PM's brother says he did nothing wrong in lobbying for Harkat
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, March 2, 2016 12:37PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, March 2, 2016 10:37PM EST
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s brother, Alexandre, says he did nothing wrong in petitioning the federal government to stop deportation efforts for a suspected terrorist sleeper agent.
Alexandre “Sacha” Trudeau recently sent a letter to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, requesting he halt deportation hearings for Algerian-born Mohamed Harkat, 47, arguing that he is not a threat to public security.
"Make this decision of yours another shining example of your government's commitment to sunny ways,” wrote the younger Trudeau.
Harkat, a former pizza delivery man, was arrested in late 2002 on a security certificate, on the suspicion that he was an al Qaeda operative. Harkat’s lawyers contested the certificate, but the Supreme Court of Canada upheld it in 2014.
In the face of much criticism Wednesday, Sacha Trudeau insisted he’s done nothing wrong.
“I was involved in opposition to the security certificate even before my brother was elected to Parliament,” he told CTV News.
The prime minister acknowledged his brother’s lobbying efforts on Wednesday, while insisting that the government has a “rigorous process” to address the issue.
“I love my brother very much,” Justin Trudeau added during a media availability in Vancouver. “He has the same rights that every Canadian has to advocate on the issues and the causes that he believes in.”
But Erin O’Toole, the Conservative public safety critic, says Sacha Trudeau isn’t just any Canadian.
“It’s really concerning he feels he can reach out directly to a minister and use the sunny ways language from the campaign to impact a serious public safety concern for Canada.”
Ottawa’s ethics commissioner Mary Dawson says she is not looking into the matter at this time.
Duff Conacher, co-founder of watchdog group Democracy Watch, says the prime minister could be in a conflict of interest if he moved the file up or ordered anyone else to do so.
A spokesperson for Goodale’s office said the federal government tries to carefully evaluate the level of threat a person poses if they remain in Canada, as well as what the level of risk there might be to that person’s life if he or she is deported to another country.
“It is important to know that rigorous safeguards are in place to prevent those who need protection from being removed from Canada,” the spokesperson told CTV News.
He added that those under threat of deportation are allowed to seek “judicial and administrative review prior to removal.
“Only once individuals have exhausted all legal avenues of recourse and due process are they expected to leave Canada.”
Harkat’s wife Sophie Lamarche Harkat says she’s worried Sacha Trudeau’s letter may cast negative attention on her husband’s case.
Sacha Trudeau has long been an advocate for Harkat, and once put himself forward as a surety for Harkat’s bail application. Sacha also previously worked on Justin Trudeau’s Liberal leadership campaign.
Security certificates are a rarely-used tool for the federal government to deport non-citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism.
With files from CTV News' Mercedes Stephenson