terrorism financing and mobility, and as such, place people on an international no-fly list, freeze their assets, and make it a crime for anyone to assist them in travel or financing. For years the process has been denounced as Kafkaesque because targeted persons had no way of knowing how they got on the list, and it remains very difficult to get off the list. Following intense pressures that highlighted the intense lack of due process, the Security Council has agreed to appoint an Ombudsperson, Canadian Kimberly Prost.
We were absolutely delighted that she could come to Toronto to exchange with Canadian, American and European practitioners as she begins her mandate. The tensions arising out of the mandate were well discussed during the meeting: will she be able to get the information she needs from governments? Will her recommendations be accepted by the Security Council? Will people affected finally have some justice? A lot is riding on Kim Prost’s shoulders: certainly the fate of the thousands on the UN Resolution 1267 list whose assets are frozen and are unable to work , but also the human rights credibility of the Security Council. Listen to her description of the challenges ahead:
Alan Borovoy, who was the general counsel for CCLA from 1964 to 2009, discusses the October Crisis and the invocation of the War Measures Act. What happened during Canada’s constitutional crisis? How did the Canadian Civil Liberties Association react at the time? What were the consequences for the country? In a fascinating interview, Borovoy talks about his personal memories of the time and how his organization was at the forefront of preserving Canadians’ civil liberties.