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Arar commission recommends review agency for Canadian RCMP

[JURIST] Canada's Arar Commission [official website], the official judicial inquiry into the circumstances under which Canadian Maher Arar [advocacy website; CBC timeline] was detained in the US in 2002 and removed to Syria where Arar says he was tortured, recommended Tuesday that a new agency be created to review national security activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police [official website] and that new review processes be implemented for other federal departments involved in national security. Tuesday's 636-page report [PDF text] was the product of the commission's policy review [commission materials], conducted in conjunction with a factual inquiry [commission materials] into the Arar case.

Commissioner Dennis R. O'Connor, Associate Chief Justice of Ontario, recommended [press release, PDF]:

the creation of the Independent Complaints and National Security Review Agency for the RCMP (ICRA) with jurisdiction to review all of the RCMP's activities, including those related to national security. The Commissioner concluded that there were significant advantages to having the RCMP's national security activities reviewed by the same body that has jurisdiction to review the RCMP's other law enforcement activities. The Commissioner recommends that ICRA have the authority to conduct self-initiated reviews of the RCMP's national security activities for compliance with laws, policies, international obligations and for standards of propriety expected in Canadian society. ...

The Commissioner recommends that in order to effectively carry out the review function, ICRA must have comprehensive powers including the power to decide what information is necessary to fulfill its mandate, and to subpoena documents and compel testimony from any federal, provincial, municipal or private sector person or entity.
O'Connor also recommended that independent review procedures be established for other agencies involved national security activities - Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Transport Canada, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada [official websites] - and said that the Security Intelligence Review Committee [official website] "is the body best positioned to review the national security activities." Independent review was also recommended for the Canada Border Services Agency [official website], but O'Connor said that ICRA would be better suited to review the CBSA's activities.

Finally, O'Connor recommended that a statutory framework be adopted that would allow the national security review panels to coordinate and exchange information, and that a coordinating committee be established "to provide a unified intake mechanism for complaints regarding national security activities of federal entities, to help ensure that the statutory gateways are functioning as intended, and to report to the federal government on accountability issues relating to Canada's national security practices, including their effects on human rights and freedoms."

The commission was established in 2004 [JURIST report] under Canada's federal Inquiries Act [text] to trace events leading to Arar's deportation to Syria. The commission's factual findings [JURIST report], released in September, concluded that Canadian officials did not play a role in the US decision to detain and remove Arar, but said that the US decision was "very likely" based on inaccurate, unfair and overstated information about Arar passed on by the RCMP. Last week, RCMP Giuliano Zaccardelli resigned [JURIST report] over botched parliamentary testimony in the case.

In a related development Tuesday, Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced that the government would conduct a similar official inquiry [press release] into the cases of three other Canadian citizens who say they were tortured between 2001 and 2004. Kuwaiti-born Ahmad El Maati, Syrian-born Abdullah Almalki and Iraqi-born Muayyed Nureddin, who requested the official review [JURIST report] in October, each claim they were detained and tortured by Syrian military intelligence during trips abroad, with the complicit cooperation [Amnesty backgrounder, PDF] of Canadian officials. The official inquiry [terms of reference] will be led by former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci [official profile], who will investigate whether:
  • The detention of these three individuals in Syria or Egypt resulted from actions of Canadian officials, particularly in relation to the sharing of information with foreign countries.

  • Those actions or the actions of Canadian consular officials were deficient in these cases.

  • Any mistreatment of these three individuals in Syria or Egypt resulted from any deficiencies in the actions of Canadian officials.
  • CBC News has more.

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