Islamophobia in Canada: A Primer

By: Fathima Cader · February 8, 2012 · Filed Under Civil Rights, Legal Reform, Public Interest · 1 Comment 

by Fathima Cader and Sumayya Kassamali

Ten years after September 11, 2001, the term “Islamophobia,” once largely obscure, has become all but inevitable when discussing contemporary politics. As Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden became household names, Western fear of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims has also grown. Canada has been no stranger to this phenomenon. Despite its reputation as a haven of multicultural tolerance, one 2011 poll showed that 56% of Canadians believe Western societies are in “irreconcilable conflict” with Muslim societies. 40% of the 1500 respondents approved the profiling of airplane passengers who appear Muslim.  As Canada enters its seventh year of Conservative rule, how are progressives to understand and respond to this trend?

Islamophobia relies on characterizations of Islam and its adherents as uniquely prone to certain things, such as violence and sexism, and uniquely hostile to others, such as democracy and secular government. It includes discrimination based on perceived religious identity, such that non-Muslims, including Sikhs and Arab Christians, have also been targets of anti-Muslim violence in cases of “mistaken identity.” Meanwhile, Muslims in North America who do not appear to come from the Middle East or South Asia, such as Muslims of European or East Asian descent, have been less centrally targeted in this blurry overlap of religious and racial discrimination.

In this primer, we do not attempt to cover every instance of Islamophobia in Canada in the past decade. Rather, we provide an overview of its broad assumptions, particularly focusing on two themes that have proven central to discussions about Muslims: sexism and violence.

In offering this analysis, we stress that responses to Islamophobia must be placed within the context of Canada’s ongoing conservative political shift — from its increased military engagements around the world to its anti-immigrant policies at home, and from its vast cuts in social service funding to its ever-increasing levels of state surveillance. While numerous civil liberties and human rights organizations have reported on the rise of anti-Muslim hate crimes in Canada, we emphasize that Islamophobia is not just interpersonal: it is systemic. In fighting it, therefore, we must engage with the many other forms of oppression that also organize Canadian society.

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Review of Dennis Edney’s Lecture, “The Rule of Law in an Age of Terror”

By: Fathima Cader · September 23, 2011 · Filed Under Criminal Law, Immigration Law, International Law, Public Interest · Comment 

“Human rights have a dysfunctional relationship with justice. The language is certainly beautiful, but it’s all dressed up with nowhere to go,” charged Dennis Edney in a scathing lecture at the Faculty of Law at UBC on September 15.

Edney worked from 2004 to 2011 on Omar Khadr’s defence against charges stemming from the July 2002 firefight death of a US soldier. Khadr, who is Canadian, was 15 at the time. American forces interrogated him for three months in the US-operated Bagram Theatre Detention Facility in Afghanistan, before transferring him to Guantanamo Bay, where he remains. In 2005, Khadr’s chief interrogator from Bagram, US Sergeant Joshua Claus, was found guilty of offences relating to the routine torture and homicide of Bagram prisoners. Claus received a five-month prison sentence. He testified at Khadr’s military trial in 2010.

In April 2009, the Federal Court ruled that Canada was complicit in the US’s torture of Khadr and ordered Ottawa to seek his repatriation. The Federal Court of Appeal concurred, but the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that though Canada was violating Khadr’s human rights, it was not obliged to seek his repatriation.

In October 2010, after insisting on his innocence for years, Khadr pled guilty in a military trial to terrorism-related offences, in exchange for a promise from Canada to repatriate him by October 2011 to serve the rest of his prison sentence in Canada. On September 20, the Conservatives tabled the controversial omnibus Bill C-10, which adds “additional criteria” to decisions about “whether or not to allow the transfer of a Canadian offender back to Canada to serve their sentence.”

Shortly after the trial, Edney declared that Khadr “would have confessed to anything, including the killing of John F. Kennedy, just to get out of this hellhole” and that if he had refused, Khadr would have been faced with “an unfair [military] trial based on evidence that would be inadmissible in a real court.” On Thursday, Edney said the detainees are entitled “to all kinds of international protections, but our governments are not asking for them. And by not asking, we become complicit.” There are nearly 800 prisoners in Guantanamo, but only 4 have been charged and given a trial. Detainees cannot see the evidence used against them.

In his lecture, Edney denounced the Canadian government for perpetuating a culture of fear in the camp’s defence. Edney stated that “since there has always historically been terrorism, and since there will always be terrorist threats, this war on terror – if allowed to be one – is unlike any other, because it is never-ending.” Thus, last decade has been marred by “habeas corpus being abandoned, secret courts being created to hear secret evidence, guilt inferred by association, torture and rendition nakedly justified.”

“I went into Guantanamo Bay as a lawyer and I came out as a broken father,” said Edney. “I never thought that in my lifetime I would go to such an evil place and see such evil being done.” Of the infamous cages, Edney said that “people go into those cages thinking they’re having a holiday in there.” He drew attention to Camps 5, 6, and 7. The first two are “designed for enhanced interrogation tactics: torture.” He said about Camp 7 that “We are not allowed to talk about it. We have prisoners in there who came from Europe, about a year and a half ago, and they’re going to be there forever, because there’s no one there to help.”

Edney discussed the 9/11 witch hunt, in which “the US government detained hundreds, if not thousands, of people of colour on the suspicion of terrorist activity, some of them up to a year, all without charges.” He continued that “almost none of those individuals were found to have been in any way connected with terrorism. Yet many continue to be held without being formally charged with any crime or immigration violation.” In this way Guantanamo “provides powerful evidence of how America and the West are making war on terror synonymous with the war on Islam. No white Anglo-Saxon goes to Guantanamo Bay. Any American picked up for terrorism offences gets due process in a federal court system in New York.”

One audience member suggested that the camp must serve some purpose, because otherwise US President Barrack Obama would have followed through on his promise to shut it down. Edney responded that the camp primarily functions as “an important propaganda tool.” He argued the Obama administration has in fact “systematised” the culture of torture normalised under George W. Bush, for instance by disallowing victims of extraordinary rendition from suing Washington for torture suffered overseas.

Edney was also critical of “lazy” media and academics who have persisted in “slotting events into a sort of juicy clash of civilisations story,” as exemplified by mainstream media coverage of Anders Behring Breivik’s terrorist attack in Oslo. He killed 69 people in July, avowedly to protect Europe from Muslims. Edney said, “as soon as the bomb went off, media organisations began reporting on jihadist organisations.” This, he said, “fit perfectly the story we have all been telling each other since 9/11 that who else, who else could be so hateful, so crazy, so disrespectful of life but Muslims.” He pointed out that though Breivik is a white Norwegian Christian, “we don’t hold Christians or conservatives or liberals responsible for Brievek’s despicable acts.”

He said that “since September 11 2001, race, ethnicity, and religion have become proxies for suspected terrorist activity, which in turn has become a pretext for the application of Canadian immigration laws in an unequal manner towards Arabs, South Asians, Muslims and so on.” In an apparent nod to Bill C-4, the anti-refugee bill that the Conservatives tabled on Tuesday despite widespread condemnation, he noted that “we just have to listen to media descriptions coming out of Ottawa when we talk about refugees today. We call them queue jumpers and potential terrorists.”

Edney also expressed anger at the public’s willingness to be lulled into complicity. He described the transfer of the prisoners to Guantanamo “in rows in aircraft, hooded and shackled for transportation across the Atlantic” as similar to eighteenth century slave ships. He maintained that for “the watching world, no knowledge of international humanitarian conventions is needed to understand that what was being witnessed was simply unlawful.” He blamed public apathy for “allowing anti-Muslim sentiment to become part of our mainstream conversations.” He said, “I say to you we cannot tackle manifestations of intolerance, unless we learn and understand how the constant use of fear pervades our everyday life, and how that fear is being used to influence how you and I think and how you and I act. It’s that same manipulation of fear that has allowed military escapades into countries beyond those who bombed the twin towers. It is that same message that has been exploited by participating countries to reduce civil liberties and infringe upon human rights by allowing such places as Guantanamo Bay to exist.”

The need for action had been a prevailing theme throughout the lecture. Edney returned to it at his lecture’s close: “Not only does it [Guantanamo] continue to exist, they continue building it. Guantanamo is going to be there for a long, long time, unless you do something. Unless you really do something about it.” He concluded that “the only crime equal to wilful inhumanity is the crime of indifference, the crime of silence, the crime of forgetting.”

In that vein, we cannot afford to forget that Guantanamo Bay’s precedents in the West include Canada’s own internment camps, built in BC expressly to detain Japanese-Canadians during WWII. Similarly, Bill C-4’s predecessors include the Chinese head-tax policy.

Intervenors for Insite

By: Fathima Cader · February 19, 2011 · Filed Under Constitutional Law, Public Interest · Comment 

IHRA joins International Coalition Intervening to save Vancouver Safe-Injection Site:

An international coalition of harm reduction experts — comprised of the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA), the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and CACTUS Montréal — has today been granted intervener status to appear before the Supreme Court of Canada to support Insite, Vancouver’s supervised injection site, against the Canadian government’s attempts to shutter it. [...]
Adding insult to injury, a 2009 provincially funded report acknowledging the benefits of safe-injection sites and calling for their implementation was recently revealed to have been suppressed for a full year by Quebec’s Minister of Health. Despite this climate of resistance, CACTUS has announced its intention to open a supervised injection site in Montréal later this year.

SCC on Funding Orders

By: Fathima Cader · February 18, 2011 · Filed Under Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Legal Reform, Pro Bono, Public Interest · Comment 

Funding orders must be exceptional, says the Supreme Court:

‘For the first time the Supreme Court has ruled that superior courts are empowered to order governments to fund public interest litigation before statutory courts and tribunals. [...]

Brodsky suggested that “if governments don’t want the courts to attempt to deal with the problems that have been created by cuts to access-to-justice programs, then governments need to address the gaps themselves.”

She told The Lawyers Weekly “the possibility of obtaining an interim cost award can never replace the Court Challenges Program, or civil legal aid programs, that have been decimated in places like B.C. The limitations of the case-by-case cost-seeking approach are underscored by the decision in Caron in that the court confirmed that interim cost awards must be ‘highly exceptional.’ However, in reality, the circumstances in which the absence of public funding works a serious injustice are not highly exceptional. Such circumstances have become very ordinary in Canada.”’

Access Copyright: Outrageous and Unnecessary

By: John Magyar · February 8, 2011 · Filed Under Ethics, Intellectual Property, Law School, Legal Reform, Privacy, Privacy Law, Public Interest, Uncategorized · 3 Comments 

As a UWO student (and at many other Canadian universities,) you automatically pay an annual fee to an organization called Access Copyright. An item is included in your student activity fee, and it used to be $3.38 per student per year, plus an amount based on the number of photocopies made at library photocopy machines. However, when the licence agreement expired last year, Access Copyright did not seek to renegotiate with UWO. Instead, it applied to the Copyright Board for a massive restructuring of the agreement. If the Board approves the request, Access Copyright would receive $45 per student per year. With 30,000 full-time students, this amounts to $1.35 million annually. But that’s not all. Access Copyright would also have the right to surveillance: Section 14 (4) of the proposed licence agreement states that:

The Educational Institution shall give Access Copyright, on reasonable notice, right of access through-out the Educational Institution’s premises in order to organize and carry out an audit, including full access to the Secure Network and all Course Collections.

This would include access to university email accounts.

There are a number of problems with the Access Copyright regime. First of all, every university student is presumed to be infringing copyright and this seems very unlikely given the Fair Dealing rights in the Canadian Copyright Act that expressly permit the copying of non-substantial portions of a work for the purpose of private study. As well, the university is presumed to be responsible for the presumed copyright infringement by students. This is contrary to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in CCH Canadian Limited v. Law Society of Upper Canada, [2004] 1 S.C.R. 339.CCD, which held that a library is NOT responsible for copyright infringement merely by providing access to photocopiers.

What is more troubling, though, is that by paying Access Copyright, our fair dealing rights become meaningless.

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The Inhumanity of Refugee Detention Camps in the West

By: Fathima Cader · January 22, 2011 · Filed Under Immigration Law, Public Interest · Comment 

What makes this ruling is significant is that a high court is here recognising that the detention camps in which refugees are held in the West can themselves be inhumane to the point of that sending people to them would be illegal. This is of particular relevance for analyses of Australia’s detention camps, which arguably some of the worst worldwide; the abuses are such that they’re driving more and more of the refugees to suicide and hunger strikes (some by sewing their mouths shut).

Human rights court slams EU asylum policy as inhumane

In a landmark ruling the European Court for Human Rights has criticized the EU’s asylum policy. It said forcing refugees to apply for asylum in the country of their entry into the EU was inhumane.

The European Court for Human Rights on Friday ruled illegal the deportation of an asylum seeker from Belgium to Greece.

The Afghan national first entered the European Union in Greece but then traveled to Belgium to apply for asylum there. Under current EU regulations, asylum applications must be processed in the country of entry into the 27-nation bloc.

Yet the judges at Europe’s top human rights court said that the appalling conditions in Greek refugee camps were inhumane and humiliating – and most importantly that Belgium was aware of those conditions but still sent the Afghan back.

The court ruling could mean that the European Union will have to rethink its entire asylum policy.

“This is a historic moment for the protection of Human Rights,” Marei Pelzer of rights group ProAsyl told Deutsche Welle.

“The ruling will have fundamental consequences in so far as the EU can not simply pretend that the situation with regards to asylum seekers is the same in all EU member states. And it’s crucial that refugees should not be forced to stay in Greece just because Greece happens to be the country where most of them arrive.”

Almost 90 percent of all illegal border crossings into the EU take place via Greece. The country has repeatedly come under fire for appalling living conditions in its refugee camps.

Human rights groups have long been calling for a more coherent EU policy that would make all member countries responsible for asylum cases in the same way.

Appalling conditions in Greece

The circumstances and procedures that refugees are exposed to in Greece are the worst in Europe, according to a recent report on asylum seekers by rights group Amnesty International.

The European Commission has also already proposed a reform to the current regulation in an effort to take some of the pressure off countries such as Greece, Italy and Malta, which see the main influx of refugees from outside the EU.

Germany has so far rejected the Commission’s proposals for reform yet rights groups hope that the Strasbourg ruling will have Berlin rethink its position. But Reinhard Grindel, member of parliament for Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats insists the solution to the problem in Greece has to be fixed by Athens rather than by watering down EU regulations.

“All EU member states guarantee the international human rights standards,” he told Deutsche Welle. “We do have one problem case, and that’s Greece. However, what this means is not that we have to change EU rules but rather that Athens has to get its house in order.”

“For Germany a change to the current EU regulations would be a catastrophe,” he warned. “It would mean a flood of asylum seekers coming to Germany. And that’s something that everyone who now calls for changes of EU rules has to realize.”

And yet, to a certain extent, Germany has already changed its position. Berlin earlier this week announced that for one year it would stop sending back any refugees to Greece, because of what Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere described as “appalling conditions” for refugees there.

Britain, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have also stopped sending refugees back to Greece.

Niqab, Sex Assault, And The Court: An Examination Of R v NS

By: Fathima Cader · January 13, 2011 · Filed Under Civil Rights, Criminal Law, Diversity in Law, Public Interest · 1 Comment 

In a unanimous decision in October 2010, the Ontario Court of Appeal affirmed that a sexual assault complainant may wear a niqab, a Muslim facial veil, while testifying. The Muslim Canadian Congress had intervened on behalf of the two accused men who had requested the order that the complainant remove her niqab. Upon the judgement’s release, Tarek Fatah, founder of the MCC, argued that the decision made “a fool of the Canadian judicial system and values of gender equality”. In fact, the court had paid careful attention to balancing the witness’s freedom of religion and the accused’s right to make full answer and defence. To date, Fatah is perhaps the only person to so openly argue that allowing a sexual assault complainant to testify in front of her alleged attackers in the clothes in which she feels safest is a denial of gender equality. For some context, it is worth noting that Fatah has long been a vociferous advocate of a total ban of the niqab in Canada. His response to attempts in Quebec to ban the niqab was to proclaim, “I welcome the rescue of all Muslim-Canadian women.” The wholesale paternalism of his language is revealing: to the extent that Fatah wishes to counter gender inequities, his position has persistently emerged from a patriarchal perspective that infantalises Muslim women by denying their agency in making sartorial and religious choices for themselves, even such highly contested choices as the one to wear niqab.

To be sure, generalised public discomfort around the niqab did inform most mainstream debate about the decision. However, in this paper I want to shift the discussion away from the Huntington-esque clash-of-civilisations characterisation advocated by Fatah to a more considered analysis of both the specific reasonings and the broader implications of the judgement. I argue here that the judgement actually signals a substantive attempt by the OCA to address some of the systemic inequities that entrench the pervasiveness of gendered violence in society.

FACTS AND HISTORY

The facts of the case are distressing, but not atypical for sexual assault cases. The complainant, N.S., alleged that between the ages of six and 11 she had been repeatedly sexually assaulted by her uncle and her cousin, the accused. In 1992, when she was 16, N.S. disclosed the assaults to a teacher, but the accused were not charged until 2007.

In 2004, as part of her practice of Islam, N.S. began wearing the hijab, a headscarf, and niqab, a veil that covers her face, whenever in the presence of males who are not her direct relatives. At the preliminary inquiry in 2008, after electing trial by judge and jury, both accused men sought an order that would require N.S. to remove her niqab before testifying. The preliminary inquiry judge ruled in favour of the accused. Read more

National Listserv for Social Justice Law Students

By: Fathima Cader · December 3, 2010 · Filed Under Law School, Legal Reform, Politics, Pro Bono, Public Interest · Comment 

Are you a progressive law student in Canada? Join the Justice League!

Justice League-Canada is a nationwide listserv for progressive law students, articling students, and new calls. Its purpose is to create a national grassroots network, in which we can foster a supportive community of like-minded peers. One anticipated outcome of this is that by sharing resources and energy, we can do sustained cross-national work in our capacities as law students, advocates, and lawyers. Additionally, this space can be used to highlight job opportunities outside the usual big firm market, as well as to hone academic interests and assist local community organisations and campaigns.

If you’d like to join, please email justiceleaguecanada@gmail.com with your name and affiliation.

We’re also looking for help with French translation, so apologies for how heavily Anglo this callout currently is, but do email us/join the group if you can assist with addressing that bias.

Political Prisoner in Iran – A letter to the supreme leader

By: Soroush Seifi · November 23, 2010 · Filed Under Civil Rights, Immigration Law, International Law, Public Interest · 1 Comment 

Mr. Ali Khamenei,

I am a first year law student in a Canadian Law School.  I lived in Iran until the age of thirteen.  My family and I immigrated to Canada in 1997 because of the lack of freedom of expression in Iran.  As immigrants, we were not always treated well and we suffered discrimination and were pushed back to work within our own small Iranian community in Toronto.  We loved Iran but actions by some Iranians have embarrassed our people at an international level.  In this letter, I will explain to you how I have personally suffered as a result of these actions.  If you and I, as Iranians do not treat each other well, how can we expect the international community to truly and genuinely respect our people?

One of the latest actions that bring disrepute to all Iranians all over the world is in regards to Blogger Hossein Derakhshan, 35, a dual Canadian-Iranian national.  He has been unfairly tried and sentenced on 28 September 2010 to 19 and a half years’ imprisonment on vaguely worded charges relating to national security. He was detained without charge for about 19 months prior to trial and denied regular access to his family and lawyer. Amnesty International believes he is likely held solely for the peaceful expression of his views, and if so should be immediately and unconditionally released.   

I have personally seen that in Europe, the situation is even worse for Iranians.  In addition, videos of Iranian refugees in places like Greece and Australia speak to the failure of our 1979 revolution.  In my opinion, you and your government are partly responsible for ensuring the well-being of all Iranians.  Your actions, though it highlights some of the malfunctions in the Iranian culture, have nevertheless followed innocent Iranians everywhere we have sought refuge.  Most Europeans and North Americans today look down on Iranians because we have created a bad image of ourselves.  We have been intolerant to women, homosexuals, bloggers, religious minorities, racial minorities and almost every other group that is different than the majority. 

I was born in Iran but see myself as belonging to the 6.8 billion people on Earth, and yet, the actions of the Iranian government constantly undermine my attempts personally to make a good living.  Mr. Khamenei, this is how your actions at the macro level results in problems for an Iranian like me at a micro level.  It is time to address the negative image that Iranians have created for us.  Iran was the first country in the world and Iranians are a warm and passionate people who have many beautiful cultures.  You as an Iranian and selected leader need to promote the positive aspects of our culture.  It is easy to shout and be critical of individual bloggers and exploitative foreigners.   Maybe it is time to pick the difficult path of self-reformation.  Why divide people based on their differences such as religion, race, and way of thinking when we can bring them together through our similarities?  We don’t need enemies in this world; we don’t need to shout “death” at others; what we need is to show that we can respect people who think different, act different, and live different than the majority.  The strongest people are the most merciful and the kindest.  

Releasing Hossein would be a first micro step that would help all Iranians show how we are a kind people.  As the leader you are responsible for reforming a positive image for all Iranians especially in Europe and North America.  The world watches how we treat one another as Iranians, and they treat us in the same way that we choose to treat each other.  Please act in a way that Iranians will be treated better from now on inside and outside of the land where both you and I opened our eyes to this world.

CSIS tapped phone despite order

By: Fathima Cader · November 17, 2010 · Filed Under Civil Rights, Ethics, Public Interest · Comment 

Can you blame people if their response to this kind of news is cynicism?

CSIS tapped phone despite order
Agents violated solicitor-client privilege, recorded 171 calls involving accused terrorist

By Andrew Duffy, The Ottawa Citizen
November 16, 2010

Federal security agents recorded 171 phone calls between suspected terrorist Mahmoud Jaballah and his lawyers after they agreed to halt the practice in December 2008.

That revelation is contained in a recent order issued by Federal Court Judge Kevin Aalto, who condemns the repeated breaches of solicitor-client privilege.

“Solicitor-client privilege is virtually sacrosanct in the Canadian judicial system,” Aalto said in ordering two federal agencies to turn over a raft of documents to Jaballah’s defence team.

I’m also concerned about how this implicates the federal lawyers who had access to this privileged information. What role might the Law Society have in rectifying this abuse of power?

UWO Law Welcomes AIDWYC @ Western

By: Ryan Venables · October 28, 2010 · Filed Under Criminal Law, Law School, Pro Bono, Public Interest, Uncategorized · Comment 

AIDWYC.  Does that mean anything to you?

I, Ryan Venables, am very please to announce that thanks to Jonathan Thoburn and Lisa Lutwak, a couple of very keen and persistent (that’s a good thing) 1L law students, that UWO law students are now going to have the opportunity to be reviewing cases in association with AIDWYC.

I think this is a perfect time to bring this story forward considering the recent news of the acquittal of Ivan Henry, who spent 26 years in a B.C. prison for a series of sexual assaults that he did not commit.

Don’t know AIDWYC?  Well, keep reading, and soon you will.  Here’s how this great partnership has come to be.

As the President for the Criminal Law Student’s Association this year, I was contacted by Jonathan, an incoming 1L, who was eager in starting up AIDWYC under the umbrella of the CLSA.  He had already contacted the administration and was given the green light and it was suggested to him that while in its infancy, that AIDWYC @ Western be under the umbrella of the CLSA.

Since I had never heard of AIDWYC I had to do some digging.  Here is what I found out.  From the AIDWYC Website:

*****

AIDWYC is a non-profit organization that has developed a strong reputation as an advocate for individuals who have been wrongly convicted.

AIDWYC’s primary mandate is to review and support claims of innocence in homicide cases.
However, because individual exonerations do not eliminate the conditions which foster these miscarriages of justice, AIDWYC is also dedicated to addressing the causes of wrongful conviction by:

  • Making representations to governments on reforms to the legal system
  • Raising public awareness about miscarriages of justice
  • Participating in public inquiries related to wrongful convictions
  • Intervening in legal cases which seek to rectify miscarriages of justice

There is no system in place at present in Canada for an independent review of claims of wrongful conviction. AIDWYC fills this gap, attracting some of the top legal experts in Ontario to identify these cases and, where warranted, prepare an application for ministerial review to the Criminal Conviction Review Group of the Federal Department of Justice, known as a Criminal Code Section 696.1 application.

AIDWYC’s office is located in Toronto and much of our work is done in Ontario. However, we have dedicated volunteers throughout Canada and in the United States. AIDWYC welcomes applications from across the country. AIDWYC is currently reviewing over sixty claims of innocence and actively pursuing more than 40 cases.

All Canadian citizens stand to benefit from AIDWYC’s efforts to free those who have been wrongly convicted and to reform the justice system wrongfutem of justice, but everyduce or prevent wrongful convictions in the future. Canada has an excellent sysand safeguard its integrity. Wrongful convictions are not easily corrected. The resistance to AIDWYC’s efforts is formidable and the correction of miscarriages of justice is always hard-won.

*****

Successes? Robert Baltovich; James Drisk; Anthony Hanemaayer; Clayton Johnson; David Milgaard; Guy Paul Morin; William Mullins-Johnson; Gregory Parsons; Romeo Phillion; Sherry Sherrett-Robinson; Thomas Sophonow; Steven Truscott; Kyle Unger; Erin Walsh.

Fast forward to today.  AIDWYC @ Western is in the final stages of picking volunteers who will be assigned cases, reviewing them, and working hard to have the wrongfully convicted freed.  It is hoped that as this project grows it will be able to come out from underneath the support of the CLSA and to form a group at Western Law akin to Pro Bono Student’s Canada.

Not only does this give fledgling lawyers a great way to get involved with a great cause, it will also give them practical experience that law student’s seem to lack coming out of school.

I personally look forward to seeing this great opportunity for students grow here at Western.

IRB Seeks to Halt Investigations

By: Fathima Cader · October 24, 2010 · Filed Under Immigration Law, Public Interest · Comment 

Montreal Gazette » Appointments investigated after serious flaws found in IRB hiring practices:

The Public Service Commission is investigating 13 appointments made by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, some involving its most senior officials.

The investigations were sparked by a 2009 audit that found serious flaws in the Ottawa-based IRB’s hiring practices. The PSC is probing whether the 13 appointments were based on merit and followed “guiding values” laid down in the Public Service Employment Act.

The IRB claims the investigations “violate the rules of procedural fairness.” It has asked the Federal Court to halt them until the court can rule on a judicial challenge of their methodology. If allowed to proceed, it says in court documents, the investigations will cause “irreparable harm” to the IRB.

The IRB is Canada’s largest independent administrative tribunal, making more than 47,000 decisions on refugee protection and immigration matters every year.

Its effectiveness depends on maintaining the public’s trust, the IRB argues in a memorandum filed with the Federal Court. “Any adverse finding on an appointment can permanently breach the public’s trust in the IRB and erode public confidence in the administration of justice.” One of the commission’s investigations was completed in June and found the appointment in question was not based on merit. The other 12 are ongoing.One of the high-profile officials under investigation is the director general of the IRB’s immigration division, according to an affidavit filed by the agency’s executive director, Simon Coakeley.

Its the circularity of the logic that gets me — because the revelation that the IRB may be doing irreparable harm to people’s lives may do irreparable damage to the IRB’s reputation, we can’t reveal the study’s results.

This argument seems to stems from the fundamental concern that justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done. But what would normally be understood as an edict on transparency gets used to justify the propping up of false reputations. This isn’t to suggest that all IRB adjudicators are terrible people or terrible judges, but that the tribunal is badly in need of an overhaul, and refusing any independent examination into the IRB only makes trusting it that much more difficult.

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