September 25, 2003
(faxed Sept. 25, sent by registered mail Sept. 25)
Open letter to the Employees of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service:
Some important questions AND Notice of Our Nonviolent Halloween Visit on Friday, October 31
We are writing with two purposes: to ask you some important questions, and to inform you that many of us will be coming to your big house in Ottawa on Halloween for some trick-or-treating.
First, a question:
How would you feel if you were a Jew in the USSR, circa 1975, and the Russian secret police, the KGB, came to your door late at night, demanding that you spy on certain members of the Jewish community?
What if they threatened you if you failed to work with them, and you still refused?
How would you then feel if the KGB, angered at your failure to "cooperate," had you arrested on a special certificate that declared you a threat to national security, and had you thrown behind bars without charge or bail?
And what if during the sham of a hearing that you were "entitled" to, you were not allowed to see the "evidence" against you, "evidence" which could have you sent to a concentration camp in Siberia, where torture and execution were your likely fate?
And what if the judge hearing your "case" did not have to make a finding of fact, but only a finding of "reasonable grounds to believe certain facts exist?"
And what if, after the "public" portion of your "hearing," the judge went behind closed doors, without you or your lawyer present, and listened to the KGB tell the judge whatever it pleased about you to convince that judge that you posed a threat to national security?
And what if there were no appeal process following the judge's ruling against you?
One would hope that you would be horrified at such a process that recalls the worst nightmares of Orwell, Kafka or Solzhenitsyn. At the time, such practices were rightly condemned by the international community.
But for a growing number in Canada, these are not bad dreams out of the past. They exist today, and if you replace the KGB in this equation with CSIS, and Jews with Muslims, you have the same situation under the CSIS secret trial "security certificate."
Such a situation is intolerable, and it violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, among other important commitments Canada has made to uphold human rights..
That is why on Friday, October 31, Halloween, during the morning rush hour, we will be gathering at both entrances to your workplace for a massive trick-or-treat for the secret "evidence" which has held 5 Muslim men behind Canadian prison walls a collective 104 months (as of October, 2003). Neither these men nor their lawyers are allowed to see this "evidence," and so they sit, uncharged, with no bail, separated from loving wives, 11 children, and many friends in the community, under the CSIS secret trial "security certificate".
Their names are Mohammad Mahjoub, held since June, 2000; Mahmoud Jaballah, held since August 2001 (after having a first certificate thrown out by a Federal Court, he was re-arrested on a second certificate, even though CSIS admitted it had no new "evidence," only a "new interpretation" of the old evidence which had already been dismissed as not credible); Hassan Almrei, held in solitary confinement since October, 2001; Mohamed Harkat, held in solitary confinement since December, 2002; and Adil Charkaoui, held since May, 2003.
Add to these names the almost two dozen Pakistani students who are held in preventive detention, even after the RCMP concluded they posed no threat to Canada, and we see that the use of such repressive, undemocratic measures continues to grow.
Unfortunately, these are only the latest in a long line of internments and mass detentions in Canadian history. It is a shameful history we have repeated since the first mass internment of First Nations peoples on "reservations," and whose history continued with the internment of Ukrainian-Canadians, German-Canadians, Italo-Canadians, and Japanese-Canadians, among others.
Those who speak up on their behalf, as well as those who exercise their right to protest, are unjustifiably tarred with the terrorist brush in the latest CSIS annual Report to Parliament. By defining as "terrorist" "certain elements of the anti-globalization movement" without naming them, everyone from the Raging Grannies and the United Church to school children protesting educaton cuts is thereby guilty by association in the eyes of CSIS.
As we hope you will agree, the practice of secret trials is not compatible with a democracy, and we need to throw open wide the doors of CSIS to concepts which are central to the core of democratic principles: openness, honesty, transparency, and accountability.
We are writing to let you know far in advance that the presence of individuals, some in costume, will not be pose a physical threat to you on October 31. Committed to nonviolence, our goal is to seek a dialogue with you on the threats posed to democracy by those who work within your own place of employment.
Indeed, as study after study has shown -- both by the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) as well as independent sources -- the work of CSIS is far from perfect. As a result, when an organization like yours is asked to be trusted during a secret trial, where there is no chance for a lawyer to cross examine you, the danger that bias, dishonesty, and outright corruption will not be challenged is huge.
You may not have been informed by your employer that over the past 20 years, CSIS has been constantly criticized for a variety of abuses, including, but not at all limited to, such criticisms as:
* SIRC's 1999-2000 report raises questions "about some beliefs the Service has about the nature of the threat. We are of the opinion that these beliefs are sometimes overdrawn."
* The SIRC report points out one instance, likely illustrative of many more, in which a CSIS application for warrant powers contained "a number of overstatements."
* In another case, "information put forward was more than a decade old and the information adduced was derived from one source's 'feelings.'
* "One source's speculation was quoted. Some assertions that the target engaged in 'suspicious activities' appeared to us to be misleading or exaggerated."
* "For another person targeted, [CSIS] failed to include in the affidavit significant information of which it was aware which contradicts its own position on the person."
* In yet another case, CSIS treated as a threat activity that "seemed to be routine diplomatic behaviour," while in another case, "with little corroborating information, CSIS ascribed intelligence gathering motives to apparently normal consular contacts."
* SIRC concludes we need the best possible national security advice "unencumbered by unfounded speculation."
We recognize that, like much of Canadian society, CSIS is rooted with the same kind of institutional racism which is responsible for the legislation behind the security certificate. Hence, there will be couches placed at the entrances to CSIS where, for free, you will be able to sit (or lie down if you are more comfortable) and discuss what we believe is your irrational fear of Arabs and Muslims in Canada. As volunteers, we will not charge for this valuable psychological counselling. Perhaps as individuals who receive assistance, you can help change the institution where you work!
We will be offering workshops on how to write affidavits, and copies of statements by federal court judges critical of this process will be available as well.
Ultimately, we want to discuss with you how we can create a definition of national security which helps people, one which doesn't throw them behind bars without telling them why.
Just think of it:
For the over 5 million Canadians who go to bed hungry each night, there is no national security.
For the estimated quarter million homeless people in this country, there is no national security.
Nor is there national security for the 5,000 people who die prematurely each year because of easily controlled smog emissions; the hundreds of women murdered and the thousands beaten by men because the spaces in women's shelters have been lost in budget cuts; the First Nations still seeking justice after centuries of genocide, still facing the worst of the repression; the students who must assume $20,000 debts for an education; and so many others for whom the concept of "security" is a distant dream in a cruel economy.
In a country where some 3 million Canadians must visit food banks to try and deal with the devastating effects of hunger in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it seems to us that Canada's National Spy Agency could better serve Canadians as Canada's National Pie Agency (one could even make pies with Northern Spy apples). Not only would this meet the pressing need of meeting the needs of the hungry, it would also take the CSIS eye off of organizations involved in protest across this country, organizations which you identified in your June report to Parliament as "terrorist."
To give you one example of where your talents would be far better used, we would ask that you investigate and take appropriate action with respect to a terrorist enterprise located at 3701 Carling Avenue, Nepean. Home to Defence Research Establishment Ottawa (DREO), the scientists within are hard at work at replicating the actions of the terrorists who hit New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. "Will technology allow us to fit 70 tons of lethality [killing power] into a 20 ton package?" they ask, eerily trying to answer the question of maximum killing power with minimal resources that the terrorists also pondered before committing their horrific acts. (See the website for Defence Research and Development Canada and, specifically, their annual reports, for further information).
Our presence at CSIS on October 31 is yet another in a long line of steps we have taken to try and seek justice on these issues. We have written to the ministers concerned, Wayne Easter and Denis Coderre; we have held vigils; we have organized long-distance walks to raise awareness of the issues; we have organized public events; we have taken the issue to the steps of the Prime Minister's Office, where we presented petitions with the names of 8,000 people in this country demanding due process for the detainees.
And yet still these men remain behind bars.
As you can see, there is a lot of discussion that needs to take place. Hiding behind closed doors and rows of riot police will not solve this problem. So, please mark your calendars, get your treat bowls ready, and work with us on a scary day to rid this country of the fear that ruins lives and communities.
Looking forward to meeting all of you.
(names in alphabetical order, on behalf of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada)
Corinne Allan, Ottawa
Tekle Araya - Mississauga
Matthew Behrens, Toronto
Gerald Berard - Kimberly, BC
Dave Bleakney, Ottawa
Pierrette Brunette, Greely
Rev. Brian Burch, Toronto
Virginia Cameron. Ottawa
David Condon - Medicine Hat, Ab
Sandra Elkin - Smithers, BC
Erika Fuchs, Vancouver, BC
Jan & Ria Heynen, Ottawa
Linda Homeward - Toronto
Pat Howard, Ottawa
Jamie Kneen, Ottawa
Randy Kay, Dundas
Marie-Josée Lamarche, Orleans
Sophie Lamarche, Ottawa
Allyson Mayo - Victoria
Scott Neigh, Hamilton
John Nolan - St John's, Nfld
Alma Norman, Ottawa
Ruth Otterman - Hamilton
Catherine Owen - Windsor, Ontario
Akwasi Owusu-Ansa - Toronto
Jennifer Ottaway, Montreal
Maggie Panter, Toronto
Diana Ralph, Toronto
Chris Shannon, Hamilton
Laura Shevchenko, Smiths Falls
Kevin Shimmin, Toronto
Catherine Thompson, Ottawa
Alois Weiderman, Nepean
Lisa Zeiglar - Regina , SK
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