CAF and CAIR-CAN make submissions on RCMP oversight to Arar Inquiry

Toronto / Ottawa – Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) and the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) recently made submissions to the Arar inquiry regarding an independent, arm’s-length review mechanism for the RCMP’s activities involving national security. The submissions were made as part of the Policy Review mandate of the inquiry, which runs concurrently with an ongoing Factual Inquiry into the Canadian government’s involvement in the Maher Arar affair.

The submissions to the inquiry focused both on the need to protect essential rights and freedoms and the importance of ensuring transparency and accountability of RCMP investigations involving national security. On the issue of protecting rights and freedoms, the submission describes the context within which RCMP abuses of rights and freedoms of Arab and Muslim communities have occurred, and provides nine recommendations on how such abuses may be curtailed. On the issue of accountability, the submission calls for the creation of an RCMP review body that is independent, has investigative, adjudicative, remedial and reporting functions, and is accountable to the public through Parliament. In addition, the submission calls for the creation of a special parliamentary committee to review all Canadian national security and intelligence activities.

The entire submission may be viewed at:

“It is our profound hope that the Commission will safeguard Canadians from systemic failures by advancing recommendations that redefine the security paradigm and protect civil rights and freedoms,” said Omar Alghabra, CAF president. “While it is critical that we all find out what has transpired with regards to Mr. Arar, this inquiry is in essence about preserving the rights of all Canadians.”

“The Arar case has eroded the legitimacy of the RCMP as a Canadian institution in the eyes of many Canadians and current accountability mechanisms have proven inadequate in answering the troubling questions regarding Arar’s deportation and torture,” said CAIR-CAN Executive Director Riad Saloojee. “A transparent and effective oversight mechanism is critical in restoring the confidence in our national police service.”

Recently, Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, Shirley Heafey, underscored the same concerns in her report to the Arar Commission and stated that “effective, ongoing review is a key aspect of police accountability [and] there is an urgent need for reform if we are to have effective civilian review of RCMP conduct.”

Media Inquiries:

Omar Alghabra, CAF president, (905) 302-6787
Riad Saloojee, CAIR-CAN Executive Director, (613) 254-9704; Cell: (613) 286-0597

Arab democracy

From Globe and Mail
president, Canadian Arab Federation
Thursday, March 3, 2005 – Page A20

Toronto — Marcus Gee argues that the “democratize or I’ll shoot you” approach of the U.S. government deserves the credit for any apparent reform movements in the Arab world (Admit It: Bush Aids Democracy — March 2). If that’s the case, we should be concerned about the sustainability or authenticity of such changes.

Any observant follower of Middle Eastern affairs can affirm that the region has been organically ready for drastic change for some time. The “Al-Jazeera effect” has been a crucial driver in building a healthy appetite among Arabs for reform and progress. Over the last decade, several free and independent media outlets have promoted debate, self-reflection, the exchange of ideas and political diversity. Change was in the air.

There is no denying that the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime provided an opening. But the bombings and the military invasion did not propel the Iraqis to the polls nor the Lebanese to Martyrs’ Square.

What did was the recognition that Draconian, self-serving governments have failed to serve their citizens.


CAF and CAIR-CAN urge Prime Minister to ensure accountability in government

Toronto – The Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) and the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) are adding their voices to other prominent Canadians in urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to appoint independent investigations into the cases of three Canadian Arab and Muslim men who were tortured abroad.

The two organizations are also urging the Prime Minister to uphold his commitment to ensuring accountability in government by stopping the excessive government secrecy that has inhibited the Arar inquiry.

“The cases of Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki, and Muayyed Nurredin -like the case of Maher Arar – continue to cast a shadow of fear over our communities,” says a joint CAF and CAIR-CAN letter to the Prime Minister.

“It is only when the truth is known that the fear in our communities will subside.”

The letter by the two groups says they support the call by several prominent Canadians earlier in the week for an independent, fair, public and comprehensive investigation into the cases of Mr. El Maati, Mr. Almalki and Mr. Nurredin.

The two groups also called on the Prime Minister to uphold his commitment to putting transparency and accountability at the heart of government by stopping excessive government secrecy and censorship.

Recent media reports have revealed that government officials are contesting the release of Justice Dennis O’Connor’s report on the role of Canadian officials in Maher Arar’s case.

“This is not the first time government officials have sought to hide the truth, and while your predecessors failed to stand up for the public’s right to know, we urge you to uphold your commitment to making government accountability an absolute priority,” the two groups wrote to the Prime Minister.

For more information, please contact:

Mohamed Boudjenane, CAF, at 416-493-8635 x.23
Halima Mautbur, CAIR-CAN, at 613-795-2012

Fantino’s flying start – Starts provincial assignment today

By Rob Ferguson
Queen’s Park Bureau
From The Toronto Star 

Julian Fantino is marking his first day as Ontario’s new emergency management commissioner today with a junket to Israel to study security and anti-terrorism measures.

Toronto’s former police chief was to leave tonight with Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter, police chiefs and other emergency officials for a six-day trip organized and subsidized by the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, airline El Al and the Israeli government.

“This is a wonderful opportunity not only to look behind-the-scenes at Israeli security, policing and emergency management techniques, but also to meet with senior Israeli security officials,” Kwinter said.

On his final day as police chief, Fantino visited Hollycrest Middle School on Renforth Dr. where students presented him with thank-you letters for helping them get a crossing guard.

The opposition New Democrats said it sends an interesting message that Fantino is leaving on a foreign trip in the middle of winter on his first day as a bureaucrat. “Meet Julian Fantino, Ontario’s newest frequent flier,” said Peter Kormos, MPP for Niagara-Centre.

“Fantino’s joined the jet set with his appointment.” The Liberal government said the timing of the trip, in which Fantino will be joined by about 30 police officials from across the province, is a coincidence.

“Anyone who thinks that we planned this trip to coincide with his first day on the job is maybe drawing some pretty wild conclusions,” said Andrew Hilton, spokesman for Kwinter.

Fantino could not be reached for comment.

Hilton said despite the difference in threat levels between Ontario and Israel, the trip is worthwhile.

“This is a wonderful opportunity not only to look behind the scenes at Israeli security, policing and emergency management techniques, but also to meet with senior Israeli security officials,” Kwinter said.

“This is not about protecting Ontario from suicide bombers. This is about learning from and watching Israel’s police service, which is widely seen as one of the world’s best.”

Anti-Terror Laws Sow Fear in Muslim Communities


Paul Weinberg

TORONTO, Feb 25 (IPS) – Passed in the aftermath of the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act is being used to intimidate citizens and immigrants of Muslim origin through racial profiling conducted by federal police, activists charge.

The Act, which amends 12 federal laws, amounts to an expansion of investigative powers for Canada’s national policing and security agencies.

Although its anti-terror provisions have not technically been invoked, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are using their expanded powers to threaten to detain people without charge or force them to give testimony, says Raja Khouri, a policy advisor and former president of the Canadian Arab Federation.

Khouri told IPS that members of the Arab community had been told: “I can lock you up; I don’t need a reason” by RCMP officers.

Earlier this month, Anne McLellan, the Canadian minister of public safety, told a Senate committee that the measures to crack down on terrorist groups under the Anti-Terrorism Act strike a “right balance” between protecting national security and preserving civil liberties.

McLellan denied that any of Canada’s law enforcement officers, national security investigators, prison officers or border guards had singled out any minorities in their investigations. “That would be a firing offence,” she said.

However, Senator Mobina Jaffer — like McLellan, a member of the ruling Liberal party — countered that Canadian police and security officials do “racially profile.”

“I have documents that show it. I would not say a minister is lying. I would say she is mistaken. If your name is a Muslim name, Mohammed or Jaffer, you are stopped. I have been stopped. My family has been stopped for no reason, except for our name,” she said.

“So the problem, the challenge we have is that the law should be the same for everybody.”

Recent court decisions have confirmed the police use of racial profiling in Canada, says Queen’s University law professor Don Stuart. He noted that in the application of drug laws against black people, “judges for years have denied the use of this phenomenon, but now in the last two, they are recognising it.”

Stuart also believes that the definition of terrorism under the Anti-Terrorism Act is “too broad.”

Khouri agrees, pointing to a provision in the federal legislation that defines terrorism as violence done for political, religious or ideological purposes.

“Give this kind of legislation to people in law enforcement and they are going to start looking first of all at people’s beliefs, religious or otherwise, and using these beliefs as indicators of complicity in terrorism,” she said.

“We have had the RCMP go into people’s homes and ask them questions like ‘how often do you pray?’, ‘how often do you go to the mosque?'”.

Khouri charges that Canadian law enforcement officers have demonstrated little understanding of other cultures and religions in the “stupid or offensive questions” they pose to Canadian Muslims in their homes, or to their neighbours and employers.

Some of the targets of the questioning are recent immigrants, adds Khouri, who “don’t want to report these things to us. People are very afraid; they don’t want to be associated with security threats. They don’t want to be seen as complaining about the police, so they don’t get into further trouble.”

The situation reminds historian Reg Whittaker of the anti-communist witch-hunts in the United States in the 1950s.

While Canada did not engage in the widespread abuse of civil liberties that occurred south of its border and could “smugly” congratulate itself on avoiding U.S. excesses, quieter but similar forms of harassment did occur “behind closed doors,” says Whittaker in a paper he wrote for the Canadian department of justice.

Critics of the current Anti-Terrorism Act are hoping that reviews being conducted by the Senate and a House of Commons subcommittee will look at how Canada has used secretive security certificates through separate immigration and refugee legislation to detain and deport five immigrants of Muslim. (So far, all have remained in Canada because of legal challenges.)

Canada’s Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said recently that the British use of house arrest and other personal restrictions for suspected terrorists might be copied in Canada, after a Montreal judge freed a young man of Moroccan origin who had been for detained 21 months and slated for deportation on security grounds.

Originally born in South Africa, Stuart says that the Canadian preventive detention provisions remind him of similar measures in his home country when racial discrimination was the official policy.

“Just because there is a suspicion that they might be involved in something, that is no reason to lock people up. That is what the apartheid regime was all about,” Stuart told IPS.

Rex Brynen, a McGill University political science professor, warned the Canadian department of justice a year ago of the danger of needlessly alienating members of certain minority communities from Canadian society at large, and making them prey to extremist groups.

“Exclusionary or discriminatory security measures targeted against particular transnational ethnic communities are at a grave risk of failure or even backfiring,” he said.

However, Muslims in Canada still believe in their country and are focused on mobilising during and after elections against politicians who support draconian legal means to fight terrorism, says Khouri. (END/2005)


Shifting our Mideast policy makes us a loser

By Raja Khouri

The Globe & Mail

Friday, January 14, 2005

Canada is big on international law. We cited it when we joined the 1991 Persian Gulf war, and when we opted out of the 2003 one. We lobbied for the International Criminal Court so international law would have teeth. We have made support for international law, the United Nations and human rights the cornerstone of our foreign policy. The Martin government, however, has begun to change this, particularly as it applies to the Middle East.

The shift was demonstrated in a one-two punch at the UN General Assembly. The first came last July when, in a highly unusual move, Canada withheld its support from an International Court of Justice ruling condemning the Israeli-built “security fence” in the West Bank as illegal. The second punch came last month when Canada voted against a couple of resolutions backing Palestinian rights.

Why should a shift in our Mideast policy in favour of Israel matter to Canadians?

The international resonance of the votes is highly significant to Canada’s global standing. That the votesmarked a shift from long-standing policy that had served Canada well, and was influenced by forcesunique to the Martin government, raises questions about the integrity of the new policy.

First, the votes and their significance: When Canada abstained on July 20 from a UN resolution calling for the adoption of the ICJ advisory ruling, it broke with the majority of nations (150) that voted in its favour. The ICJ said “the wall . . . [is] contrary to international law” and called on UN members to “bring to an end the illegal situation” resulting from its construction. By its abstention, Canada reasoned that adopting the ICJ ruling would not “contribute to the aim of advancing a . . . negotiated settlement to the conflict.” Well, neither does the wall, built almost entirely on occupied Palestinian land.

Diana Buttu, a Canadian-born legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiators, finds a disturbing dichotomy between Canada’s words and actions. “The Palestinians did what the West, and Canada, told them to do, and used non-violent means to resist Israel’s actions by going to the ICJ. And what did Canada do? It turned its back on them. This told the Palestinians that the legal means are not on their side, and the use of force is the only answer.” Not the kind of message Canada should be sending if it is the moderates we want to strengthen.

Similarly, in its No vote on Dec. 1 to a UN resolution extending the mandate of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Canada moved away from the pack and sided with Israel, Australia, the U.S. and three of its tiny protectorates.

“Tell me who your friends are and I tell you who you are,” says McMaster University economics professor and Middle East commentator Atif Kubursi. “Canada has broken off from a long-standing record of upholding international law and human rights and has done itself a lot of damage in the process.” He argues that Canada, a soft power militarily and politically in the global sense, is a “hard power on moral issues” — one that is now being eroded, due to domestic considerations and lobby groups.

He is alluding to the increasing influence of a group of MPs calling itself Liberal Parliamentarians for Israel, which lists among its ranks half a dozen federal cabinet ministers. In a policy paper it issued in 2003, the group called for a shift in Canada’s UN voting pattern in favour of Israel, citing a lack of balance in UN resolutions. “The current argument that the various resolutions that we support merited our backing because they mostly agreed with our foreign policy . . . does not make these resolutions balanced.”

In other words, it should be a numbers game: One resolution for the Palestinians should be balanced with one for Israel, international law and foreign policy be damned. Hardly a prescription for a sound approachto international affairs. Ms. Buttu calls it an “Israel first” approach that does not take into accountCanadian values and may, in effect, be “detrimental to Canada’s interests.”

Canadians don’t want their government to be pro anyone in the Middle East conflict. Polls conducted for the Canada-Israel Committee in recent months showed that 83 per cent of Canadians supported a neutral approach. Successive Canadian governments have resisted pressure from pro-Israel lobbies in favour of a pro-Canada policy: support for international law, human rights and the UN. As it has on other issues, Mr. Martin’s government appears to be buckling on this one, too. The loser is Canada.

Raja G. Khouri is former president of the Canadian Arab Federation and author of Arabs in Canada: Post 9/11.


ELECTION 2006: Get Informed! Get Involved! Vote Wisely!

The 2006 election will provide Arab Canadians with a real opportunity to work together on the advocacy front and ensure that key issue which affect or interest us are addressed by party leaders and their candidates running for office.

Our community is diverse and spreads from coast to coast to coast to coast – according to StatsCan, there are 85 Arab Canadians living in the riding of Western Artic in the Northwest Territories … a riding in which the Liberals won by only 52 votes! There are several ridings just like this elsewhere in Canada – click on CAF’s post-election analysis below.

Get Informed!

Post-election analysis of the 2004 Federal election
Canadian and Arab and Muslim Voters: Growing Political Influence

After the 2004 Federal election, CAF produced a post-election analysis. We researched the Arab and Muslim populations in the 308 ridings across Canada based on 2001 census. This information was then assessed in relation to the outcomes of the election in each riding.

There were 119 ridings that were deemed to be either ‘competitive’ or ‘highly competitive’ by nature of the number of votes awarded to the first and second place candidates. The data suggests that the Canadian Arab and Muslim votes could have a significant impact in over a third of ridings across Canada.

CAF Policy Positions

• National Security
• Immigration and Integration
• Foreign Policy

Get Involved!

• Attend candidate meetings and debates
• Volunteer for your party of choice
• Mobilise your family and friends to participate with you

Vote Wisely!

• Once you are standing there at the voting booth with pencil in hand, it’s your responsibility to make the most informed decision.

CAF salutes Arab Canadians across Canada who are participating…and making a difference in how our country’s leadership is selected.

Arab and Muslim groups call on government to release information in Arar inquiry

Toronto – Today the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) and the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) called upon the federal government to reassess its recent decision to withhold the release of the summary of the in-camera evidence heard by the Arar inquiry. Both organizations are disturbed that the federal government has redacted important and relevant information from the summary prepared by the Arar Inquiry Commissioner, Justice Dennis O’Connor, regarding the testimony of CSIS and its role within the Arar affair.

Justice O’Connor has indicated that the information contained within the summary has been fully evaluated not to compromise national security needs and is measured and reasonable. “The government created a lot of good will when it took the Arar case seriously and created this public inquiry,” said Omar Alghabra, CAF president. “However, recent decisions by the government are creating obstacles for Mr. Arar, the interveners and the public to get to the truth.”

“It is unacceptable that the government is attempting to withhold evidence that is already in the public domain,” said CAIR-CAN Executive Director Riad Saloojee. “The government’s actions will not protect national security as much as further delay the cost to Canadian taxpayers.”

According to Paul Cavalluzzo, counsel for the commission, the government did not indicate that the information included within the summary should be redacted when meeting with the Commissioner on October 29. The government only claimed National Security Confidentiality (NSC) after the inquiry concluded its decision to release information to the public.

Both CAF and CAIR-CAN are interveners at the public inquiry. They called on the government to reconsider its stance, uphold the principles of justice and transparency, and ensure that the process remains as a public inquiry and not a private investigation.

Media Inquiries:

Omar Alghabra, CAF president, (905) 302-6787
Abdurahman Salman, CAIR-CAN, (613) 254-9704; Cell: (613) 795-2012

Canada’s vote at the UN General Assembly on the Middle East

Toronto – Today, the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) expressed its displeasure with Canada’s vote against a United Nations General Assembly Resolution. This resolution, to extend the mandate of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, will see a continued effort “to promote the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, to support the Middle East peace process and to mobilize international support for and assistance to the Palestinian people.”

The resolution was adopted by 104 votes in favour, 7 against and 63 abstentions. The countries that voted against the resolution were Australia, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau and the United States.

“The Prime Minister, in his leadership acceptance speech late last year stated that the world needs more Canada,” said Omar Alghabra, CAF president. “It seems that the world, and more specifically the less fortunate part of the world, is getting less of Canada.”

Yesterday, the UN General Assembly concluded the debate on the Middle East issue by adopting six resolutions: 1) To support and continue the work of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, 2) Palestinian Rights Secretariat Division, 3) Department of Public Information, Special Information Program on Palestine, 4) Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine, 5) Jerusalem, 6) Golan Heights.

Canada voted against the first resolution, abstained from voting on the second and sixth resolutions and voted in favour of the third, fourth and fifth resolutions.

“If Canada wants to maintain its stance as a credible international player, it must remain consistent in the message it sends to the rest of the world,” said Audrey Jamal, CAF executive director. “Sending such mixed messages does not equate to balance or objectivity.”

CAF urges the Canadian government to promote peace and justice in the Middle East and around the world through the application of international law and the various UN resolutions. More importantly, Canada must promote our own values and principles, not simply become either pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli.

For more information contact:

Omar Alghabra, 905-302-6787
Audrey Jamal, 416-493-8635 Ext 23

Action alert: Voice your concern about MSNBC radio show

The Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) calls upon its members and friends to contact the RCMP, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSA), and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in response to a recent program aired on MSNBC.

There are currently several cable and satellite distributors broadcasting MSNBC in Canada. As of December 1, 2004, however, the CRTC has granted MSNBC the ability to broadcast unrestricted in Canada.

On a November 12, 2004 MSNBC talk show, Imus In The Morning, hosts were discussing Yasser Arafat’s funeral. The conversation that ensued contained the following references to Palestinians:

“They’re all brainwashed…and they’re stupid to begin with…Stinking animals. They ought to drop the bomb right there, kill ’em all right now”.

Antonia Zerbisias covered the story in the Toronto Star, her article can be found at:

CAF urges you to contact the RCMP and the CRTC, in your email you may want to include the following points:

These words contravene Canadian hate laws and should be investigated

·If MSNBC has breeched Canadian hate laws, the CRTC should immediately review its ability to broadcast in Canada

·It is essential that material aired in Canada not promote hate or violence toward any group or individual

Canadian contacts:

1.CRTC: email or visit

2. RCMP: visit


You may also choose to write directly to MSNBC to share your views on this interview:


Send a copy of your comments to CAF at

The Canadian Arab Federation is the national organization representing Canadians of Arab origin.

1057 McNicoll Ave. Toronto, ON, M1W 3W6

Tel: (416) 493-8635 / Fax: (416) 493-9239