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Canada high court hears arguments on permanent terror detentions

[JURIST] Lawyers for three men Arab Muslim men argued before the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] Tuesday that a program allowing the government to indefinitely detain and deport foreigners with suspected ties to terrorism is unconstitutional. The three men - Adil Charkaoui, Hassan Almrei and Mohamed Harkat [case summaries] - contend that their detentions breach the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text; CDCH materials]. Suspected of membership in al Qaeda, the men were arrested on special security certificates [CBSA backgrounder] authorized by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act [text]. Suspects can spend years fighting deportation while courts hear sensitive intelligence evidence against them, often in closed session without defense attorneys present. As a result, a lawyer for one of the men argued, suspects can be branded as terrorists without a fair hearing. But Canadian Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin seemed dubious of challenges to the legislation, asking "What does the world do with somebody who is truly dangerous wherever they go. Is freedom really an option?... [A]re not the only options permanent detention in a country like Canada or sending them back to a country that may be worse?"

The security certificates have existed since 1978 and have been used six times since 2001. Last year Sacha Trudeau, the younger son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who was the architect of the 1982 Charter, denounced the certificates [JURIST report] during a court hearing for a Syrian held in solitary confinement for four years. The policy has also been criticized by organizations such as Amnesty International Canada [advocacy website]. Canadian Press has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

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