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Hold CBSA Accountable For Deporting Detainees To Torture

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On March 8, 2016, an unidentified man died in the custody of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). The name of the person was not released, almost as if it doesn't matter already, or as if he had never existed in the first place.

Was he a refugee, someone with no papers? Was he young or old, healthy or not? We don't know. We might never know. No independent investigation has been ordered. CBSA continues to be above all forms of scrutiny. This is unacceptable.

Meanwhile, the fate of another man remains in the hands of the CBSA and the organization's recent assessment of his deportation to Algeria. Indeed Mohamed Harkat has been fighting a security certificate for over a decade.

A security certificate is a tool that allows the government to order the deportation of an individual deemed to represent a national security threat to Canada. The suspect can't see the evidence against him. He is basically fighting a moving shadow.

In human rights activism circles, we call it a Kafkaesque situation in reference to the absurdity of the "Trial" by Franz Kafka. A tool which was initially meant to expedite the removal of a potential "risk" turned out to be no more than a shameful tool to be used in dealing with refugees and immigrants.

Mohamed Harkat and his wife Sophie will continue to fight the injustice done to them in the name of national security.

After the first version of the security certificate process was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2007, the government introduced a second version of security certificate process where the suspect can be represented by a special advocate who is cleared to know the secret evidence against his client, but still can't share it or discuss it with him.

In 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada expressed "discomfort" with that new version, calling it "imperfect" and not ideal, but not declaring it unconstitutional, either.

Despite all the legal battles Mohamed Harkat and his wife have been conducting to allow him to stay in Canada, he finds himself today facing deportation to Algeria. Recently CBSA filed a report where it plainly concludes that Mohamed Harkat should be deported to Algeria, despite the risk of being tortured there if he returns.

Reading some parts of the report, it seems clear that CBSA never learned any lessons from all the previous cases where Canada was found complicit in the torture of Canadians.

Basically, the CBSA's approach can be summarized by the following: Mohamed Harkat's actions (or "potential" actions) have been amplified, and his risks of torture and abuse in Algeria have been minimized.

Even the fact that Mohamed Harkat has been married to Sophie Lamarche, who has been fighting all these years to keep him in Canada, has been described in very demeaning words.

Using a patriarchal cliché on how a man's contribution is assessed in the family, the report concluded that Sophie Lamarche wouldn't suffer much since Mohamed Harkat hasn't been financially supportive.

But how about trying to find a job if you have been labeled a terrorist or an alleged "sleeper agent?" Did CBSA try to answer that question? Perhaps Maher Arar, Abdullah Al Malki, Ahmed Al Maati, Muayed Nurredine and Benamar Benatta can help them by sharing their own disastrous employment experience.

Moreover, why should a relationship be strictly examined from this perspective? What happen to affection, to partnership, to companionship?

Furthermore, the report goes on and makes the astonishing inference that since Mohamed Harkat does not have any kids with Sophie, his deportation won't be as serious for the couple.

First of all, why do they meddle in these private matters? And second, since when was the number of children a couple has used as a criterion in avoiding the deportation of people overseas? Didn't we see cases where CBSA ordered the deportation of a mother despite the fact that her kids will stay in Canada?

This report is not and will not be represent the end of the ordeal for Mohamed Harkat. More legal challenges lie ahead. However, this report is another serious story to add to the long list of stories about the lack of accountability and oversight for CBSA.

Mohamed Harkat and his wife Sophie will continue to fight the injustice done to them in the name of national security. Meanwhile, CBSA needs to answer its actions to the Parliament of Canada and to all Canadians.

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