Extraordinary Rendition and the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act

By Jason Bakas, M.A. Candidate at the American Military University, School of Security and Global Studies. 

In some cases states dealing with foreign nationals or those with dual citizenship, who are suspected of committing terrorist offences, transfer these terrorist suspects to another state extrajudicially. This process is known as extraordinary rendition; individual are knowingly transferred to nations in which they have no, or limited access to the judicial system and where there are less rigorous regulations for the humane treatment of prisoners. In almost all cases these nations regularly use torture as a method of interrogation (Lobel, 2008).

There are a number of international conventions outlying the explicit prohibition of torture, and the practice of extraordinary rendition. The most prominent of these is the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Adopted 1984).  Article 3(1) of the convention cites “No State Party shall expel, return refouler or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”  Following the attacks on September 11, the United Nations Committee Against Torture, feared that nations may resort to the use of torture in their investigations and campaigns against terrorism. The committee issued a statement in which they condemned the terrorist attacks but reasserted the obligation for states to adhere to the UN Convention Against Torture, even in the present threat of international terrorism.

As of 2008 the US government has reportedly used the practice of rendition in more than 100 cases (Lobel, 2008). The Bush Administration insisted that this was an effective and  necessary practise and  that for “decades, the United States and other countries have used renditions to transport terrorist suspects from the country where they were captured to their home country or to other countries where they can be questioned, held, or brought to justice” (Rice, 2005).  Moreover, they asserted the “apprehension and extrajudicial transfer of U.S. terrorist suspects stopped terrorist attacks and saved innocent lives,” (Rice, 2005).

The Canadian government has also been complicity involved in the extraordinary rendition of its own citizens. In one of the most publicised cases; the RCMP provided information to U.S. authorities which implicated Canadian citizen Maher Arar of holding affiliations to a terrorist organization. This information was a significant factor that led to his rendition to Syria (O’Connor, 2006, 157; DHS, 2008). Moreover, the Canadian government has demonstrated complacency in the torture or ill-treatment of Canadians detained abroad on the suspicion of terrorist activity (Amnesty International, 2013, 4). Canadian citizens Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin, were all detained upon arrival to Syria for suspicion of holding affiliations to terrorist organizations. All three men were reportedly tortured. According to a 2013 Amnesty International report;  the  Supreme Court of Canada’s inquiry into the cases of these men  found, “Canadian authorities were ‘deficient’ in a number of crucial ways which contributed to grave human rights violations, including torture….[ and that ] Canada was complicit in the torture of these citizens”(Amnesty International, 2013, 4).

On June 16th 2014 Canadian Parliament passed and gave Royal Assent to Bill C-24; the bill, known as the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (Open Parliament Bills C-24). The Act  gives the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the right to revoke certain Canadians of their citizenships and remove those individual  from Canada for a host of terrorist and national security related  reasons; regardless of whether their citizenship was obtained by birth or by naturalization (Bill C-24, Sec 10 &10.1(2); CARL, 2014, 7). The new law will allow for revocation of citizenship based on terrorism and national security convictions that occur inside or outside of Canada (CARL, 2014, 7)  This legislation applies to Canadians  who are dual citizens or are presumed to be able to claim citizenship in another nation through one of their parents. In cases where the accused individual believes he or she would be “stateless”, the onus is on that individual to prove that he or she cannot obtain citizenship of any country, of which the Minister has reasonable grounds to believe he may (CARL, 2014, 8).  “Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has defended his bill by arguing citizenship is a privilege, not a right” (The Globe and Mail, 2014). Once stripped of their Canadian citizenship, the government would deport individuals to a nation in which they may have no, or limited access to the judicial system and where there may be less rigorous regulations for the humane treatment of prisoners. It is easy to see how this new legislation acts as a loop-hole to the legality of rendition. The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act has been described by many as unconstitutional. Lawyers Rocco Galati, Manuel Azevedo and the Constitutional Rights Centre have filed a notice of application in Federal Court arguing Parliament reached beyond its jurisdiction in passing these controversial measures.

Over this past summer several Canadian men have been accused, convicted or sentenced with regards to terrorist related offences. Mohamed Hassan Hersi, became the first man to be sentenced under Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act for attempting to join an overseas terrorist group (Humphreys, 2014). He was convicted last May of attempting to join Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab and of counselling a person to participate in terrorist activities. In July of this year Hersi was sentenced to 10 year in prison (Elliott, 2014). Hiva Mohammad Alizadeh was found guilty in July of conspiring to facilitate a terrorist activity, participating in the activities of a terrorist group and possessing explosives with intent to injure (Bostelaar, 2014). Also in July, Hasibullah Yusufzai was  accused of helping a terrorists organization. According to the RCMP, Yusufzai left for Syria in January apparently to join Islamist fighters. When and if Yusufzai returns to Canada, he will be arrested and charged under the Anti-terrorism Act (Judd, 2014). While all three of these men hold dual citizenship and have been accused or convicted of terrorist related offences, no information has been published as to whether or not the Citizenship and Immigration Minister is in the process, or has the intent to strip these men of their Canadian citizenships.

CSIS’ Ministerial Directive permits the use and sharing of information that has been derived through intelligence and law enforcement agencies of foreign States, regardless of whether the information was extracted through torture (UN Report of the Committee against Torture, 2012, 119).  Some have confidence that critical and actionable intelligence has been extracted from terrorist suspects while under direst (The Canadian Press, 2012). Are extraordinary rendition and the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act needed in order to keep Canada safe and extract vital intelligence in the War on Terror? Or is this simply a reaction to moral panic in Global War on Terror, which results in the human rights violation?

Do the ends justify the means, what are people’s thoughts?

Photo by  striatic via Flickr.

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Categories: Immigration

2 replies

  1. The links for each reference direct me to the same Jules Lobel article. I’m not sure if everyone experiences the same problem, but thought it was worth letting you know.

    Also, you write of “the Supreme Court of Canada’s inquiry” into the cases of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin. This is incorrect; the inquiry was by former SCC judge Frank Iacobucci. Further, when it was published, he had been retired from the bench for 4 years. The SCC itself had no involvement.

  2. I have to say I agree with this new legislation. If an individual joins an organization whose goal it is to destroy our current system, and the principals we hold in Canada; then that individual is not deserving of a Canadian citizenship. You should not be able to hold a citizenship to a nation you wish to destroy

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