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Canada’s Ambivalent Position

The Canadian government, to its credit, held probing, public hearings in 2005 into the role played by Canadian officials in Washington’s shipment of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen of Syrian extraction, to Syria, where Syrian authorities predictably tortured him—despite the U.S. government’s claim to have received assurances from Syria that it would not mistreat him.  In this respect, Canada showed significantly greater concern with a single act of possible complicity in torture than the U.S. government has shown about its systematic use of torture.  Yet a Canadian law permits the detention and expulsion of immigrants and refugees on national security grounds to countries where they risk torture.  The Supreme Court of Canada was due to review the constitutionality of this law in early 2006 to determine whether it infringes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  The U.N. Human Rights Committee, in reviewing Canada’s record, said that such transfers “can never be justified,” echoing concerns expressed in May by the U.N. Committee against Torture when it reviewed Canada’s compliance with the torture convention.

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>January 2006