Liberals and Tories Support New Security Certificate Legislation
Final vote imminent on bill to replace law struck down by Supreme Court
DANIEL LEBLANC, Globe and Mail, February 5, 2008
OTTAWA — The Conservatives and the Liberals joined forces last night
in favour of new legislation on security certificates for terrorism
suspects just before a Supreme Court deadline invalidates the old system
later this month.
In the House of Commons last night, the two biggest parties adopted,
with a vote of 191 to 54, a committee report on Bill C-3, and the final
vote on the legislation is expected to go through in the same way
tonight or tomorrow.
The Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party oppose the rules that
allow suspected terrorists to be deported without having full access to
the evidence against them.
However, the Liberals are ensuring the legislation's passage by
insisting that it contains necessary safeguards, including blocking the
use of evidence obtained under torture in another country.
"It's not our first choice," Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said. "But we
think with amendments ... it's improving the bill that the government
wants to pass."
The security certificate procedure allows the government to detain and
deport suspected terrorists and refugees and landed immigrants accused
of human-rights violations or serious criminality. However, many
deportations have been delayed because of claims that the lives of the
individuals would be endangered in their country of origin.
In a 9-0 ruling almost a year ago, the Supreme Court struck down the
30-year-old law for denying terrorism suspects access to the case
against them, saying it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The court gave the government a year to come up with a new system, with
the deadline falling on Feb. 23.
The Harper government responded by proposing the nomination of special
advocates who would have access to the evidence against the accused and
could challenge government evidence in closed-door hearings.
Under strict conditions, a Federal Court judge could allow some of the
secret evidence to be shared with the accused.
Adil Charkaoui and Mohamed Harkat, who are living under strict bail
conditions after security-certificate detentions, have told MPs that
they will challenge the proposed law in court unless it is significantly
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said when he introduced new rules
that the system is essential to national security and respects the
Supreme Court ruling.
"We believe that security certificates remain to be an important tool
to protect Canada from terrorist threats, but also that the process
should protect rights and freedoms in Canada," he said.
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, however, said yesterday he does
not agree with the new rules because they don't call for evidence
against the accused to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Mr. Duceppe
added that he wants a better appeal system.
"I think it could open the door to another appeal in the court," he
NDP Leader Jack Layton said the government legislation doesn't respect
"It sends a message to those who attack our values that we are ready to
compromise on those values, which is unacceptable," he said.
Amnesty International said the new process remains unfair, in
particular by keeping the accused "one step removed" from the evidence