By Zach Howe –
While Canada has opened its arms to welcome 25,000 refugees from Syria, one individual missed the wagon of a warm welcome since his arrival to Canada.
Mohamed Harkat, originally from Algeria, has been on the verge of deportation since 2002 when former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien issued a security certificate on him. The notorious legal device was unlike civil forfeiture. Instead of forfeiting items based on even the slightest inkling of a future crime, a security certificate forfeits the freedom of an individual.
Harkat emigrated from Algeria, where it is alleged that he ran a guest house for Mujahideen who were travelling through the area to take part in the Afghan Civil War. It is in this time that Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) claims that, whether knowingly or unknowingly, he gained connections to Al Qaeda. After losing his job in Algeria, Harkat was allowed into Canada where he lived without incident for seven years until his arrest in 2002.
He was jailed until 2006, when he was released on $100,000 bail. The conditions of his release were quite uncommon; he was forced to wear a tracking bracelet at all times, was only allowed to leave his house by giving 48 hours notice to Canadian Border Services Agency, and had to be accompanied by two armed guards at all times. Otherwise, this not-yet-convicted man would have to be perpetually within the eyesight of his wife Sophie, or his mother-in-law.
CSIS has stated that he was arrested under the threat of “possible potential crimes”—as security certificates dictate— but has yet to actually prove what Harkat might have done. They were unable to turn over original documents, that they state were destroyed, and so judge Simon Noël loosened his supervision restrictions. Harkat, however, is still in grave danger of being deported back to his home country where he states he would be at high risk to be tortured an even killed.
There are several advocacy groups that are fighting to keep him free and in the country due to his loosened restrictions of the years. The Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice argue that if Harkat posed such a danger to Canadian national safety, then why is he being given more and more freedom. They also contend that he was initially questioned in 1997, two years after he came to the country, but wasn’t arrested until five years later and contend that things aren’t adding up.
Alexandre Trudeau, brother of Prime Minister Justine Trudeau, has also been a vocal advocate for halting the deportation process and allowing Harkat to resume a semblance of the normal life before his arrest. In his Feb. 27 letter to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Alexandre Trudeau wrote, “I urge you to use your unique position as minister, and the discretion afforded to you under the law, to exempt Mohamed Harkat from deportation and let him stay and live a productive life in Canada.”
But according to the Ottawa Citizen’s Andrew Duffy, who was able to view select sections of a confidential report put together by Anne-Marie Charbonneau (manager of the danger assessments section of the Canada Border Services Agency), the report warns, “Mr. Harkat’s presence constitutes a real threat to the security of Canada and Canadians, as well as the security of other nations and their citizens.”
As Canada continues to welcome in a large number of refugees from several different dangerous situations, Harkat is at serious risk of being thrust right back into one.
Amnesty International describes people who are named under security certificates are being “exempted from legal provisions.” Legal processes are designed to prevent deportation to places that pose the risk of torture or other human rights abuses. In the same article they state that by issuing security certificates, Canada has failed to uphold their human rights obligations.
A decision on the status of Harkat’s deportation is expected to be made later this year.