Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (ACJC)
For immediate release
ACJC Response to B’nai Brith’s support for Security Certificates
In yet another stunning betrayal of its supposed mandate to protect human rights, B’Nai Brith issued a press release last Friday supporting “security certificates as a valuable tool in the fight against terrorism.”
“These days, B’nai Brith seizes every opportunity to come down firmly in opposition to fundamental human rights principles,” declared Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians’ Administration Council Ottawa delegate Diana Ralph.
In 2005, B’nai Brith lobbied for harsher anti-terror legislation. In 2006, it unsuccessfully sought intervener status to oppose Hassan Almrei’s challenge of the very security certificate legislation that the Supreme Court struck down last Friday.
“The Supreme Court had good reason to quash the law, under which Canada is currently victimizing five Muslims and one Sri Lankan,” Ralph explained. “The security certificate legislation violates just about every principle of due process. It presumes guilt, not innocence. It establishes a two-tier system of justice, discriminating against non-citizens, particularly Muslims. Canadian residents with far more ominous records than these six detainees are walking free.”
Enforcement of this law requires no proof of wrongdoing. In the place of conventional evidence, it relies upon fear-mongering assertions of CSIS and other government officials that cannot be subjected to cross-examination. Because the allegations are secret and the standard of acceptable evidence is so low, those who are detained under this law are forced to guess the nature of the distortions, outright lies, and “confessions” extracted under torture making reference to others that are arrayed against them. Under the security certificate process, detainees face deportation to countries that practice torture or a lifetime of imprisonment – without the ability to appeal or otherwise clear their names.
The ACJC takes the position that B’nai Brith’s call for a special independent counsel to hear secret evidence retains the core injustice contained in the original law: the practice of conducting secret trials, which denies elementary justice to those detained under security certificates. Ian MacDonald, a senior member of the British panel of special advocates that the Blair government created to play this same role, found the special advocate system to be “inherently flawed.” In his words, the system of special independent counsels is an attempt to provide a "fig leaf of respectability and legitimacy" to a process he found “odious.”[i]
In 2004, when Iran refused to allow a public trial of an intelligence agent charged in the death of journalist Zahra Kazemi, then Foreign Affairs Minister, Bill Graham insisted “Under all human rights codes, under all international law standards, there should be a public trial…. Justice will not be done behind closed doors”.[ii]
"Surely the same standards must apply in Canada," Diana Ralph maintained.
It is ironic that B’Nai Brith should defend a law so similar to those Nazis employed against Jews in the name of national security. Hermann Goering’s testimony at the Nuremberg war crime trials eerily echoes B’Nai Brith’s stand on security certificates. Explaining why the Nazis created concentration camps, he said: “People were arrested and taken into protective custody who had not yet committed any crime, but who could be expected to do so if they remained free…the original reason for creating the concentration camps was to keep there such people whom we rightfully considered enemies of the state.”[iii] We of the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians wonder whether B’Nai Brith would enthusiastically support arbitrary, preventive detention based on secret evidence if those targeted were not Muslims.
The ACJC is the voice of the unknown Jewish public. According to the Economist, only 17% of American Jews today regard themselves as "pro-Zionist," and only 57% say that "caring about Israel is a very important part of being Jewish."
We are 184 Jewish academics and activists across Canada who oppose Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. We serve as a Canada-wide umbrella organization for Jewish individuals and groups whose views are not represented by the government of Israel or by the uncritical positions of support for Israel taken by the leadership of the major Jewish organizations in Canada.
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[i] Michael Valpy (2007) “Detention solution found wanting in Britain: Suggested fix blasted by lawyers who try to make it work,” Globe and Mail, February 26. pp. A1,A10
[ii] Toronto Star, July 15, 2004
[iii] David Rose Guantanamo: America’s War on Human Rights. London: Faber and Faber, 2004