Canada

Senate approves security certificate bill

The Senate has given rushed approval to new legislation on Canada's controversial security certificates under the pressure of a Supreme Court deadline, with the possibility of further review in the months to come.

Committee requests further review

The Senate has given rushed approval to new legislation on Canada's controversial security certificates under the pressure of a Supreme Court deadline, with the possibility of further review in the months to come.

The Senate committee dealing with the bill, which was reviewed in two days and returned to the Senate without any changes, said it had wanted more time to reflect "upon all aspects of this bill and the views of those concerned, given the life-altering effects that security certificates have on those named in them."

The certificates had allowed the government to detain and deport non-Canadians who are deemed a threat to national security. In some cases, detainees have been held for six years without charge and without access to the alleged evidence against them.

Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the previous security-certificate law, calling the indefinite detention of foreign nationals unconstitutional. The court gave Parliament until Feb. 23 to come up with an alternative.

The new bill aims to improve bail procedures and permit special, security-cleared lawyers to attend the secret security-certificate hearings, challenge government evidence and protect the rights of the accused.

The committee said it has asked the Senate to grant it permission to "conduct a full study on the security certificate process in the months to come." It tabled a statement Tuesday from Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day that welcomed further review as well as recommendations from the committee by year's end.

"I mean, certainly the debate will continue," said Liberal Senator and committee chairman David Smith.

The Senate committee's unresolved concerns include:

  • The inability of the special advocate to communicate with the person named in the security certificate, except with the judge's authorization, after the special advocate has received confidential information.
  • The lack of a specific provision empowering the special advocate to require the government to disclose all documents the special advocate believes may be relevant.
  • The absence of a requirement for Parliament to review the new security certificate process and the role of the special advocate.

With files from the Canadian Press

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