Security certificate system to be revamped: Day
Published Sunday, February 25, 2007 10:45PM EST
Canada may move towards the British system of a special counsel model to deal with those detained under national security certificates, suggests Public Safety minister Stockwell Day.
"I think this is a bit early, but I think these provisions are something that's attainable, again, if we can get support from the Liberals," Stockwell Day told CTV's Question Period on Sunday.
Day was reacting to Friday's Supreme Court of Canada decision which struck down key provisions of national security certificates, used to detain suspected terrorists and others who threaten national security.
The court unanimously ruled the certificates used violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because they didn't allow those held access to the evidence against them.
But after the ruling, Day seemed to downplay the impact of the court's decision. He said the government will review the decision and suggested that it should be read as upholding the "general principle" of security certificates, while requiring some reforms.
Day said he agreed with an editorial in Saturday's Globe and Mail, which said the high court still maintains it is legitimate to detain, indefinitely, non-citizens suspected of being terrorists -- "as long as they have a meaningful review process."
The certificates had allowed government officials to use secret court hearings, indefinite prison terms and summary deportations when dealing with non-citizens accused of having terrorist ties.
The court is now giving Parliament one year to fix the law. The ruling suggested the special counsel approach.
Neil Finkelstein of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada explained the British independent counsel approach this way: "The special counsel is independent of the detainee. He receives the secret evidence, reviews it, can cross-examine the government witnesses in camera. So you have an adversarial process that excludes the detainee."
Day said he believes within that time, his government will be able to put in a "meaningful review process" for these detained individuals, and to ensure they have "special counsel that can review the security information that's being held again them."
Mahmoud Jaballah, one of those detainees, told CTV News from Millhaven Penitentiary: "Of course I am hoping to go to a fair trial. And I hope to see the evidence against me because I am not a terrorist man, I am an innocent man."
Jaballah's wife is struggling to raise their six children in Toronto. Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis has visited Jaballah in prison three times.
"This is going to be an election issue that's going to reflect the values that Canada wants and the reform agenda of Mr. Harper," he predicted.
In a separate interview on Question Period, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said it would be "his duty as a parliamentarian" to help make the law work.
"The Supreme Court said these certificates, the way they are designed, are not respecting the basic human rights like the right to know why you are in jail, what is the evidence against you?" said Dion. "Or if it's not you, a lawyer on your behalf must be aware of the reasons why you are there.
"I'm not surprised that the court is saying that. I didn't like the certificates the way they were."
With a report from CTV's Rosemary Thompson