REPORT FROM THE CSIS ACTION...
70-year-old Resisters Help Lead the Way in 10 Cities During National Day of Action to Stop Secret Trials in Canada
Five Arrested as Costumed Crusaders Demand CSIS, RCMP Stop Terrorizing Canada's Arabic, Middle Eastern, South Asian and Muslim Communities
(report from Matthew Behrens of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada)
OTTAWA, ONTARIO, OCTOBER 31, 2003 -- You'd think that a spy agency whose number one concern is "security" would have been able to prevent the relatively easy breach of its perimeter that resulted in four Halloween arrests today and kept the massive, super-secure bunker on lockdown for the day.
But the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada's national spy agency, has never been one to score points on the ingenuity scale. Indeed, an organization which can use the blanket of "national security" to defend any action or decision it does not want to discuss in public does not have to meet the high standards that would be required of any body which needs to be accountable to the public.
Indeed, 19 years into its existence, CSIS has never, until today, had to deal with being held under siege by four of the most insidious forces it currently faces in this country: democracy, accountability, community, and love.
The CSIS national HQ, a massive piece of architorture, the most "secure" building in Ottawa, was on lockdown on Halloween, no one in, no one out, and only the most "essential workers" already herded into the half full parking lot well before 7 am.
The occupation of the interior grounds of CSIS by hordes of Ottawa police, plainclothes cops and videographers, dozens of dark tinted SUVS and vans, and police dogs, was all in expectation of the Halloween trick-or-treat for the secret evidence which has held five Muslim Men -- Canada's Secret Trial Five -- behind bars a collective 109 months, without charge or bail, much of that in solitary confinement.
But while we were there to trick-or-treat, CSIS was playing hide but don't seek from the 75 people, ranging from babies to Raging Grannies, who came seeking justice for the Secret Trial Five, their families, and their communities, who continue to be under attack by Canada's security forces.
By day's end, four people were under arrest in Ottawa for managing to gain access to the high security grounds of the facility. Anet Henrikso of Montreal, Melanie of Ottawa, Ed Babb of Burlington, and Matthew Behrens of Toronto are charged with trespassing. Another -- Barney Barningham -- had been arrested for occupying an MP's office in Mount Forest, Ontario to protest the ongoing solitary confinement (two years, two weeks) of Hassan Almrei in the Metro West hole. And hundreds had joined vigils, rallies, and, in one instance, a "house of horrors," from Halifax to Edmonton, Durham to Peterborough, St. John to Guelph.
Well before the National Day of Action to Stop Secret Trials in Canada got under way, CSIS was already revealing that it was under a great deal of pressure from the public over its persecution of the Arabic, Muslim, Middle Eastern and South Asian communities in Canada. CSIS director Ward Elcock, testifying before a Parliamentary subcommittee in late September, declared, without being prompted, that "these [security certificates] are not secret trials, as some have alleged. This is hardly a Star Chamber." In feeling he had to directly address the language we have been using, Elcock showed the extent to which this issue is gaining national prominence.
Then, in advance of the October 31 demonstrations, CSIS, concerned over the growing awareness of their persecution of specific communities, released through its National Post mouthpiece Stewart Bell a report whose headline read, "CSIS not unfair to Muslims, watchdog says." Those members of the Muslim community who read this "news" headline may well have wondered if this were a stale, leftover April Fool's joke or a pre-Halloween prank.
"The report was released as left-wing and Muslim activists were preparing to demonstrate on Friday outside the Ottawa headquarters of CSIS to protest what they call the intelligence agency's 'irrational fear of Arab Muslims," Bell wrote. (Like his patron, CSIS, Bell too gets the facts wrong. Our flyers clearly state "Arabs AND Muslims").
The articles states that "the protesters allege CSIS is investigating innocent Muslims and they want the government to release five suspected Islamic terrorists who are being deported as threats to national security."
Buried deep within the article, as it is within the actual report -- produced by the Security Intelligence Review Committee (whose members are approved by CSIS to sit on the committee) -- is the fact that while CSIS says it is not doing these things, there HAVE been "a few cases of mistaken identity," small consolation to those cases of mistaken identity and their families!
The article also ignores the findings of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group which reported in May ("In the Shadow of the Law") that in "hundreds" of instances, people in Canada "are being visited for interviews by security forces without warrants, and taken away for interrogation. Although the full extent of Bill C-36 [so-called "anti-terror" legislation hurriedly passed by Parliament in 2001] was not implemented in these cases, it has been used as a threat to 'encourage' voluntary interviews by citing the risk of preventative detention allowed under the Act. Victims of such police conduct have been afraid to come forward publicly for fear of further retaliation."
So as the forces of democracy threaten to overwhelm CSIS on Halloween, the state gears up in preparation. On the evening of October 29, only one person shows up at the nonviolence training in Ottawa. As we sit and discuss the issues of secret trials, two members of the Ottawa police force's MELT team (Major Events Liaison Team) -- one a police officer, the other from the RCMP -- stroll in, take off their jackets, help themselves to a seat, and make like this is just another visit in their daily rounds.
While one of them asks where the potluck food is -- there isn't any -- another starts asking a bunch of questions about the demonstration: what's planned, who's coming, what are our numbers, "are you expecting any people you aren't expecting?" While the last question certainly gives one room for pause to check for signs of logic, grammar and syntax, I explain that everything they need to know is on our flyers, on our website, and in the emails which the Ottawa police intelligence unit regularly reads.
I also point out that when Ottawa organizer Brian Edgecombe and I went to visit CSIS in July, we walked right onto the grounds, taking pictures of the building and the site, and we were not harassed. We failed to see how doing the exact same thing on Halloween should be a matter for police intervention. After all, we were only trick-or-treating and seeking a dialogue. And we'd even done the courtesy of sending an open letter to CSIS to let them know we were coming, so we wouldn't have to wait too long while they searched their filing cabinets for what we wanted.
Edgecombe pops in to the meeting and we proceed to treat the police to a 90-minute lecture on the security certificate, and on their responsibilities to uphold human rights law. We remind them of their obligation to refuse orders which are contrary to Canada's international legal obligations. We then cut if off abruptly with the explanation that while the police are getting paid to be there, we're not, and we want to eat.
The following afternoon at 4 pm, as we prepare in a downtown Ottawa church for the arrival of out of town trick-or-treaters, the national day of action is already underway. In the small central Ontario community of Mount Forest, a number of people enter the office of local MP Murray Calder, having pledged to stage a 23-and-a-half hour occupation in solidarity with secret trials prisoners who must endure that amount of time daily in the hole. Led by feisty 70-year-old resister Francis Barney Barningham, the group also includes Francis Mont, who powerfully recalls his years in a police state and compares them to developments he sees here in Canada.
"I spent my first 27 years in a police state in Eastern Europe," Mont explains. "In that system we had no rights and we were considered guilty until proven innocent. I remember when our neighbours were dragged off by the police, in the middle of the night, because the mother was overheard telling her son not to buy tickets to a Russian movie. 'We don't watch garbage' she was heard telling her son. We never saw them again.
"Thirty years ago I came to live in Canada and became a Canadian citizen, because I loved this country for its humanity, tolerance, compassion and sense of justice. Here I was innocent until proven guilty. It was unthinkable that this would ever change. Now the unthinkable has happened and the principle is broken. Once exceptions to the rule are made, precedent established, it will be a lot easier to abuse justice. Five today, ten tomorrow, how many next week? Who will be next?
"Since Sept. 11, I can see fear and paranoia slowly turning this beautiful country into the same kind of police state I have escaped from 30 years ago. Now the state has concentration camps they can throw people in, whenever they don't like them, without having to justify their actions. It is the Soviet 'Gulag' all over again, on our soil this time. I will be damned if I watch it without protest. Our leaders are destroying those fundamental values Canada was built on. Maybe they don't know where it will lead. I do."
Much of the local press is out, as is an executive assistant to Calder who is never around, but who shows up today because Barningham has written ahead to explain the purpose of the occupation. Barney is eventually arrested and escorted out of the office by OPP. Once outside, they explain that the office has decided not to press charges, but that if Barney re-enters the office, he will be charged with breaking and entering (simply for opening the door!). They are also saying they retain the right for the next six months to lay unspecified charges against him.
The following day, another vigil will be held at the office of Owen Sound MP Ovid Jackson. Among the signs held there, which have made their way from the Mount Forest protest, is one about internment which reads:
1942: Japanese Canadians
2001 Muslim Canadians
When Will We Ever Learn?
In Ottawa on Thursday night, we scan the assembled folks and wonder how it is that people who have never been seen at a local activist event suddenly turn up at the church, commit to being there the next morning, and then are never seen from again. Were they there to gather "intelligence"? Were they there because they heard that Laura Shevchenko's vegan chili was a winner? Were they bored because their TV wasn't working?
In any event, it didn't really matter, for as a group of people, we have nothing to hide. As Kirsten Romaine points out, unlike CSIS, we deal with problems out in the open through dialogue. Nonetheless, there is still a certain sense of anxiety hanging over the event, as this is the first time in CSIS history that a group of people have gone not only to demonstrate, but to enter the facility to enter a dialogue about redefining national security to meet the needs of the majority of people, not the greed of the small group of white males who run the country.
In such an atmosphere, one cannot help but let one's mind wander about the myriad possibilities inherent in this scenario: declarations of a security zone around the perimeter, preventive arrests and detentions, charges under the anti-terrorism act for threatening a national security institution, charges of guilt by association for our support of the detainees and their families. While we would certainly not allow the threat of such charges to deter us --it would be good to fight them in open court -- they nonetheless are a bit more intimidating than the standard fair of provincial and criminal charges we're used to seeing at such gatherings.
Among our points of discussion are ideas about how we will respond to police repression on the day, targetted arrests of individuals who are not placing themselves in a position of risk, and jail solidarity in the face of potential conditions that would likely include non-association with one another (which would be ironic given that the whole security certificate regime works on guilt by alleged association).
We rise early after a night on a church floor thinking alternately about CSIS, people like Hassan Almrei, who will mark 33 days of hunger striking that morning in his solitary confinement cell, and how to deal with the rhythmic and arrhythmic snoring bouncing off the church walls. Outside the church are two MELT officers who pester our bus driver with questions. "They asked me where you guys were going, and I thought to myself, 'Geez, if these guys don't know the answer to that, they really must be in trouble," the driver tells us.
We're on the bus at 7 am and informed by our on-site scout that CSIS is pretty much locked down with "essential" workers already inside the facility, likely making for a crabby workplace. Add to this the fact that a company which delivers coffee to the bunker will not be able to get in, and things might get pretty desperate in that confined, caffeine-less environment.
What seems to throw authorities for their first loop of the day, however, is when our bus takes a wrong turn on the freeway and we end up far out in the countryside, hoping to find an off ramp to turn around and head back to Ottawa. It is unclear whether CSIS radios ahead to Montreal that a sneak attack is on its way in la belle province.
Thanks to former Ottawa resident Janis Dahl, who redirects us in her bug costume (she is there to put a bug in the system), we get back on track. We eventually get our bearings and gather at the Ogilvie entrance to CSIS. We're greeted by a small crowd of folks led by Sophie Harkat, who is dressed with red horns and hair, and holds a trident and blood bag. "CSIS has made my life hell," she says, and her blood bag explains that this is what the spies have been trying to suck out of her and her husband over the past year. Sophie's husband Mohamed Harkat is detained on a security certificate in Ottawa, arrested on International Human Rights Day last December 10.
Our costumed crusaders set up at the main intersection, and our detectives and keystone kops scour the grounds with magnifying glasses, looking for secret evidence. One man is dressed in classic spy fashion, with newspaper held open at all times to cover his face, his sunglasses-covered prying eyes occasionally rising above the top of the paper. CSIS and RCMP videographers, who come dressed as CSIS and RCMP videographers, don't seem to be into the spirit of the day, and snap pictures of everyone who smiles for their file.
The psychological counselling couch (the subject of much discussion over police radios) is set up, complete with a cigar-chomping Freud aficionado, and we proceed to offer help for CSIS and local police to get over their irrational fears of Arabs and Muslims. But since it appears CSIS got all of its bureaucrats in early that morning, there is no one to counsel.
Perhaps as an organization which is so careless with taxpayer dollars that its agents purposely plan their interrogations of Muslims late at night so they can bill for double or triple time, CSIS would rather have the taxpayer foot the bill for its agents' counselling needs rather than take advantage of our once-in-a-lifetime freebie.
Things proceed with a theatrical piece of fun from Montreal, a game show called Who is the Terrorist? Hosted by a whip-wielding circusmaster named Denis Coderre (who also works as Canada's Minister of Immigrant and Refugee Rejection), we are asked to consider the case of one man with a placard taped to his belly that reads "soldier/terrorist." Both kill people, "Coderre" explains.
We are also introduced to Solicitor General Wayne Easter Bunny, who hops about handing out security certificates from his egg basket.
The certificates are official looking documents informing people that they have been declared a threat to national security. Signed by these two ministers of the Crown (Coderre and Easter), it states clearly:
"You will be detained until further notice
"You will not be given access to the full information on which we base our suspicions.
"You will not be permitted to attend all the hearings in which we present our case to the judge.
"If the judge feels our suspicions seem okay, you will be deported. There is no appeal.
"We will not intervene if you are killed or imprisoned in the country to which you are deported."
A hyper Wayne Easter Bunny madly hops about eager to deliver these certificates to any and all, including police who are very reluctant to even touch the documents and who stage a retreat when the big rabbit comes their way.
(Interestingly, Wayne Easter used to head the National Farmers Union, which was part of an effort to fight "free" trade in the 1980s. According to a definition offered in CSIS' last report to Parliament, both Easter and the farmers would qualify as domestic terrorists as a result of this political stand.)
The certificate also takes pains to point out that according to CSIS, being a threat to national security does not include any of the following activities:
stealing the lands and resources of native peoples and decimating their communities
selling weapons to countries and individuals who may use them against you and your family here or elsewhere
supporting military invasions of other countries (which just might provoke retaliation)
stealing resources from other peoples (which might also provoke retaliation)
destroying the environment
closing hospitals, reducing funding for schools, ending housing and other social programmes
lowering labour standards
any activities associated with enforcing brutal economic sanctions and causing millions to live in poverty and misery;
deporting refugees to death and suffering.
The certificate is clear to point out that "if you are engaged in any of these activities, please alert us and we will immediately release you, with full apologies for the inconvenience."
"Who is the Terrorist?" introduces us as well to the ghost of Izzy Asper and goes on to reveal an individual who has an Osama bin laden face on. The face flips up, underneath which we find George Bush, who is immediately shackled, has a paper bag thrown over his head, and is led with ball and chain attached up the roadway towards the main gate of CSIS.
Police are unprepared and immediately hustle into position, with media following behind.
"Hello CSIS, open up, we have a terrorist for you!" the circusmaster calls out, cracking her whip as the Raging Grannies launch a new rendition of an old Christian gospel number, "What a Friend We Have in CSIS" (full lyrics below).
CSIS does not seem interested in this terrorist (after all, he's a militant Christian extremist, and since CSIS has stated time and again it is interested only in militant Muslims, Bush doesn't make the grade). We then launch a community tour of the massive perimeter of the CSIS bunker, which is surrounded on almost all sides by field, forest and swamp.
The building is, at some points, high on a hill, and one needs to climb through flora and fauna to get to the top of an embankment to see it. At other points, one climbs to an embankment and looks down on the building from a high vantage point.
Our first stop is one such place where, as we come up the hill and look down through the fence at the receiving area, about 25 spies are out having a smoke break. The second they see us, led by Ed Babb of Burlington and his 12-foot high, 3-foot-wide Question Authority sign, they immediately drop their smokes and hightail it to the door, faster than a bunch of racing keystone kops in a silent movie. We have never witnessed such a fast exit, and it was comical and scary at the same time: what on earth could have prompted them to be afraid of us?
As CSIS employees peak out from the windows, they pull back from sight when we acknowledge them and wave. They can never be too careful -- they may be spotted by a Raging Granny. One woman holds a large sandwich board which references Canada's Secret Trial Five: "I am Mohammad Mahjoub, I am Mahmoud Jaballah, I am Hassan Almrei, I am Mohamed Harkat, I am Adil Charkaoui, I am a human being. I have a right to a fair trial."
As we continue the tour -- which could double as a massive bird watching expedition given the pastoral setting -- we are led by radical cheerleader Matt Corks of Kitchener, who stands atop a hill and gets some rousing chanting going. Two newspaper photographers from the Ottawa area are taking pictures, and one of them turns to the other and says, "I suppose we'll be getting a visit at the office from these guys for taking pictures of their building, eh?" The message is clear. CSIS does not like people in its vicinity, and no matter how friendly the visitor, one cannot help but think that our presence will result in some sort of payback later on.
Indeed, much of our campaign focuses on CSIS payback: how individuals who have refused to spy on their communities have been thrown behind bars on secret evidence, held without charge or bail. In other cases, Canadians have been kidnapped and sent abroad, where foreign intelligence agencies do their dirty work in torture chambers and Guantanamo-Bay style legal black holes.
Throughout the gathering, there is a sense that this is more than a demonstration. It is almost like a preliminary inquiry by the community, a step in the process of opening up an institution which has hidden behind closed doors for far too long. It sometimes feels like we're checking out the neighbourhood before deciding whether we'll move in.
While the scads of police and security forces indicate CSIS believes we pose a threat, the tone of the day is quiet, calm, at times hilarious, and determined. Here we are in a kind of terrorist meet-and-greet, for it is we -- people who oppose the kinds of economic policies ("globalization") that impoverish the majority of the world, that destroy the environment, that factory farm our food, that result in the use of state terror such as massive bombardment of poor countries -- whom CSIS considers a domestic terrorist threat. Just look at their public report to Parliament in June 2003, and there we are sandwiched between "Muslim extremists" and white supremacists.
By the time we get to the Blair Road entrance to CSIS, we again try and turn in terrorist Bush, who has been calling out, "We love democracy so much that we'll carpet-bomb anyone who doesn't allow us to impose it on them."
Police inform us warily that a red backpack has been left out in the wooded area behind CSIS, and ask if we can investigate. While this might seem like a complete abrogation of the police's responsibilities, we agree to look into it. After all, being good little anarchists who feel that the community can solve its own problems without toting guns and pepper spray, we are more than happy to save the day. Which we proceed to do, as a friend on a bicycle calls in to say he has arrived on the scene, where a number of cops are looking on but taking no action regarding the backpack. Our friend notes that he recognizes the backpack as something left inadvertently by a fellow demonstrator, and it is returned.
Edgecombe calls in to see how things are going. I try and explain where we are at the perimeter, but he says no need. CBC has been covering the demo live, and so he knows where to find us, thanks to the coverage.
We sing happy birthday to CSIS (they turn 20 next year) and hope that as they mature they will learn how to write an affidavit, how to tell the truth, and how not to discriminate based on faith and skin colour. We hope those will be some of their birthday wishes when they blow out their candles next year.
As we head toward the main entrance again after our long jaunt, some concerns arise. It is clear that in a regular protest, we all would have been cautioned by now not to be so close to the perimeter fence on "private property," but CSIS has conceded issues of property lines today. As long as we stay behind the fence, it seems, we will not be charged.
This leads to a discussion about whether we are being baited to breach the fence and enter a security zone, where normal criminal code and provincial offences might no longer apply, and where 72-hour detention without charge might kick into play if we are caught on the other side. It's a serious issue which we need to consider as we head back to the front gates.
We gather again at the Ogilvie entrance, which has been closed shut all morning. On a normal day, one can walk or drive right onto CSIS property. But this is no ordinary day, so access could only be allowed when the electronically operated fence slides in horizontal fashion from right to left.
At first sight, it appears the demonstrators have few options. If they want to gain access, they will have to climb the high fence. We have no ladders, and are unprepared for such a scenario. From the police point of view, their job is easy: as long as the fence is closed, we are kept out. If someone should climb the fence, they will set loose police dogs on us.
But anyone looking at this scene from an objective distance might stop to ask themselves: if CSIS is such a bunch of security geniuses, and their building is so damned secure, how is it that their sliding electric fence, now closed to prevent our access, is planted a good 18 inches off ground level?
A group of trick-or-treaters approaches the fence and places placards and security certificates on the chain links. Some signs read "Free the Secret Trial Five," "11 Kids, Four Women: Guilty by Association?" and "Abolish the Security Certificate," among others. On the other side, police stand their ground, not reacting.
We carefully change our position, and sit on the ground, placing our trick-or-treat bags under the fence, opening them up, and asking for the secret evidence. We try and speak with the security forces massed on the other side. We plead with them to think about the children, the wives, and loved ones, the community members, all whose lives are terrorized by CSIS. We talk about Nuremberg, about how we are in dangerous times which will lead us down the same road which led to concentration camps and massive human rights violations, a made-in-Canada Gulag. They stand without emotion, trying not to look in our eyes.
As we sit in front of the fence, we marvel at how easy it would be to slide underneath and get inside to continue our trick-or-treat expedition. And so what is the subject of whimsical thinking soon becomes a reality. Anet Henrikso of Montreal slips under the fence and gets up on to the shock and amazement of officers on the other side. Despite the intimidating barking of police dogs heard just beyond, she walks to the officers, demanding to see the secret evidence. She is followed quickly by Ed Babb of Burlington who, at 73, executes a slide onto CSIS sacred ground worthy of a major league ball player turning a double into a triple (see the CSIS version of Take Me out to the Ballgame, below). Babb's maneuver also allows some time for Matthew Behrens of Toronto to slip under as well, followed closely by Melanie, who lives in Ottawa.
As the police try and deal with us, a number suggest we get up and go outside the fence. Rather than drag us over and under, they make a brilliant gaffe, typical of those CSIS makes year in and year out. They start to open the sliding electric fence, potentially allowing access to a much larger group of people whose faces are pressed against it. The demonstrators are just as shocked at this boner as the media, but before they can recover and start entering, police rush past those who have already breached the fence, and the fence is just as quickly closed.
We sit awaiting our fate, and are eventually arrested and escorted past a van with barking police dogs, charged with trespassing, handcuffed behind our backs, and placed in a cramped police van where we sit for more than two hours, awaiting word on where we'll be taken. Anet is taken downtown, to be released later on a criminal charge of violating bail conditions from a prior demonstration. The rest of us are charged with trespassing.
In yet another case of mistaken identity, Melanie, who is transgendered, insists on being placed in a van with women, but police refuse her request, and place her with the men.
Despite busting me, placing me in cuffs behind my back, and herding me into a kennel-like, airless police van, my arresting officer has been reasonably friendly, but a tad nervous. As he holds my arm, I can feel him trembling. I tell him that I do not want him to feel personally threatened, that I am here committed to nonviolence, have no weapons, and that I would like to be escorted inside CSIS to meet spymaster Ward Elcock, to whom an open letter was sent more than a month ago informing him of our visit. I ask if he knows why we are here. He nods, seeming vaguely familiar with the crimes we are protesting.
But during processing, his tone suddenly changes for the more serious. He asks me if I have any outstanding conditions. I shake my head no. He asks why it is, then, that an RCMP search shows that following my "contact with police in Ottawa" in early August I had conditions placed on me. This is odd, for I was not in Ottawa in early August, but only on August 25, when the families of Canada's disappeared were all together in an attempt to visit prime minister Jean Chretien. (We had discussed the idea of going earlier in August, but abandoned those plans.)
August 25 was a simple, peaceful affair, but it appears that a plan for a pre-emptive August arrest might have been entered on the computer system, complete with possible release conditions designed to either prevent myself and other members of our delegation from attending the October 31 demonstration and/or from even entering Ottawa. The latter condition has been placed on numerous recent arrestees in the nation's capital.
Although such an arrest did not occur, it is possible the "expected" arrest and subsequent release conditions had not been removed from the system, and they were coming up now during the standard computer check for all arrestees.
The officer is confused, and says he will make inquiries. He returns later and when I ask him what he was talking about, he shrugs it off with an "It's all cleared up, nothing to worry about." One wonders...
As we wait in the cramped van, we listen to the odd report over the police radio. Many cops comment on Ed Babb's massive Question Authority sign, which is still being held high on the other side of the fence, and which seems to have gotten under the skin of many of the authorities on site!
After about an hour, the remainder of the demonstration comes to an end and folks board the bus back to the church, escorted by numerous police vehicles and motorcycle cops. We witness delivery trucks, garbage trucks, and other vehicles turned away. No one gets in to CSIS as long as we are in that van, and, as we later learn, as long as we remain in the city.
As we finally depart, we are pleased to see out the back of the van that someone with thick, permanent marker has written on the box operating the entrance gate: Free the Secret Trial Five: Abolish the Secret Trial Security Certificate! It will need a new paint job to get rid of that one.
As we make our way back downtown, we hear the police radio blaring out instructions: make sure these people are on their bus and out of town by 1:30 pm. Repeat, continue to monitor the church and ensure no one stays behind or returns to CSIS. Our van is escorted by a number of undercover police vehicles.
While one hates to see such a waste of public resources spent on us, we are pleased that, at least for today, these forces of the state focused on us are not able to maintain their incessant harassment of the targeted communities who were at the focus of the demo.
Now that we have been charged, we can proceed to plan a trial where we can subpoena Ward Elcock, and finally get that opportunity to ask how he thinks secret trials are compatible with demoracy and human rights.
As we clean up the church, a row of motorcycle cops sits across the street, along with police in unmarked vehicles, making sure we get out of town. As the bus heads to southern Ontario, a number of us remain to ensure that Anet is released from the downtown police station, where she is held till 3 pm on the criminal charge of breaching bail (she had been arrested while standing around with several hundred other people in the massive Montreal police sweep during the G-20 demonstrations in July).
Meanwhile, across the country, CSIS and RCMP offices remained the focus of demos throughout the day. Despite unseasonably frigid temperatures, vigils were held both at the RCMP in Edmonton and in Regina. In Guelph, there was a day of public education in the downtown core organized by CSID (Campaign to Stop Immigrant Detention), which included a free meal, the dissemination of information surrounding secret trials in Canada, and letter writing to the five men being held by CSIS.
CSID is currently mounting a campaign in Guelph to stop the use of the Wellington Detention Centre as a holding tank for immigrants and refugees. The centre is a former prison called "a concrete block with no windows surrounded by barbed wires" by newly elected Liberal MPP Liz Sandals. Food and discourse with the community surrounding the link between Secret Trials and the proposed Immigrant Detention Centre were followed by a visit to local Liberal MP Brenda Chamberlain's office by a mass delegation to hand deliver a letter addressing the federal government's racist security and immigration policy.
At Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, students staged a house of horrors, featuring a variety of injustices, including the Orwellian secret trials. In Peterborough, community members gathered for letter writing and faxing directed at an area MP. King Square, at the centre of St. John, New Brunswick, featured a vigil in which five individuals each took a placard with the name of a secret trial detainee, written in large, 4-inch block letters. Each person stood with their backs to the crowd with a black gag in their mouths. Others attending the vigil wore black armbands, passed out flyers, and sang out, "Who Will Speak if We Don't?" One speaker called out the name and situation of each of the detainees, which was followed by the crowd declaring in unison, "We are with you."
In Halifax, 25 people picketed the CSIS office, Maritime Centre, for one hour. Five hundred copies of "Halifax Voice," exposing and condemning the secret trials and the use of security certificates, were distributed. One woman from the Annapolis Valley wrote and printed her own leaflet making a poignant case on the unfair treatment of Adil Charkaoui in Montreal. A third-year law student from Dalhousie who came to join the picket said he was familiar with the process as set down under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and anti-terrorism legislation, and declared it a total violation of due process.
The highly visible action was held during the height of rush hour in downtown Halifax and generated considerable public interest. Some passersby joined the picket and many people in cars also took leaflets. Tony Seed of the People's Front/Halifax, and editor and publisher of shunpiking magazine, along with Dr. Ismail Zaid, president of the Canada Palestine Association, addressed the rally. Both linked the security certificate to a broader attack on the entire Canadian people designed to cause splits, promote racist hysteria and create a precedent to justify the methods of a police state.
Though the secret trial detainees are in Central Canada, Seed gave examples of how the CSIS, RCMP and FBI have been targeting mosques and Muslim immigrants (especially students and young people) in Atlantic Canada, particularly New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Seed gave examples of the dirty role the CSIS and the RCMP had played with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 1999 before and after the Marshall Decision in fomenting discord, violence and vigilantism amongst Mi'kmaq First Nations and Acadian fishermen in Burnt Church. In May, 1999 the secret service actually wrote "assessment reports" for the RCMP predicting "violence", even though the Marshall Decision was not released until September. In October, the RCMP sat back when the processors organized attacks and destruction of the gear and livelihood of the Mi'kmaq fishers, without arresting a soul.
The organizers are planning an in-depth forum on Secret Trials, Security Certificates and CSIS at Dalhousie University.
If you would like to help out (and there's lots of work we need to do, from writing letters to government officials, lobbying, public education, prisoner and detainee family support, to creating legislation outlawing the use of secret evidence), contact the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, c/o PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0.
In a direct contrast to the CSIS propaganda that they are not terrorizing the Muslim community, we saw first-hand how fear permeates the community. Indeed, commitments from numerous targetted individuals and groups to help fill our buses were dropped at the last minute, understandably, due to fears of retaliatory action by CSIS and the RCMP. Others we met in Ottawa thanked us for doing the action, and apologized that fear prevented them from attending.
We took quite a bath on our bus and some other expenses, as an all-volunteer group, so if you would like to help us make up our shortfall and contribute to our ongoing costs, donations can be made to "Homes not Bombs" and mailed to PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0.
In some instances, we are able to provide charitable receipts. Please contact us at email@example.com if you would like more info. on this aspect of helping out.
SPECIAL THANKS TO ALL WHO TOOK PART IN AND PROVIDED MUCH OF THE LOGISTICAL SUPPORT. This includes everyone from the organizers of the public events in Guelph, Waterloo, Hamilton and Toronto to the wonderful folks at First United Church in Ottawa, who put us up, the congregation at the Northwest Unitarian Fellowship in Toronto, Laura Shevchenko, for food organization and jail support, Mark Ertel for being on call when we needed him most, and everyone who committed two days of their lives to ensuring that this injustice is stopped in Canada. Special thanks as well to the cross-Canada organizers who, in some instances on fairly short notice, pulled together a lot of work on vigils and community education efforts.
DATES TO REMEMBER:
Wednesday, November 5, 10 am: On Day 38 of his hunger strike, Hassan Almrei appears in court (361 University Ave., Toronto) for a continuation of a hearing to get him a written guarantee of heat in his cold, concrete solitary confinement cell, along with shoes and a jacket. Please fill the court with support for Hassan.
Wednesday, November 12, 12 noon: Vigil to Bring a Canadian Home. For two years, Ahmad Abou El-Maati has been held, first in a Syrian prison where he was tortured, and now in Egypt, where, despite being ordered released by the Supreme Court on three occasions, he remains behind bars. The Canadian government has done nothing to get him home, and so we will picket the office of Forieign Affairs Minister BIll Graham (365 Bloor East, just west of Sherbourne subway).
Thursday, November 20-Friday, November 21. Bail hearing begins for Secret Trial Detainee Mahmoud Jaballah, father of six, Federal Court, 361 University. Call (416) 6510-5800 to confirm details.
Monday, November 24. Begins a week-long bail hearing for Hassan Almrei. Federal Court, 361 University. Call (416) 6510-5800 to confirm details.
December 10: Santa Speaks out Against Secret Trials at CSIS Toronto, Details to be Announced
Stay in touch: www.homesnotbombs.ca
Below are some of the songs sung at CSIS on Halloween:
To the tune of "Frere Jacques":
CSIS agents, CSIS agents,
Where are you? Where are you?
Hiding from the public, hiding from the public,
Shame on you, shame on you.
Secret trials, secret trials
Are unjust, are unjust,
If you hide the evidence, if you hide the evidence,
You've lost our trust, you've lost our trust.
To "Daisy, Daisy":
CSIS, CSIS, give us your answer, do:
Are you crazy, arresting folks out of the blue?
Brings shame upon our nation,
So let them go, or else we'll know
That nothing you say is true.
To "Take Me Out to the Ballgame":
Five men held in detention,
Five men held without bail:
Of evidence there is a total lack,
Charge them and try them or let them come back,
Oh, it's root, root, root out injustice,
Don't let democracy fail:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 lives on hold,
Let them out of jail.
What a friend We Have in CSIS
(Courtesy of the Ottawa Grannies:)
What a friend we have in CSIS, Guardian of our human rights.
What a privilege to know you, Making sure we sleep at night.
Oh, what peace subversives forfeit, Oh what needless pain they bear.
They insist on being different -- CSIS, Keep them in your care!
Have we trials and public hearings? Why on earth would we want them?
We should never need such crutches; CSIS will their guilt condemn.
Can we befriend a friend so faithful who will all our worries share??
CSIS knows our every weakness; terrorists don't have a prayer!
Are we terrorized and fearful, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious CSIS, still our refuge, will our paranoia share.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Must be something that you did!
We must always trust in CSIS, we must do as we are bid.
Blessed CSIS, thou hast promised: thou wilt make us safe and free..
Round up all the many suspects, put them under lock and key.
Soon we'll have a safer nation, soon we'll sing and dance once more...
Sorry CSIS, got to go now....someone's knocking at the door.....
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