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Canada to review anti-terror security certificate system: report

[JURIST] The Canadian government has begun reviewing its security certificate [IRPA text; PSC Backgrounder] system, which allows the government to deport residents who pose a threat to national security, the Canadian Press (CP) [media website] reported [text] Sunday. The government may consider making significant changes to the law or abolishing it completely, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan [official profile] told the CP. As it is currently constructed, the law allows the government to issue certificates to non-citizen residents it deems a threat to national security but does not require that the government reveal to the resident classified information used against him or her. A special advocate may protest the certificate before a judge in closed proceedings. Critics of the law claim that the system violates residents' fundamental rights by failing to reveal the full charges against them. Complicating matters is a 2002 Canadian Supreme Court ruling [judgment text] preventing the government from returning residents to countries in which they are likely to face torture. Between the time the certificate is issued and the case is resolved, the immigrant remains free from jail, but subject to strict regulations. At least one immigrant, according to the report, has faced restrictions on his movement for more than a decade since he became subject to a certificate but cannot be returned to his country country of origin due to the likelihood he will be tortured. The report does not mention a timetable for completion of the review.

Last year, the Federal Court of Canada [official website] dismissed [JURIST report] a lawsuit challenging the security certificate program, ruling that it was too early to determine whether 2007 amendments to the program would violate immigrants' rights. The Canadian House of Commons passed the provisions allowing the use of special advocates in February 2008, 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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