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Guantanamo North
Canada Outlaws Indefinite Detention

Illegally imprisoned for being Arabs

Enshrined in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act since well before the 9/11 attacks is something called a “security certificate process” that allows Canadian authorities to brand a “risk to national security” any foreigner or non-resident of Canada on Canadian soil, to imprison him indefinitely or deport him. As the Globe and Mail reported, “The detainees and their counsel are provided with only a vague summary of the allegations against them. Evidence to back up the allegations is given in secret to a judge, and neither the accused nor their lawyer can attend.” The designation is similar in effect to the “enemy combatant” designation by the American government of its own legions branded risks to national security. At least three Arabs had been held under security certificates in Canada, under dismal conditions they called “Guantanamo North.” On Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 9-0 against security certificates. It’s a giant victory for human rights — at least in Canada — and a restoration of due process even in time of war. When the court held its hearing over the certificates last June, Canada’s equivalent of Alberto Gonzales pleaded in favor of the draconian measures in the name of that old canard—national security: “National security is not a societal interest like any other, such as the cost of drugs or investment in the health-care system,” Crown counsel Bernard Laprade said. “It is an absolute necessity. Without it, all the other rights become theoretical. Without it, we wouldn’t be here to discuss these questions today. I don’t want to be alarmist, but without it, there is nothing else.” Which left it to one of the Justices, Louis LeBel, to interrupt him with the obvious: “Mr. Laprade, if we don’t have the rest, we’ll be living in North Korea.” Which is exactly where the legal system regarding “enemy combatants” in the United States happens to be right now. Can we expect American judges to look to Canada for inspiration that could restore some semblance of human rights to this country’s terror-war follies? Doubtful. American judges are in the mood to follow Antonin Scalia’s lead in scorning any legal thinking that doesn’t have a “Made in the USA” label. The Canadian ruling will be doubly disparaged for being Canadian: it’s an American habit to consider anything happening north of the border as something to be either ignored, ridiculed or drowned in American products—in this case, American rhetoric.

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