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Canada judge rules challenge to security amendments premature

[JURIST] Chief Justice Allan Lutfy of the Federal Court of Canada [official website] on Monday dismissed a challenge [opinion, PDF] to recent security-related amendments [text] to the country's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act [text], ruling that it was too early to determine whether they would violate immigrant rights. Under the law, the Canadian government can use security certificates [PSC backgrounder] to order the detention and deportation of foreign terrorist suspects in private hearings without the presence of suspects or their lawyers. The amendments give detainees access to a UK-style special advocate [JURIST report] at private hearings empowered to review and challenge materials that detainees themselves cannot see for security reasons. The challenge was filed by one of the special advocates, Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman [firm website], who had argued disclosure restrictions on the advocates are broader than necessary to protect secret information. Lutfy ruled that because the cases being argued by the advocates are still pending, it was too early to determine what the rights implications of the amendments would be. The Globe and Mail has more. The Toronto Star has additional coverage.

The Canadian House of Commons passed the provisions allowing the use of special advocates in February, after introducing [JURIST reports] the bill in October 2007. The changes came in response to a decision [text] by the Supreme Court of Canada that found the government's prior use of security certificates to indefinitely detain and deport foreigners with suspected ties to terrorism violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text; CDCH materials]. Three Arab Muslim men, Adil Charkaoui, Hassan Almrei, and Mohamed Harkat, had argued [JURIST report] before the high court that their indefinite detentions were unconstitutional. The court said in its ruling that indefinite detentions under security certificates were permissible as long as evidence that detainees themselves could not see could be challenged.

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