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Canada may apply UK special counsel procedure to save security certificates

[JURIST] Canada Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day [official profile] said Sunday that Canada may adopt a British special counsel model to preserve the legality of using its security certificates [CBC backgrounder] to indefinitely detain foreigners with suspected ties to terrorism. In the UK, security-cleared special advocates can challenge secret intelligence presented to a court to justify the indefinite detention of non-citizens. Day's comments [recorded video] on CTV's Question Period came in response to Friday's ruling [text] by the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] that the current use of security certificates for indefinite detentions violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text; CDCH materials]. Although the court determined that security certificates are unconstitutional [JURIST report] and without effect, Day suggested that the court's decision should be read as upholding the "general principle" of security certificates, while requiring some reforms. The Court indicated Friday that indefinite detentions were permissible as long as there was a meaningful review process of materials that detainees themselves could not see. The judgment will not take effect for one year in order to allow Parliament time to comply with the Court's ruling.

Three Arab Muslim men - Adil Charkaoui, Hassan Almrei and Mohamed Harkat [case summaries] - argued [JURIST report] before the Canadian high court last year that their indefinite detentions were unconstitutional. Suspected of membership in al Qaeda, the men were arrested on special security certificates 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 lawyers present. The security certificates have existed since 1978 and have been used six times since 2001 [Globe &. Mail backgrounder]. CTV News has more.

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