Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale revamps rules around using information gleaned through torture
Intelligence obtained through mistreatment may still be used if needed to prevent death and significant injury
The federal government is strengthening safeguards around the use of information derived through torture, but will not issue a blanket ban on receiving intelligence that may have been obtained from abuse or mistreatment.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the goal of new directives released today is to protect the security of Canadians while ensuring the government is not complicit in torture by foreign states.
"We were guided by the government's commitment to keep Canadians safe and uphold Canada's commitments to human rights and the rule of law," he said in a statement. "The ministerial directions reflect the government's steadfast commitment to both."
New rules prohibit the use of information that was likely obtained through mistreatment, except when it is necessary to prevent loss of life or significant personal injury. It is also prohibited if it could lead to further abuse or torture.
Information obtained through torture can no longer be used to prevent risks to property.
Revised rules also come with new reporting requirements, including an annual report and an independent review by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and other bodies.
Information obtained through torture cannot be used as evidence in criminal proceedings. It can only be used to "deprive a person of their rights or freedoms in exceptional circumstances to prevent loss of life of serious personal injury," according to government documents on the changes.
Human rights concerns
The new directives replace a 2011 version on information sharing, which had raised serious concerns from human rights groups.
Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, called the revisions a "welcome advance" on previous rules, but said significant gaps remain.
Assurances from other governments that they will not carry out torture are a "deeply inadequate safeguard," because promises from officials who already break the law are worthless, he said.
"While the ministerial directions do state that such information will not be used in three circumstances, it is not clear whether there is clear recognition of the need to ban the use of such information, because it plays a central role in encouraging more torture and contributing to a global market for torture-derived intelligence," Neve said in a statement to CBC News.
Amnesty has also raised concerns that certain intelligence could be retained on file, even if not immediately used.
In July, the federal government paid $10.5 million in compensation to Omar Khadr. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled his rights were violated during his detention at Guantanamo Bay U.S. military prison, and that Canadian officials had not done enough to protect him from abuse.
In March, the government announced it had reached a settlement in a civil case involving Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin with compensation for the role Canadian officials played in their torture in Syria and Egypt.