Thursday, April 9, 2015

Join Ten Hours Against Terrorism, a Nonviolent Protest at CANSEC15 (aka Torturefest15/Terrorfest15), Canada’s largest weapons fair and host to some of the world’s worst human rights violators and torturers


"I will kill everything in sight, every single time." CANSEC exhibitor

Join Ten Hours Against Terrorism, a Nonviolent Protest at CANSEC15 (aka Torturefest15/Terrorfest15), Canada’s largest weapons fair and host to some of the world’s worst human rights violators and torturers (Background on visitors and companies below)

Wednesday, May 27, 8 am to 6 pm (come for some or all of the day if you can)

EY Centre, 4899 Uplands Dr., Ottawa 

(if you cannot make it to Ottawa, consider organizing a vigil at your local weapons manufacturers—there’s hundreds of them across Canada, and we can help you locate the one nearest you)

PROTESTING CANSEC: WHAT IT WILL LOOK LIKE

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.  The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.” Arundhati Roy

May 27 will be a day-long witness against terrorism, war, torture, and the human rights violations that arise from such conspiracies as CANSEC15.

We will be organizing transportation to and from the site, so consider how long you can stay: a few hours, half a day, or perhaps the whole day. (With that in mind, pack a lunch, bring snacks and water)

We will be hanging lots of banners on the fences. Consider making some artwork that is representative of resistance to war.

We will read aloud the reports of human rights groups, the testimonies of the disappeared and detained,  the stories of survivors who have lived in terror under the bombs that come from Canada. We will nonviolently, lovingly lay siege to CANSEC15 by, as Arundhati Roy suggests, telling our own stories and refusing to buy the myths of militarism and CANSEC’s glorification of terrorism and barbaric cultural practices. We will build a large graveyard to commemorate victims of CANSEC’s exhibitors, guests, and hosts. We will sing. We will speak our truth. At the same time, we will refuse to engage in any acts of violence, whether physical or verbal, and will not seek to humiliate CANSEC15 attendees or those hired hands patrolling the vicinity.

 GETTING INVOLVED

1.     1. Coming from out of town? Let us know if you need billeting.

2.      Can you provide transportation to help people get to the EY Centre (next to Ottawa airport)? Can you put up out-of-town visitors in your Ottawa home? Can you help provide food and water on the day of the event? Contact tasc@web.ca or call 613-267-3998

3.      Can you donate to help us meet our costs? Cheques can be made out to Homes not Bombs and mailed to PO Box 2121, 57 Foster Street, Perth, ON K7H 1R0

4.     Can’t make it? Send us a poem, an essay, something that you want shared at our day-long speakers’ platform. Let us know if you would be able to organize a vigil in your community art a weapons manufacturer, a federal office, etc.


5. Consider endorsing our event.

More information: Homes not Bombs, tasc@web.ca, 613-267-3998, http://homesnotbombs.blogspot.ca/


BACKGROUND

“When you are engaged in activities that explicitly promote or advocate terrorism, that is a serious criminal offence no matter who you are." PM Stephen Harper



"I will kill everything in sight, every single time, that’s what F-22 and 10 years of it’s employment has taught us." CANSEC exhibitor Lockheed Martin

(see a video on CANSEC at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-Fi2lFeSCs )



“Children are being routinely detained, ill-treated and tortured in Bahrain.” Amnesty International report on Bahrain, an honoured CANSEC guest.



“I thought they were killing Said, and that I was next. I could hear beating and shouting. I didn’t want to die afraid; I wanted to be strong, honourable. I prayed and thought of my parents. I will never forget the sound of the sticks hitting him.” Basimah Al-Rajhi, human rights lawyer, on being detained in Oman, one of CANSEC’s honoured guests.



The weapons sold at CANSEC, when used properly, are tools of terrorism as categorized under Canada's own laws, given that they are designed to cause " (A) death or serious bodily harm to a person by the use of  violence, (B) endangers a person’s life, (C) causes a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or any segment of the public, (D) causes substantial property damage, whether to public or private property, if causing such damage is likely to result in the conduct or harm referred to in any of clauses (A) to (C), or (E) causes serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system, whether public or private."



THE BLOODSTAINED GUESTLIST

CANSEC hosted 31 international delegations last year in cooperation with the Canadian Commercial Corporation, with the beheading capital of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, heading the list. Other regular violators of human rights who are officially touted as 2015 guests include Bahrain (according to Amnesty International, “Children are being routinely detained, ill-treated and tortured in Bahrain.”), Kuwait (repression of women, torture), Israel (well documented by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, as well as war crimes documented by Amnesty International), Mexico (the use of torture has grown by 600% in the last decade), Oman (Human Rights Watch reports “rights routinely trampled” and where “Torture has become the state’s knee jerk response to political expression.”), United Arab Emirates (where torture is commonplace with as many as 75% of detainees experiencing abuse), United Kingdom (intensely complicit in the rendition to torture program) and United States (U.S. Senate report on “ruthless” brutality). Saudi Arabia is not yet officially listed as a guest in 2015 but as the largest purchaser of Canadian weapons, they are sure to be in attendance.   As host country, Canada is also complicit in the torture of its own citizens (as established by two separate judicial inquiries as well as Supreme Court and Federal Court decisions) as well as deportation to torture.



EXHIBITORS


A who’s who of the world largest weapons manufacturers (what used to be more properly called “death merchants”) will be selling their wares, as well as smaller companies who provide key components for weapons systems. What they are selling can properly be called tools of terrorism, for their use is intended to make political points, to create fear, and to coerce governments and societies. Also on display will be the tools used by increasingly militarized police forces.



WAR IS TERRORISM


Under Canadian anti-terrorism law, anything that would normally constitute a terrorist act is exempted if it is committed by a member of the armed forces under the “laws” of war.



Below, Kuwaiti military officials attending CANSEC weapons bazaar test out the latest in repression before heading home where, according to Amnesty international, "The authorities increased restrictions on freedoms of assembly and  expression, including by prosecuting some social media users. Riot police used excessive force, tear gas and stun grenades against peaceful demonstrations by government opponents."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Join the Chain Fast Against Canadian Government Racism

 
(photo from Witness Against Torture's 2014 Fast for Justice)


How it works:

You can fast as per your tradition (some people refrain from eating sun-up to sun-down, others do it for 24 hours. Some people will drink water or other fluids, others not). You sign up for a day (or more) by emailing tasc@web.ca with suggested dates, which will be publicly posted at the Homes not Bombs blog site (http://homesnotbombs.blogspot.ca/2015/04/join-chain-fast-against-canadian.html). The key thing is to do this publicly: while the roots of racism are deep in our culture, they receive a huge boost when the racist messages comes from on high.

TEXT
I am joining the Chain Fast To End Canadian Government Racism
because:

Members of the Harper government are contributing in word and deed to an increased climate of racist tension with comments that equate Islam with violence and abuse the term jihad. Such comments include telling Muslim women to "stay the hell where they came from", declaring that Muslims are connected to a "culture that is anti-women," and tweets like " Niqab, hejab, burqa, wedding veil -- face coverings have no place in cit oath-taking." This is part of a broader attack on racialized communities, including the comment that it makes no sense to pay "whities" to stay home while companies bring in "brown people" as temporary foreign workers, and an incendiary Conservative-sponsored petition insulting First Nations governments.

The Harper government is rushing through legislation (C-51) that will likely increase the targetting, surveillance, harassment, and potential detention and torture of members of Canada's Muslim communities, while also criminalizing/terrorizing First Nations, Inuit and Métis, as well as all racialized communities.

The Harper government has repeatedly refused to answer calls for an inquiry into the over 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women, and done nothing to address the shockingly high rates of suicide in aboriginal communities, nor to end the hundreds of devastating boil water alerts in First Nations communities, some lasting for well over a decade. Instead, this government has targeted First Nations leaders and treated them as security threats.

The Harper government is refusing to act on a motion passed by a majority of the House of Commons in December, 2009, to apologize to, provide compensation for, and clear the names of three Muslim Canadian men – Abdullah Almalki, Ahmed El-Maati, and Muayyed Nureddin – who were found to have been falsely labelled as security threats and tortured with Canadian complicity. All cases were motivated in part by racist/religious profiling.

The Harper government has refused to apologize to, provide compensation for, and clear the name of Canadian Muslim Abousfian Abdelrazik, in whose overseas torture the Canadian government was found to be complicit by  a Canadian court.

The Harper government has continued to demonize and block any efforts seeking justice for detained Canadian Muslim Omar Khadr, who was tortured with Canadian complicity at Bagram Air Force Base (Afghanistan) and the U.S. torture camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and remains behind bars in Alberta based on a fundamentally flawed process.

The Harper government continues pursuing secret trial security certificates against a number of Muslim men (all of which were signed by previous Liberal governments).

The Harper government plays a racist double standard when it refuses to categorize the actions of white supremacists and gun fanatics (such as the targetted murders of RCMP officers in Alberta and New Brunswick and the planned Valentine's Day masscare in a Halifax mall) as terrorist threats, preferring to dismiss them with terms such as "murderous misfits".

Canada's state security agencies (RCMP and CSIS) are pressuring and threatening young Canadian Muslims to spy on their communities and self-censor opinions on social injustice, while those same agencies continue treating First Nations as surveillance targets because of the false connection to  "threats to national security and criminal extremism or terrorism".

The Harper government has falsely, slanderously accused the reputable National Council of Canadian Muslims as connected to terrorism, with one MP openly attacking the group's executive director at a recent Parliamentary hearing.

Recognizing that the latest attacks are part of a long, unfortunate Canadian tradition of provoking fear and hatred by targetting specific groups and spreading racist lies, we believe standing up and speaking out is an obligation.  

Beginning April 15 and lasting until the beginning of Ramadan, June 18, 2015, we pledge to join the chain fast for one full day (or more throughout the time period), explaining to friends, colleagues, and neighbours, as well as local media, why we have undertaken this fast, and educating our fellow residents about the need to reject the dangerous discourse of racism infecting public life and emanating from the highest levels of the Canadian government.

The day after our fasting, as the chain fast passes on to a new member, we will continue to raise these issues in our communities and refuse to stay silent.

Signed

TO JOIN: Email tasc@web.ca with your name, city, and dates you would like to fast

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Chain Fast Participants

Thursday, April 16: Michele Schmidt, Toronto, Sadia Jama, Kingston, ON
Friday, April 17: David Heap, London, ON, Tenzin Tharchen, Owen Sound, ON
Saturday, April 18: Tanya M. Gulliver-Garcia, Toronto
Sunday, April 19: Matthew Behrens, Perth, ON
Monday, April 20: Gary Connolly, Brampton, ON, Sadia Jama, , Kingston, ON
Tuesday, April 21: Sue Breeze, Barrière, BC, Jamie Page, Toronto, ON
Wednesday, April 22: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON
Thursday, April 23: Michele Schmidt, Toronto, Sadia Jama, Kingston, ON
Friday, April 24: Mary Cowper-Smith, Charlottetown, PEI, Judy Deutsch, Toronto, ON, Helga Mankovitz, Kingston, ON
Saturday, April 25: James Campbell, Toronto, ON
Sunday, April 26: Genevieve Gallant, Ottawa, Ontario
Monday, April 27: Gary Connolly, Brampton, ON, Ria Heynen, Ottawa, ON, Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON, Jamie Page, Regina, SK
Tuesday, April 28: Louise Slobodian, Kingston, ON, Nino Pagliccia, Vancouver, BC, Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON
Wednesday, April 29: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON, Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON
Thursday, April 30: Michele Schmidt, Toronto, Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON
Friday, May 1: Donna Loft and Ed File, Priceville, ON, Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON
Saturday, May 2: Nino Pagliccia, Vancouver, BC, Angelina Martz, Saint John, NB, Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON
Sunday, May 3: Jozef Konyari, Toronto, ON, Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON, Jamie Page, Regina, SK
Monday, May 4: Gary Connolly, Brampton, ON, Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON
Tuesday, May 5: Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON
Wednesday, May 6: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON, Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON
Thursday, May 7: Michele Schmidt, Toronto, Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON
Friday, May 8: Genevieve Gallant, Ottawa, ON, Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON
Saturday, May 9: Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON, Jamie Page, Regina, SK
Sunday, May 10: Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON
Monday, May 11: Gary Connolly, Brampton, ON, Deka Omar, Ottawa, ON
Tuesday, May 12:
Wednesday, May 13: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON
Thursday, May 14: Michele Schmidt, Toronto
Friday, May 15: Jamie Page, Regina, SK
Saturday, May 16:
Sunday, May 17:
Monday, May 18: Gary Connolly, Brampton, ON
Tuesday, May 19:
Wednesday, May 20: Jamie Page, Regina, SK, Helga Mankovitz, Kingston, ON
Thursday, May 21: Michele Schmidt, Toronto
Friday, May 22: Jennifer Deguire, Grimsby, ON
Saturday, May 23:
Sunday, May 24:
Monday, May 25: Gary Connolly, Brampton, ON
Tuesday, May 26: Jamie Page, Regina, SK
Wednesday, May 27: James Campbell, Toronto, ON
Thursday, May 28: Michele Schmidt, Toronto
Friday, May 29:
Saturday, May 30:
Sunday, May 31: Marie Lloyd, Kingston, ON
Monday, June 1: Gary Connolly, Brampton, ON
Tuesday, June 2: Jamie Page, Regina, SK
Wednesday, June 3:
Thursday, June 4: Michele Schmidt, Toronto
Friday, June 5:
Saturday, June 6:
Sunday, June 7: Jamie Page, Regina, SK
Monday, June 8: Gary Connolly, Brampton, ON
Tuesday, June 9:
Wednesday, June 10:
Thursday, June 11: Michele Schmidt, Toronto
Friday, June 12:
Saturday, June 13:
Sunday, June 14: Jozef Konyari, Toronto, ON
Monday, June 15: Gary Connolly, Brampton, ON
Tuesday, June 16: Jamie Page, Regina, SK, Barb Campbell, Ottawa, ON
Wednesday, June 17:
Thursday, June 18: Michele Schmidt, Toronto















































Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Guantanamo Diary Reveals Canadian Complicity in Torture


(April CCPA Monitor)
By Matthew Behrens
            Following December’s release of the U.S. Senate report on American complicity in torture, Prime Minister Stephen Harper quickly declared, “It has nothing to do whatsoever with the government of Canada.” Despite the CIA’s close relationship with Canadian state security agencies – as well as two judicial inquiries finding Ottawa complicit in the torture of Canadian citizens in Syria and Egypt – Harper preferred to ignore the facts.
            At the same time, a stunning memoir was published that paints another damning portrait of Canadian authorities from even before 9/11. Guantanamo Diary – originally composed by hand in 2005 from a cell at the infamous U.S. torture camp that remains open despite President Obama’s promise to close it 8 years ago – is the remarkable story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian national who remains detained there despite a 2010 U.S. release order.

            Learning English by listening to his kidnappers and torturers, Slahi elegantly relates a tale of human resilience under the most appalling conditions. Filled with wisdom, humour, and heartbreaking moments of despair produced by unending months of round-the-clock torture, the memoir was classified secret, becoming the subject of a six-year legal battle for its release. It contains countless redactions from single words to whole pages, but in a remarkable comment on the cultural shift that has come to accept torture as reasonable and inevitable, most of the sections detailing his brutalization appear intact.
Slahi’s troubles began in Montreal in 2000, where, after 12 years in Germany, he lived as a Canadian permanent resident for just over two months. At the time, he was subject to an RCMP/CSIS “disruption” campaign of harassment: two cameras were implanted in the wall of his Montreal room, and he was followed in an obvious manner “to give the message that we are watching you.” Slahi’s very first interrogation was at the hands of the RCMP, and “I was scared to hell” as he was questioned about a fellow Montrealer he’d never met: Ahmed Ressam, who was eventually convicted in the U.S. for a “Millennium Plot” to bomb the Los Angeles Airport.
Flying home to Mauritania, Slahi was intercepted and twice detained at the behest of U.S. officials, first in Senegal and then Mauritania, repeatedly interrogated about alleged involvement in the Millennium Plot. Released in February, 2000, Slahi was again arrested in September 2001, questioned, cleared, and released. In one 2000 Mauritanian interrogation, Slahi recalled that things seemed to be going smoothly, “but when they opened the Canadian file, things soured decidedly.” Significantly, this illustrates how Canadian state agencies were participating in the U.S.-led rendition-to-torture program at least 20 months before 9/11, which contradicts CSIS and RCMP claims that similar human rights violations they committed in 2002 and 2003 were mistakes resulting from confusion and fear after 9/11, as opposed to a Standard Operating Procedure that was clearly employed against Slahi.
            Indeed, readers familiar with Canadian human rights abuses against Arab Muslims will recognize in Slahi’s memoir a similar pattern that reveals the dangers of “information sharing,” “intelligence” data dumps that are full of inflammatory and false allegations, “cooperation” with secret police, and using the fruits of torture.
            Slahi’s decision to voluntarily show up for another round of Mauritanian police questioning in November 2001 led to his self-described rendition world tour: Jordan, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the human hellhole reserved for “the worst of the worst” which, by the time Slahi arrived in 2002, was found by an LA Times investigation to detain “no big fish,” but instead hundreds of innocents who had been turned in by Afghan bounty hunters seeking rewards from Americans who paid good money and never confirmed the truthfulness of the hunters’ allegations. Indeed, as Associated Press reported in 2013, there were ongoing efforts between 2002 and 2005 to recruit Gitmo detainees as spies and double agents. Slahi himself describes a facility where intelligence agents came from around the world – including Canada – to interrogate their “nationals” or refugees who had escaped their clutches.
The basis for Slahi’s detention appears to be two-fold: in U.S. eyes, he fit the profile of an alleged threat because be fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1991-92 with a little-known, U.S.-funded group called Al Qaeda. Although Slahi left in 1992, a distant cousin, Abu Hafs, became a member of the group’s shura council; opposing the 9/11 attacks, Abu Hafs served some time under Iranian house arrest, and is now a free man.
With those two links providing no traction, it appears that the sole basis for his detention is the alleged Millennium plot connection, even though the plot’s singular member, Ahmed Ressam, never implicated Slahi when he freely cooperated with U.S. authorities (and later recanted about those he did try to implicate). Canadian security agencies notoriously lost track of Ressam, who was only caught because of an attentive U.S. border guard.
 “Canadian intelligence wishes I were a criminal, so they could make up for their failure when [NAME REDACTED, but clearly Ressam] slipped from their country to the U.S. carrying explosives,” Slahi writes. “The U.S. blamed Canada for being a preparation ground for terrorist attacks against the U.S., and that’s why Canadians Intels freaked out. They really lost their composure, trying everything to calm the rage of their big brother, the U.S. They began watching the people they believed to be bad, including me.”
            As in most cases of Canadian targeting and profiling over the past two decades, Slahi is the victim of alleged guilt by association, no matter how many degrees of separation. Like Ottawa’s Maher Arar, who was the subject of a massive data dump of inflammatory falsehoods that, shared with the Americans, led to Arar’s being branded a threat and a target for Syrian torture, Slahi writes: “I stayed less than two months in Canada, and yet the Americans claimed that the Canadians provided tons of information. The Canadians don’t even know me!” Notably, the Germans provided nothing for Slahi’s interrogations.
“All the Canadians could come up with was, ‘We have seen him with x and y, and they’re bad people.’ ‘We’ve seen him in this and that mosque.’ ‘We have intercepted his telephone conversations, but there’s nothing really.’ The Americans asked the Canadians to provide them the transcripts of my conversations, but after they edited them.” Without providing the full conversations – which Slahi believes Canada should have refused anyhow – there is no opportunity to provide context, and so the Americans fixated on what they believed were two code words in his phone calls: tea and sugar.
            One interrogator tells Slahi “your only problem is your time in Canada. If you really haven’t done anything in Canada, you don’t belong in jail.”  He is also interrogated by one of the men who interrogated Canadian teenager Omar Khadr after the youngster had been “softened up” by weeks of torture.
            The Canadian Slahi file must be bulging with references to Canadians who may have unwittingly suffered surveillance, interrogation, and detention. To cite one of many possible examples – he describes writing out over 1,000 pages of false confessions to try and end the torture at Gitmo – Slahi agreed that he planned to blow up Toronto’s CN Tower, even though he had no clue what it was. Did this “confession” lead to RCMP/CSIS targeting of Canadian Kassim Mohamed after this father of five took photos of the landmark to share with his children, then living in Egypt? That targeting certainly caused Mohamed’s harrowing two-week detention in Egyptian custody during a 2004 family visit.
 How many other people in Canada had cases built around such tortured “confessions? Slahi continues, “Whenever they asked me about somebody in Canada I had some incriminating information about that person even if I didn’t know him,” noting that use of the phrases “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” only invited more torture. Threatened with being disappeared forever, he “took the pen and paper and wrote all kinds of incriminating lies about a poor person who was just seeking refuge in Canada and trying to make some money so he could start a family. Moreover, he is handicapped.” He feels horrible, taking solace that “I didn’t hurt anybody as much as I did myself [and] that I had no choice [and] I was confident that injustice will be defeated.”
            The torturous act of “confession” about things and people he knows nothing about was the culmination of endless rounds of sleep deprivation, sexual assault, beatings, immersion in severe cold, humiliation, degradation, and a starvation diet. The psychological war – informing Slahi his mother is detained at Gitmo and likely to be violated in the all-male environment – is all-pervasive, but throughout, he maintains a combination of defiance (refusing to speak or throwing snarky replies at his interrogators) and spirituality, even though he is forbidden to pray and punished when he tries to do so.  “I hate torture so much,” he writes, adding waiting for torture is worse than torture itself.
            Remarkably, Slahi maintains a sense of ironic humour, comparing his huge number of interrogations to the list of women Charlie Sheen has dated, and likening the repetitive nature of interrogation to the Hollywood film Groundhog Day. He develops relationships with his guards, debating religion and popular culture; one guard cries shamefully when he leaves Guantanamo, believing that he will go to hell because he prevented Slahi from praying. Others have Slahi fix their VCRs and PCs. Slahi’s ocean of tears is one day interrupted with paroxysms of laughter when he reads what he declares “such a funny book”: The Catcher in the Rye.
            Over 6 years, Slahi estimates 100 different interrogators, including Canadian agents, had a go at him. “You know that I know that you know that I have done  nothing,” he tells one American. “You’re holding me because your country is strong enough to be unjust. And it’s not the first time you have kidnapped Africans and enslaved them.”
Is Slahi still at Gitmo 13 years after because Canadian intelligence agencies don’t want him released? Could holding him be quid pro quo for Canada accepting Omar Khadr and taking that PR nightmare off American hands? Unfortunately, Slahi’s attempt to secure disclosure of his RCMP/CSIS files, as well as notes from Canada’s Gitmo interrogations, was turned down by a Canadian Federal Court judge, who ruled the Charter of Rights and Freedoms did not extend to him, even though it was two months in  Canada that led to Slahi’s nightmare. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear Slahi’s subsequent appeal to find out what Canada actually has on him, if anything.
Canadians wondering what the future will look like with passage of new anti-terrorism legislation, C-51, have another frightening roadmap with Slahi’s must-read memoir.
  

FINTRAC’s Invasive “Financial War Against Terror”

(from the April, 2015 CCPA Monitor, https://www.policyalternatives.ca/monitor/index.php)

By Matthew Behrens

     A recent run-of-the-mill telemarketing call from one of Canada’s largest credit companies took on a threatening tone. Who knew that owning a credit card whose purchases produced redeemable points for free groceries also entailed an insidious tradeoff that invaded our privacy and left a chilling aftertaste?

Informed that failure to answer certain questions would result in forfeiture of the card, I resigned myself to ten minutes of wasted time and, following the usual gobbledygook about disclosure, was asked if anyone in my immediate and extended family had ever “held one of the following offices or positions in or on behalf of a foreign country: a head of state or government; a member of the executive council of government or member of a legislature; a deputy minister (or equivalent); an ambassador or an ambassador's attaché or counsellor; a military general (or higher rank); a president of a state-owned company or bank; a head of a government agency; a judge; or a leader or president of a political party in a legislature.”

The question was chilling, for though I could honestly answer no, whose business was it to ask? It concerned me that immigrants might be flagged if they answered affirmatively, and perhaps asked further questions about their relationship to, for example, overseas political parties that the Canadian government deemed unsavoury.

Recovering my composure, I asked to speak with a supervisor, who informed me that “like any financial institution in Canada we are required by law to collect this information,” and that the answers would have no effect on my credit rating. If that were the case, I pressed, why were they asking these personal questions, and with whom were they sharing the answers?

Interrogation by Proxy

The answer was eerie: the company needed to determine, on behalf of the federal government, whether I or any family member would be what’s known as a “politically exposed foreign person.”  But how did they determine who of their 1.5 million cardholders to call? The Canadian government, the supervisor explained (in the same tone he’d adopt if he were going over car giveaway contest rules), provides the company a list of cardholders to question.

“They tell us, ‘We need you people to read these cardholders this legal disclosure, get a clear yes or no at the end of it, and tell us once you’ve had it updated.’ We make a note on the account that it has been done. We pull the information and send it to the government.”

When I asked to see the company’s policy with respect to any mandate to undertake investigative work on behalf of the government, I was told, “Anything about our internal policy for generating accounts that we will ask questions along those lines is internal policy and unfortunately nobody’s going to be able to disclose that information to you.”

The supervisor asked if there was “anything else we can do for you today,” but I hung up the phone.  An internet search employing language from my questioning led me to the source of this disturbing call: the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA), a measure passed in 2000 by the Chretien Liberals that created the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC), a “financial intelligence” unit that sounded about as threatening as an actuarial table.

Since FINTRAC’s mission is “detection and deterrence of money laundering and terrorist financing,” it appeared that the calls my credit card company was making played into the tiresome trope that terrorism is imported with immigrants to Canada. Nevertheless, since June 2008, according to the FINTRAC website, “financial entities, securities dealers, money services businesses and life insurance companies, brokers and agents have to determine if their clients are politically exposed foreign persons.”

Every Institution a Fink

         While the suite of “anti-terror” measures introduced in 2001 drew far more attention with the understandably frightening prospect of preventative detention and secret investigatory hearings, FINTRAC’s mandate and practice quietly touch just about every resident of the country. As of March 2012, FINTRAC’s databases were home to some 165 million reports containing Canadians’ personal information. According to Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, “These reports might include transactions such as, but not limited to, down payments for house and vehicle purchases, wire transfers received by international students residing in Canada, or funds sent by parents in Canada to children who are studying abroad.”

FINTRAC’s enabling legislation requires some 300,000 entities – everything from casinos, accountants and banks to life insurance companies, real estate firms and dealers in precious metals and stones – to collect and hold personal client information that is transmitted to FINTRAC, often without the knowledge or consent of the individual. In 2006, amendments to the act enabled FINTRAC to share even more such personal information with law enforcement, security agencies, the Canada Revenue Agency, and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). The Senate Standing Committee on National Security heard last December that FINTRAC made 1,143 disclosures to law enforcement agencies in 2013‑14, a 25% increase over the previous reporting year. Of those, 234 were allegedly connected to terrorist financing.

Reporting the transfer of large amounts of money – any cross-border movement equal to or greater than $10,000 must be reported to FINTRAC – is likely to ensnare a great majority of people with perfectly legitimate reasons who nonetheless will risk the stain of suspicion. For example, a group of Canadian Muslims attending the Mecca pilgrimage may have entrusted such amounts of cash to their group leader, whose name will be duly reported from the airport before departure. When that information is shared with other government agencies, will it lead to future airport shakedowns either at home or in an overseas point of entry?

It would appear, however, that no amount of money is too small to trigger what is known as a “suspicious transaction report (STR),” the measure by which a bank or real estate agent, in playing the role of community cop, lets FINTRAC know something may be amiss. In her 2013 audit of FINTRAC, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart found numerous STRs “where there were no reasonable grounds to suspect money laundering or terrorist financing activities.” One young professional who purchased three bank drafts worth $100,000 was reported because “the amount of money simply did not match his age” while a shopkeeper who deposited into a bank account a grand total of $570 in 100, 50, 20 and 10 dollar bills was similarly reported, though with no explanation.

Confusion over financial regulations and unclear reporting requirements have led some entities to over-report in an abundance of caution. One lawyer felt compelled to turn in his long-time client because he was unsure whether or not to report a home purchase in which the deposit was released directly to the seller instead of the seller’s lawyer.

Two federal inquiries (O’Connor, Iacobucci) that critiqued the creation and subsequent sharing of inaccurate and inflammatory information – which led to the overseas detention and torture of four Canadian citizens – are potent reminders of how the free flow of personal information has dire consequences.

False Labelling in Databases

 Stoddart’s 2009 privacy audit of FINTRAC found exactly those kinds of inflammatory allegations in the agency’s Terrorist Property Reports (TPRs), which allege certain properties in or outside Canada are owned or controlled by terrorists. Almost 50% of those reports had been filed on the basis of a “possible match” to terrorist listings. Disturbingly, “Where identity could not be confirmed, FINTRAC did not pursue further analysis; however, the information remained in FINTRAC’s database. The practice, by default, was to retain these reports regardless of whether or not there was knowledge, belief, or suspicion of terrorist affiliation.” In other words, a Muslim cleric who runs a rural summer camp – anonymously reported but never confirmed as a terrorist property – stays in a database that is shared with CBSA, CSIS, and the RCMP, with utterly predictable consequences for that individual as well as anyone who regularly attends his mosque.

The presumption of guilt and a desire to play spy games that underlies so much of state security appears to be affecting decision-making at FINTRAC as well. The Privacy Commissioner found one such instance of this trend when FINTRAC encouraged a financial institution – unsure what to submit regarding a large cash transaction – to send along whatever it felt, even if it was excessive. “FINTRAC acknowledged that although the data in question was information that technically should not be included and would certainly cause problems in regards to privacy, it may be of added value to have additional information on the transaction for intelligence or analytical purposes,” Stoddart wrote. She noted her concern that “a reporting entity could interpret the message conveyed by FINTRAC in the above example as applying to other types of reports and information.” Thus, the compelling-sounding rationale of “intelligence” and “analysis” becomes a one-size-fits-all justification for increased collection and sharing of personal information.

            FINTRAC continues to hold extraneous personal information, including Social Insurance Numbers, health card and related medical information, as well as an unknown number of STRs that did not meet the $10,000 threshold. FINTRAC’s practice of collecting and retaining such information, the Privacy Commissioner found in 2013, presents “a significant risk to privacy by making accessible information which should never have been obtained.” This latest finding follows on a 2009 call to destroy extraneous FINTRAC holdings, but the agency replied at the time that it did not have the technological capacity to do so. Since then, they have politely refused altogether, instead developing a separate database - allegedly inaccessible to their analysts - that will store the information that is supposed to be deleted.

            FINTRAC’s self-image of brave number-crunchers playing their part in a world at war is based on the untested assumption that money is a key driver in terrorism plots. As Tufts University International Business Professor Ibrahim Warde points out in The Price of Fear: The Truth Behind the Financial War on Terror, in a culture that refuses to explore the social and political roots of non-state terrorism, money becomes a default “cause,” even though relatively little is required to conduct a terrorist attack, “and such amounts can easily bypass the formal banking system.” Given the elastic definition of terror and the need to produce convictions, minor financial irregularities or petty crime are easily elevated to “terrorist financing” cases, a finding underscored by the 9/11 Commission. Indeed, as author Jonathan Randal points out, the “war against terrorist finances” has “nabbed few bad guys, ruined many innocents, frozen little hot money, and vastly complicated worldwide banking for the greater glory of a burgeoning American bureaucracy.”

Major Privacy Concerns

As the collection, retention, and sharing of personal information is set to escalate even further with the Harper government’s new anti-terrorism legislation (C-51), a January, 2015 survey found 90% of Canadians had privacy concerns, with 73% saying they feel they have less protection of their personal information in their daily lives. While transparency in the digital age is limited to non-existent (a March 2014 report from University of Toronto researchers found Canadian internet service providers scored an average 1.5 out of 10 on issues like warrantless provision of information to government authorities, with millions of such requests granted annually to state security agencies), most Canadians are caught in a conundrum that arises out of financial arrangements we all make to survive in a cruel economy.

Indeed, the fine print of my lengthy, previously unread credit card agreement informs me that my “personal information may also be stored, accessed, or used outside of Canada [where it would be] subject to the laws of that jurisdiction.” In other words, if the information is sitting on a U.S. server or has been shared with the FBI, it then is subject to provisions of the U.S. Patriot Act, under whose mandate a personal credit card donation to an overseas relief agency in a troubled country could cause someone problems crossing the U.S. border.

Meantime, like their brethren in the more clearly identified state security world (i.e., CSIS and the RCMP), FINTRAC seems rather insouciant about its appearance of lawlessness. As the Ottawa Citizen reported in March 2014, “Canada’s anti-money laundering agency believes it can legally collect and keep personal information such as social insurance numbers, despite the objections of the federal privacy commissioner.”  Embassy magazine also reported in February, 2015 that FINTRAC is now encouraging "financial institutions to go as far as analyzing their clients’ public social media activity when investigating suspicious transactions."

While I still do not know why I was flagged by FINTRAC (was it for being outspoken on issues of national security or signing a petition condemning the TD Bank’s closing of bank accounts for customers suspected of Iranian heritage?), it is reasonable to expect that those annoying dinner-hour telemarketing phone calls are sure to get a lot more interesting.






FINTRAC Fast Facts

What: Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (Canada's “financial intelligence” unit)

When: Founded in 2000 under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act

Why: “to facilitate the detection, prevention and deterrence of money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities, while ensuring the protection of personal information under our control.”

2013/14 budget: $51,704,183

Employees: 343

Entities reporting to FINTRAC: 300,000+

Files held on Canadians: 165 million+

Concerns: Privacy Commissioner notes concern with “collection of data where there was no demonstrated need to collect and retain it,” refusal to delete personal, private information in FINTRAC databases that exceeds its mandate, “security procedures not always followed,” “inconsistent data minimization practices”, “quality control lacks privacy component,” “additional work is required to ensure consent is meaningful,” and 50% of recommendations made during a 2009 audit were still not satisfactorily implemented in 2013. Embassy magazine reported in February, 2015 that FINTRAC is now encouraging "financial institutions to go as far as analyzing their clients’ public social media activity when investigating suspicious transactions."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Just Say “No” to Canada's Expanding War in Iraq and Syria

Just Say “No” to Canada's Expanding War in Iraq and Syria

Call for an End to Conservatives’ Racism and Fear-Mongering

Monday, March 23, 12 Noon, Parliament Hill, Ottawa

(What you can do if you are NOT in Ottawa is detailed below)


Join us for a nonviolent noon-hour vigil to say:

a.    NO to expanding the Harper government's war

b.    NO to the racist, hateful atmosphere the Harper government has been stoking at home by attacking Muslims and First Nations, among others.

c.     NO to the repressive new Bill C-51, which criminalizes large groups of people across the country, authorizes torture, preventive detention, and other repressive measures.




BACKGROUND


While Stephen Harper is pushing through remarkably repressive legislation, C-51, by fearmongering and stoking the flames of racism, he is also planning to extend and expand Canada's military involvement in Iraq and, possibly, Syria.

The last thing the region needs is more weapons, bombings, and violence. It was the massive influx of American, Canadian, and UK weaponry during the illegal occupation of Iraq that provided the weaponry for ISIS in the first place. It was the torture centres run by occupation forces that gave birth to much of the leadership of ISIS. It has been almost three decades of near constant warfare against the Iraqi people (sanctions that killed 1.5 million people, U.S.-led wars that have killed equal if not greater numbers) that have produced the current impasse.

 Harper's proposal will only further inflame the violence in the region when what is truly needed is massive support for the millions of refugees the conflicts have produced (9 million Syrian refugees alone), measures to strengthen nonviolent resistance both to ISIS and the Assad regime, and a pullout of interfering "western" forces that are responsible for millions of lives lost over the past 25 years in the region.



Canada and Syria: Partners in Torture, and Now in War?

Any attacks in Syria would have to be coordinated with and approved by the vicious Assad regime which, until recently, the Harper government was condemning as oppressive, with former Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird  referring to "The Assad regime’s campaign of terror" and saying Assad must go. (Canada has nonetheless been allied with the brutal torture regime in Syria, which acted as a proxy torturer for Canadian intelligence agencies, as confirmed by two judicial inquiries).

Meanwhile, the Harper government continues to support the leading beheading regime on the planet, Saudi Arabia (a strong ISIS supporter), with a $15 billion military contract.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the war already, and still we do not know exact figures, as homeless people freeze to death on Canadian streets, over 100 First Nations communities remain on boil water alerts, and veterans of past wars continue struggling for benefits they deserve for catastrophic physical and mental health injuries.

Women-led initiatives have in some instances nonviolently resisted ISIS and Assad, nonviolent voices are calling out for support (see also “What would Jesus Do”), and billions in bombs will only damage their on-the-ground efforts.

Needless to say, the bombing campaign has not, nor will it, stop ISIS. As The Guardian reported in January, 2015, "the absence of a political process...is driving Sunni communities to consider allying with Isis...especially around Baghdad. Iraq's vice-president for reconciliation, Iyad Allawi, said lack of a political process between the dominant Shias and disenfranchised Sunnis was a 'grave mistake' that mean air attacks achieve little." Indeed, the massive sectarian violence around Baghdad is forcing some to consider joining Isis. Allawi says the last thing the region needs is more weapons; instead, he says, jobs, a stable economy, and ensuring equal rights and protections would go a long way to stabilization.

Indeed, over the past 15 years, some 5 trillion dollars have been wasted globally on illegal wars, endless terrorist drone strikes authorized by Obama, and domestic repression, making the world an even more dangerous place. Dropping more bombs and hiking up racist rhetoric only threatens to add to the huge list of human rights violations and misery oin a mass scale.

Harper’s Fallacies and C-51

The Harper rationale of "fighting them overseas so we don’t have to fight them at home" is fallacious. If the Harper government wants to end terrorist plots, it needs to stop organizing them (all current plots in the courts are in large measure instigated or managed by RCMP/ CSIS/ FBI informants). The Harper government refuses to deny the involvement of an agent working for Canada who has recruited and facilitated the travel of a dozen young people to join ISIS.

Meanwhile, Harper is ramming through the dangerous C-51, which authorizes torture, mass surveillance, racist profiling, and other forms of repression. He and his caucus members have fanned the flames of hatred by attacking Muslims, with one Conservative MP telling Muslim women to  “stay the hell where they came from.”

GET INVOLVED

Homes not Bombs welcomes you to join us for this noon-hour vigil to call for an end to Canadian involvement in the war and to stop aiding and abetting violence abroad and at home. Can’t be there? Try and organize a witness at your local MP’s office, and definitely call them and email them.

Meantime, as we know, the Harper government has ordered all federal departments to monitor EVERY SINGLE demonstration in Canada, no matter how small. That shows how afraid they are of democracy. So even if you are one person with a sign, that WILL be noticed. Two people doubles the effect, and so on.

 Other Things you can do and Upcoming Events You Can Join


1.   1.  Organize a visit to your MP’s office or public vigil to Just Say No to War

2.   2.  Email the Prime Minister to let him know you oppose war under all circumstances, racism, and the repressive new C-51. The Harper government may act like it doesn’t care what you think, but it outspends all previous governments in monitoring protests, emails, letters, media, etc. So every email counts! You can email Harper from this weblink: http://pm.gc.ca/eng/contactpm   OR write directly to stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca, and cc opposition leaders Mulcair, Trudeau, and May at thomas.mulcair@parl.gc.ca, justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca , and  elizabeth.may@parl.gc.ca

3.   3.  Join a Chain Fast to End Islamophobia  and Racism (mid April to mid June): For details write to  tasc@web.ca

4.    4.  On Wednesday, May 27, in Ottawa, Join Ten Hours Against Terrorism: A Day-long vigil at Canada’s largest annual weapons fair, CANSEC15 (aka Terrorfest15), which will be hosting delegations from some of the world’s leading torture states. We will be encouraging demos at weapons manufacturers across Canada on that day as well.

Sponsored by Homes not Bombs: Because Canada should build homes, not blow them up

tasc@web.ca, http://homesnotbombs.blogspot.ca/

(613) 267-3998

“There is nothing as vile as the arrogance of the military mind. Of all the plagues with which the world is cursed, of every ill, militarism is the worst: the assumption that war is the answer to human problems.” – Rabbi Abraham Heschel

 “Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.” – Arundhati Roy

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Canadian in Paris: Hassan Diab’s Indefinite Jail Journey




By Matthew Behrens  

The long-running extradition saga of Ottawa sociology professor Dr. Hassan Diab – sought by French authorities for a 1980 crime he did not commit – took a dramatic turn when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear his final appeal to stay in Canada last November. Although Canada had 45 days to forcibly remove him to France, Dr. Diab was hustled out of the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre and whisked away less than 48 hours later, denied a previously scheduled opportunity to bid goodbye to his pregnant wife, Rania, and baby daughter, Jena.  

           Diab’s lawyer, Donald Bayne, a 43-year veteran of Canadian courts, appeared stunned at a Parliament Hill press conference the day of the Court decision, concluding:  “We now have in my view a classic recipe for the wrongful conviction of a Canadian.”

Originally arrested in 2008, Diab had spent the following six years under house arrest, forced to pay $2,000 a month for the electronic monitoring device strapped to his leg, denied an opportunity to teach, and frustrated by an endless round of extradition hearings where, despite the very low judicial standards, the severe weakness of the alleged case against him was nonetheless clearly exposed. During that time, it was revealed that the physical description, palm and thumb prints, and handwriting of the 1980 rue Copernic bombing suspect did not match Dr. Diab’s.

            Despite having the cards stacked against him, Diab had appeared hopeful that his case would be heard and justice served at the nation’s highest court.

“It is beyond devastating that the Supreme Court of Canada would allow my extradition for a crime that I did not commit and based on a handwriting analysis report that was shown by world-renowned handwriting experts to be wholly unreliable, totally erroneous, and biased,” Diab said in a statement released shortly thereafter. “I have been living a Kafkaesque nightmare for over six years, fighting false allegations against me, enduring detention, strict bail conditions, the loss of my employment, and enormous stress on my family.”

                  Diab found it “shocking that this would happen in Canada, despite the numerous commissions on wrongful convictions based on faulty forensic evidence and the Court’s vow to never let this happen again.”

                  Rania Tfaily was equally amazed that the Supreme Court refused to hear a case that addressed the unbalanced interpretation of extradition law in different provinces. “If Hassan’s case were heard in British Columbia, he would not have been torn away from his home and family and shipped to a jail in a foreign country, as the British Columbia Court of Appeal has recognized the utter unfairness of extraditing people based on unreliable evidence,” she said.

            No doubt aware of the controversy surrounding the surrender of Diab to the French, Canadian officials wasted no time in disappearing him from Ottawa. “The next day, once he got a chance to use the phone at the jail, he called me, and I had to tell him the devastating news,” Tfaily recalled. But their scheduled visit, arranged with the approval of the detention centre’s superintendent, was not to be.

                  “In the evening, a guard came and took photos of him,” Tfaily said.  “He was not told the reason at the time, but it turned out that this was to issue a temporary passport for him, and in less than a day, he was issued this passport. In the very early morning, he was taken away from the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre and driven to Montreal, where he was kept in a jail cell. An RCMP officer confiscated his eyeglasses, his jacket – even though it was extremely cold – and his French lawyer’s phone number. Hassan protested this cruel treatment. Shortly before the departure of a commercial airplane to Paris, he was escorted to board the plane. French police accompanied him on the trip.”

                  Upon his arrival in Paris, he was taken to a judge, who informed him he was “under investigation,” and promptly detained. Under French law, an individual can be held without charge up to 2 years (under a process known as mis en examen) before deciding if they'll even hold a trial. Other jurisdictions do not permit such lengthy delays, which effectively constitute indefinite detention.

                  Diab now sits in a cell in the largest prison in Europe for 20 hours a day. This is directly due to the fact that in 2011, Ontario Court judge Robert Maranger upheld the extradition order, despite his conclusion that the case against Diab was “weak,” “suspect,” and “confusing,” concluding “the case presented by the Republic of France against Mr. Diab is a weak case; the prospects of conviction in the context of a fair trial, seem unlikely.”

                  His supporters fear that he will not receive a fair trial in France’s much-criticized anti-terrorism courts. Indeed, Human Rights Watch noted that French  “decisions to arrest suspects and place them under formal investigation are based on a low standard of proof,” and lawyers complain “that the way in which judicial investigations in terrorism cases are conducted seriously undermines the right of each defendant to an effective defense.” The organization’s critique of French anti-terror laws, Preempting Justice, also notes that “the prominent use of intelligence material in judicial investigations, in the context of the close links between judges and the intelligence services, raises concerns about procedural fairness and reliance on evidence obtained from third countries where torture and ill-treatment are routine.”

                  Casual observers may wonder how Diab’s life in Canada, where he has been a citizen since 1993, could be so violently uprooted: under Canada’s extradition law, the rights of Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and refugees are trumped by foreign policy considerations.

                  As in France, the standards in Canadian extradition law are low. In a scene that might be taken from a Pink Panther movie featuring the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, the French handwriting case against Dr. Diab was based on five words written in block letters from a Paris hotel register. France initially offered two supposed handwriting “experts” who compared these five printed words with the cursive writing from Diab’s PhD admissions documents at Syracuse University. The French concluded that the writer of the 1980 block letters was the same man whose writings they discovered at Syracuse, even though most credible handwriting experts conclude block printing cannot be compared with cursive writing. Another problem, though, was that the Syracuse writings were not Diab’s: they belonged to his then-wife, Nawal. Embarrassed French officials were allowed to withdraw their “expert” report and replace it with another. Experts hired by Diab found the new findings were fatally flawed and wholly unreliable because they failed to use standard, accepted methodology. Once that report was withdrawn, the French took another kick at the can with a third “expert” report that was finally accepted, even though Judge Maranger found it “susceptible to a great deal of criticism and attack,” also calling it “illogical… convoluted, very confusing, with conclusions that are suspect.”

                  When his case went to the Ontario Court of Appeal, Diab’s factum reflected the Alice-in-Wonderland quality of the case, noting the allegations are “based largely on intelligence reports from unnamed foreign entities, who in turn obtained information from unknown sources in unknown circumstances.” Given the impossibility of verifying the reliability of such information, it was difficult to determine how any court could proceed.

                  The Appeal judges, in a similarly weak decision, upheld the extradition, even though it was by then a matter of record that Diab could become the first person ever extradited to another country without being charged with a crime. They also dismissed concerns that tortured-gleaned “intelligence” would be used against Diab even though, as his legal team pointed out, “France had a special intelligence sharing relationship with Syria [which was] shown to have regularly kidnapped Lebanese individuals and tortured them to extract information on national security and terrorism matters” and that there exists “no genuine ability to challenge intelligence in French terror trials.” If a trial does go ahead, the secret intelligence, which was excluded even from the extradition hearing in Canada because it would have violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, will be part of the case.

                  Throughout this ordeal, Diab has denied the allegations, condemned the 1980 bombing, offered to be questioned by the French in Ottawa, and even accepted an offer from the RCMP (later withdrawn) to take a polygraph test.

                  It is unlikely that the library at the prison where Diab is held has an extensive reading list, but it would be interesting to discover whether there are any books on another wrongful conviction case, one that shook the French Republic to its core more than a century ago. The case of Alfred Dreyfus was similarly based on fundamentally flawed and faulty handwriting analysis. In that case, the first expert consulted concluded that the suspect handwriting did not belong to Dreyfus; needless to say, that expert was dismissed and slandered, and the prosecutor shopped around until he could find a more “accommodating” expert, which led to a wrongful conviction driven by virulent French anti-Semitism.

                  Writing with the passion and honesty that belongs to the wrongfully defamed and detained, on December 5, 1894, Dreyfus wrote from prison: “The truth will out in the end. My conscience is calm and tranquil, and does not reproach me for anything. I have always done my duty and have never bowed my head. I have been overwhelmed, crushed in my dark prison, along with my mind; I have had moments of wild madness; I raved and rambled, but my conscience remained alert. It said to me: ‘Keep your head up and look the world in the face. Strong in the knowledge that your conscience is clear, walk straight and get up again. It is an appalling ordeal, but it must be endured.’”

                  Over a century later, Diab faces the same outmoded judicial system that condemned Dreyfus – an inquisitorial, Napoleonic-era creation that even former French President Sarkozy has said should be abolished given that it eliminates the presumption of innocence.

                  “I, my family, friends, and supporters, will continue to fight the false allegations that have been imposed on me, a Canadian citizen who is law-abiding, peaceful, compassionate, and who abhors violence,” Diab writes. “I am grateful and heartened by the outpouring of support from thousands of individuals and organizations that recognize the injustice that I have experienced and the unfairness of Canada’s extradition law. I vow to never give up, and I will always remain hopeful that I will eventually return to my home in Canada and be reunited with my wife and children.”

                  The pain of separation for Diab and his young family – which grew with the birth of a second child in January – is beyond words. An extensive network of Canadian supporters is now working on building French support. Meanwhile, a series of activities is planned, from writing letters of support to fundraising to help defray significant costs of everything from new lawyers to long-distance calls from the overseas jail. For details on the Bring Hassan Home campaign, see http://www.justiceforhassandiab.org/