I’m going to talk about the Pros and Cons of our proposed policy changes over the next couple posts. I think the easiest way is to first talk about the good things and then the bad in a separate post, even though it makes the second post grimmer and less fun to read. Let’s start with the good news!
Fulfilling our goals of protecting human rights, security and due process by changing the policy would be much more consistent with federal and provincial/territorial human rights legislation. It would also be more consistent with the international commitments Canada has made to human rights, such as the International Covenant on Human Rights that was discussed in a couple of earlier posts.
By eliminating these contradictions around human rights, Canada’s credibility would be increased internationally. The USA is ridiculed and criticized worldwide for its violations of human rights. It’s the example people hold up as indicative of what’s wrong. As knowledge of Canada’s current policies grows, it too will be looked down on. The UN has published several reports criticizing Canada’s actions around other human right abuses, such as the treatment of Indigenous groups. The politicians get very embarrassed but beyond just feeling bad we need change to avoid this criticism. Canada needs to step up to make changes to bring its policies into line with human rights covenants. Canada should be setting a precedent internationally to show that human rights and due process are as important as security concerns, and that there concerns are not either/or but all/and.
Transparency and accountability are fundamental to our conception of good government. One of the functions of the judiciary is to act as a check on the government, and it is crucial that they also exemplify these principles. Our system of government relies on the judiciary to review the actions of government, and to limit the executive power of the state. They are the review for government actions, which ensures the government doesn’t just do whatever it wants to. This is called judicial authority. Relying on the criminal system rather than the security certificate process would be a return to judicial authority, a principle that is still held in discourse, although it has been much reduced in practice.
The judiciary is complicit in the government’s violations at this point, and is actually producing many of the violations. The new system would place the process back into the realm of possible transparency of process, thereby making the players accountable for their actions. Rather than operating behind closed doors, the judiciary, governmental actors, and agencies such as CSIS would have their actions up for review. Rather than not knowing why a person continues to be detained, everyone can know why and if it’s unfair, appeal. There would once again be recourse for abuse of power, and the public would be more confident in the process than all this cloak and daggers silliness. It is the lack of transparency that makes people suspicious and distrustful, and does damage to the credibility of the involved agencies.
From a purely practical perspective, having one policy to deal with all terrorist issues will be much simpler. A ‘one size fits all’ framework is a much easier and fairer process for all involved. There will be less inequities and discretionary power will not be exercised in the same way, as everyone will face the same process. We also think this will be more cost effective, because there is only one system to fund. A great deal of money is being used to fund the separate prison for security certificate detainees, even now when there is only one man being held there. This money can be better used to strengthen the existing criminal justice system.
Imprisoning people convicted of terrorism also seems to be safer than simply deporting them to other countries. If they are truly a risk, shipping them elsewhere doesn’t seem to address it at all. Theoretically, the idea of imprisoning someone guilty of a crime is supposed to punish, detain and rehabilitate them. Deportation doesn’t necessarily address these issues but does put people at risk. The money saved from unifying the systems could be used to put programming back into prisons. Many programs aimed at rehabilitation and skills training have been cut in recent years, so that the prisons do little more than detain and punish individuals. It’s important that this be changed also, and the savings from having one system could potentially go to that system to strengthen it, including putting in adequate programming.
So these are the pros of scraping the security certificates and handling all concerns under the criminal justice system. It paints a pretty attractive picture, but I’m sure you can see a few cons already from reading this. And I’ll address those in my next post!