ON Monday, December 13 the Canadian Islamic Congress appeared on Parliament Hill as an invited witness at a Parliamentary hearing on Bill C-17 before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
CIC legal counsel James Kafieh delivered the organization’s submission to the Committee, highlighting Canadian Muslims’ concerns over C-17, as well as presenting recommendations which could minimize the bill’s potential damage to Canada’s legal system, national values, and the fabric of our society.
Mr. Kafieh reminded the Committee that, “In 2001 the Canadian Islamic Congress raised its concerns about rushed anti-terrorism security legislation that was introduced to meet post-9/11 expectations. Among the provisions of that legislation were the ‘investigative hearing’ and ‘recognizance with conditions’ powers that are now reintroduced in Bill C-17,” adding that “this time, the ‘War on Terror’ hysteria has largely dissipated.”
He reiterated the CIC’s position that the provisions of Bill C-17 are not only damaging to Canadian values and fundamental legal principles, but also unnecessary. In doing so, he also cited former CSIS head Mr. Reid Morden, who publicly stated that these measures are unnecessary and present significant dangers to Canadians’ civil liberties.
While remaining opposed to Bill C-17, the CIC submitted 11 recommendations aimed at minimizing its potential damage to Canada and Canadians.
These recommendations are as follows:
1. that the revised investigative hearing provision limit its scope to deal only with imminent terrorism offences;
2. that Section 83.28(2) be amended to specify that a peace officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorism offence will be committed before making an ex parte application;
3. that anything done under Sections 83.28 and 83.29 would be deemed “proceedings under the Criminal Code”;
4. that the powers of the Investigative Hearing should include granting full immunity from prosecution on all matters about which only truthful information is provided;
5. that access to a lawyer of the compelled person’s choice be facilitated without delay or interference and be funded at the cost of the Crown before, during, and after the investigative hearing;
6. that the compelled person should be given unrestricted access to a special advocate who would have unfettered access to all information held in the care, custody, or control of the Crown in relation to the compelled individual;
7. that the provision for detention without charge for a period greater than 24 hours be removed entirely from Bill C-17;
8. that powers set out in Bill C-17 should not be implemented until the accountability framework for the RCMP has been enacted and is fully operational;
9. that compensation for the wrongful use of these powers must be provided to harmed persons;
10. that an independent oversight mechanism answering directly to Parliament be established to oversee the provisions in Bill C-17 for as long as these provisions remain part of the Criminal Code; and
11. that a “sunset clause” with an evaluation framework must be included with this legislation.
Mr. Kafieh also observed: “We are often told during difficult times that what we need to do is find the correct balance between security and rights. I conclude with a quote from Benjamin Franklin who over 200 years ago shared the wisdom, ‘those that compromise their liberty for security soon find that they have neither’.”
He concluded by noting the devastating impact that security measures at last summer’s G20 conference in Toronto had on the quality of Canadians’ civil liberties, providing a timely reminder that Benjamin Franklin’s advice remains relevant for today’s discussion of Bill C-17.
CIC NEWS RELEASE