Fine line between security and civil rights

I would like to respond to Gord Gramlick’s letter published in the Ponoka News on the 9th of October.

Dear Editor,

I would like to respond to Gord Gramlick’s letter published in the Ponoka News on the 9th of October.

Though secrecy in Canada’s security agencies is important, the downside is that those who are detained often do not have access to the reasons for their detention. Evidence against them is not shared with either the detainees or their lawyers. There is no mechanism for which this evidence at present can be declassified.

Mohamed Harat, for instance, was detained in 2002 under these provisions and was only set free in 2006. His lawyers are currently challenging his detention in the Supreme Court, supported by the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Council of Criminal defence lawyers and Amnesty International.

John Adams, the former chief of Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), believes that the federal government needs to do more to demonstrate to Canadians that CESC “ is protecting national security while respecting civil liberties”. He says that as CSEC chief “when parliamentarians would raise concerns”, he could not address these concerns “because they weren’t cleared to receive classified information.”

He recommends an intelligence and security committee, as in the U.K. composed of parliamentarians and senators that would keep tabs on the conduct of security agencies. They would be cleared at the highest security levels, sworn to secrecy, and could debate, as a committee, issues of concern.

There is a sometimes a fine balance between secrecy and the protection of civil rights. Hopefully some of this will be clarified in the upcoming Supreme Court decision involving Mr. Harat.

George Jason.