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Who will police the police?

by Archives March 31, 2009

Human Rights groups are demanding greater oversight of the RCMP and CSIS in order to stop innocent Canadians from “slipping through the cracks” of “sloppy work.”
Warren Allmand of the Ottawa-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group appeared before the House of Commons public safety committee last week urging government to implement recommendations it was given over two years ago. The recommendations came from the Royal Commission into the Maher Arar affair.
“The delay is unacceptable,” said Allmand. “What we have in place right now does nothing to protect Canadians.” Allmand was Canada’s Solicitor General, the cabinet minister responsible for the RCMP and federal prisons, under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. He is now a Montreal City Councillor, representing the Loyola district.
Justice Dennis O’Connor’s 2006 inquiry into the Maher Arar affair revealed the RCMP had shared false and misleading information with the FBI, which led to Arar – a Canadian citizen, being arrested and deported to Syria, where he was tortured.
O’Connor made 23 recommendations for improvements to prevent more cases like Arar’s. They ranged from updated, more culturally sensitive training procedures and greater transparency about the actions of the RCMP, to guidelines for sharing information with other countries and the creation of a centralized, independent oversight board which would keep the RCMP and CSIS in line.
The government has insisted that almost all of the recommendations have been implemented, but Allmand wants proof.
In October 2008, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group sent an e-mail to Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan asking him to outline exactly what the government has done to ensure the Arar affair is never repeated.
“He sent a general reply on March 9, 2009” Allmand said, “but there were no details. We want details.”
Allmand stressed the urgency of these details not only for the men accused of terrorism, but for all Canadians. “These are Canadian citizens. Would you like to be going on holiday and be arrested and tortured for a year?”
His group is calling for an independent review and oversight system with the power to subpoena information from the RCMP and the ability to conduct investigations into the methods used by the police and CSIS.
Allmand also highlighted the importance of cross-cultural training within the RCMP. He said some of the evidence leveled against the accused – who are all of Arab origin – showed the investigators didn’t understand the Muslim religion. “These men were branded as Islamic extremists . . . that’s just ignorant,” he said.
“A Muslim going to mosque on Friday gave rise to suspicion,” Allmand said, “but that shouldn’t be seen as any more suspicious than a Christian going to church or a Jew going to Synagogue.”
Allmand, said it is up to the public and the media to demand answers. “O’Connor spent three years and millions of tax dollars . . . people need to start asking why the government isn’t acting on this.”
The RCMP Headquarters, in Ottawa, did not return phone calls by press time.

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