February 15, 2008

Canada's hands are dirty
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Feb 15, 2008 04:30 AM

Troubling 9/11 trials

Editorial, Feb. 14

Your editorial rightly questions the legitimacy of the Guantanamo Bay show hearings, yet it fails to connect some important dots: Canada has just passed a law that will continue the exact same procedures on Canadian soil, despite a finding of the Supreme Court of Canada that the process is unconstitutional.

The hearings at Gitmo allow for evidence gleaned from torture and hearsay, secret information the detainee cannot see or challenge, and an inability of the defence to call key witnesses. Under the security certificate regime – recently passed by the Senate in virtually identical form to the old law struck down last year – individuals in Canada can be indefinitely detained without charge on secret suspicions they cannot challenge.

Hearsay evidence is not only allowed but can form the basis of a judge's decision. Indeed, part of the new law says the judge may receive anything into evidence, "even if it is inadmissible in a court of law." The calling of witnesses, especially from CSIS or the RCMP, is limited to the judge's discretion. The introduction of a "special advocate," who is not allowed to speak with the detainee after seeing the secret case, leaves the detainee no closer to answering the question posed by the Supreme Court a year ago: How does one meet a case that one does not know?

As for torture evidence, the new bill bans it, but will that stop CSIS? I don't think so. This week, the Security Intelligence Review Committee released a report that concluded CSIS "uses information obtained by torture."

Welcome to Guantanamo North.

Matthew Behrens, Toronto

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