Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More on the Iacobucci Inquiry

Finally a little more information on this inquiry. I sent an email to Stockwell Day on January 11th and several followups but have had not answer as to when the inquiry will begin or if there will be a website. The Liberal and NDP justice critics have not responded either. The only responses have been from the office of my own MP but neither of those answered the questions. Why have these email addresses if no one answers queries?

Attention News Editors:

Commissioner Frank Iacobucci appoints staff
OTTAWA, Feb. 16 /CNW Telbec/ - The Honourable Frank Iacobucci, who has
been appointed as Commissioner to conduct the Internal Inquiry into the
Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad
Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin, is pleased to announce the appointment of
certain senior members of the Inquiry's legal and administrative staff.
Mr. John B. Laskin will act as Lead Counsel. Admitted to the Bar in 1979,
Mr. Laskin is a senior partner at Torys LLP in Toronto, where he maintains a
wide-ranging litigation practice.
Mr. John A. Terry is appointed Co-Lead Counsel. Also a litigation partner
at Torys LLP, Mr. Terry's main areas of practice include international, public
and business law. He was called to the Bar in 1991.
Ms. Danielle Barot is appointed Counsel with primary responsibility for
managing the Inquiry's documentary evidence. Ms. Barot is a specialist in
criminal law and a partner at Schurman Longo Grenier in Montreal. She was
admitted to the Bar in 1971.
Ms. Nicole Viau-Cheney is appointed Director, Finance and Administration.
In that capacity, Ms. Viau-Cheney will be responsible for all administrative
and financial aspects of the Commission. She brings to the Inquiry the
experience of having served with several Commissions of Inquiry over the
Ms. Francine Bastien will be responsible for Communications and Media
Relations. A native Montrealer and former Radio-Canada/CBC radio and
television journalist, Ms. Bastien served in a similar capacity with the Arar
The Commissioner expects to make further appointments as the work of the
Inquiry proceeds.
The Commission expects to convene initial hearings shortly to deal with
certain preliminary matters, including applications for participation in the

Established under Part I of the Inquiries Act by the Minister of Public
Safety, the Commissioner's mandate is to determine whether the detention of
these three individuals in Syria or Egypt resulted from actions of Canadian
officials, particularly in relation to the sharing of information with foreign
countries; those actions or the actions of Canadian consular officials were
deficient in these cases and whether any mistreatment of these three
individuals in Syria or Egypt resulted from deficiencies in the actions of
Canadian officials.

For further information: Media contact: Francine Bastien, (613)
947-7606, Cell.: (613) 299-6554,

Three large oil sands projects approved in four months!

I really do not have the knowledge to comment much about the environmental impact of these projects but I did see a CBC documentary that present a lot of damaging data that should make regulators think twice about allowing development at an escalating pace such as this. Also, it seems absolutely stupid to allow developments with no value added features such as an upgrader. This just leaves the value added profits to the US where much of the production will be exported.

Regulators approve third large oilsands project in four months
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 | 2:29 PM MT
The Canadian Press
Imperial Oil's $7-billion Kearl oilsands mine received conditional approval from regulators Tuesday, making it the third massive new oilsands project to get the go-ahead in the last four months.

Imperial celebrated the "key approval" by provincial and federal regulators, but environmentalists said it proves no attention is being paid to the cumulative effects of oilsands development in northern Alberta.

The Kearl project, 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, will include four open-pit mines and related facilities to extract the gluey bitumen. It is expected to employ 2,000 people.

The first phase of the project aims at producing 100,000 barrels daily, with a potential to triple that output with expansions.

Imperial and its parent company ExxonMobil currently have no plans to build a new upgrader in Alberta, despite the province's aim to keep more of the value-added processing work.

The approval, following three weeks of public hearings last November, imposed 17 conditions on Imperial Oil, relating to environmental and technical aspects of the project.

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The panel also made eight recommendations to the federal government dealing with environmental issues such as water management and emissions technology.

It submitted 20 additional recommendations to the Alberta government, urging the province to address the lack of land, infrastructure and social resources in the booming Fort McMurray region.

The Kearl approval was released one day after the Alberta government unveiled plans to spend nearly $400 million on critical growth issues like health care, housing and water treatment in Fort McMurray.

Late last year, regulators gave the thumbs-up to Suncor Energy's $7-billion Voyageur oilsands expansion and to the $12.8-billion Athabasca oilsands expansion owned by Shell Canada, Western Oil Sands and Chevron Canada.

All the projects faced significant objections from First Nations, the regional municipality and environmental groups, said Dan Woynillowicz from the Pembina Institute, an environmental policy think-tank.

"And yet we've seen all three of those rubber-stamped, with nothing really new or innovative in terms of the conditions," Woynillowicz said.

The Pembina Institute said Imperial's Kearl project is not in the public interest because of the environmental damage and the lack of local value-added plans.

"This project is just about getting the bitumen out of the ground as fast as it can, with no focus on quality," Woynillowicz said.

"I think what this really illustrates for us is that the system for making decisions about oilsands projects is broken and it's not serving the best interests of either Albertans or Canadians."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ottawa Tory claims there are extremist elements in Liberal Party

No doubt from some Conservatives point of view there are extremists in the Liberal party and also in the NDP! The Conservatives are trying to portray the Liberals as soft on terrorism or something of that nature. The recently repealed provisions were passed in the aftermath and over-reaction to 9/11. They have never even been used and were hardly necessary anyway. Harper and some of his party are probably not helping their cause with the type of character assassination and ad hominem rhetoric that they are engaging in these days.

MP's 'extremist' comment draws Liberal fire
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 | 6:06 PM ET
CBC News
Liberals are demanding that a Conservative member of Parliament apologize for saying that there are "extremist elements" within the Liberal party.

"We know there is an extremist element in the Liberal party generally that has been very vocal in opposing measures that are designed to combat terrorism," Ottawa Tory MP Pierre Poilievre told a radio interviewer last week.

"And it would seem that Mr. Dion has collapsed under the pressure from those groups."

Poilievre remarks come in the wake of Tuesday's vote over extending anti-terrorism measures that provide authorities with special arrest and investigative powers. The measures, which are set to expire Thursday, were introduced by the Liberals following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion opposes extending some of the provisions.

"All of us are looking to understand why the Liberals have had this sudden flip-flop. We're looking for an explanation of their motives," Poilievre said. "Now we know that a lot of extremist groups and people with some very hard left-wing views have advocated for a long time that these provisions should be scrapped."

Poilievre alleged that many of those people supported Dion's leadership bid.

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He also said that some with the Liberal caucus want to legalize Hezbollah, and shut down the investigation into the 1985 Air India bombing.

Liberal MP Omar Alghabra called Poilievre's comments "outrageous, slanderous" and demanded an apology.

"This is the pattern that this government, this Conservative party, is following in choosing to go to the lowest level of politics that they can find to smear people just to make a political point," he said.

"Instead of focusing on the substance of the debate, they're trying to distract Canadians and smear honourable members of the House."

Liberal MP Navdeep Bains said the Liberal party is seeking legal advice about possibly suing Poilievre.

In the radio interview, Poilievre was asked whether he thought Bains was an extremist. Poilievre would only say that he doesn't comment on individuals.

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper caused an uproar in the House of Commons when he appeared to suggest that the Liberals were opposed to renewing the anti-terrorism measures because they're trying to protect Bains's father-in-law from having to testify in the continuing Air India investigation.

With files from the Canadian Press

Foreign visitors down in Canada

One factor not noted is that the Mad Cow Disease regulations impact on hunters. They cannot take their kill of deer, elk, etc. back to the US. I did not realise that there was a problem with lineups at the border. Surely the same is true of Canadians going into the US but their numbers are up. I imagine that the strength of the looney is a big factor.
Canada would probably be wise to try to diversify the tourist market to attract people from Asia and other areas. Americans can easily find the same sort of territory and attractions within the US without travel to Canada.

In Depth
Where are the visitors?
Last Updated February 26, 2007
CBC News
As the world's tourist industry continues growing, Canada's is shrinking. (CBC) The UN's World Tourist Organization called 2006 a record year for tourism. With 842 million arrivals and a growth rate of 4.5 per cent, the industry continues a four-year streak of sustained growth.

Africa's rate of growth was nearly twice the world rate, at 8.1 per cent. Asia and Europe also posted strong results. Despite a violent 2006, even the Middle East was on par with the world growth rate.

So, how did Canada fare?

Well … it's down 4.1 per cent.

Even more alarming is that, as the world's tourist industry continues growing, Canada's is shrinking. After attracting a record 49,055,000 travellers in 1999, the numbers have been steadily declining. Whether it's same-day trips from the U.S. or travellers from overseas, there's a problem in Canada's multi-billion dollar tourist industry.

Foreign visitors spend about $17 billion a year in Canada, most of that by Americans. Since 1999, the U.S. has typically made up about 90 per cent of all Canada's inbound travellers. While that percentage hasn't changed much, the number of overall visits remains down. Ontario saw the biggest declines, with 10 per cent fewer U.S. entries than in 2005, but Quebec and super-scenic British Columbia weren't far behind.

"I think that international travel habits are changing," says Melanie Scott, editor of WHERE magazine. "People are going further afield. People are traveling to more exotic locations but I think in terms of consistency, yes, we haven’t had the huge numbers we used to have before."

American visits to Canada continued declining in 2006. Same-day car trips saw the biggest drop, hitting their lowest level since 1972.

A study done for the Canadian Tourism Commission in early 2006 estimates that the drop in U.S. visitors has cost Canada $1.2 billion since 2002.

Conversely, more and more Canadians are travelling south of the border. The numbers are up only slightly, but it means a widening gap in tourism spending. Less American spending here versus more Canadian spending in the U.S. created a record $7.2 billion dollar travel deficit in 2006.

What's keeping them away?
So, what's going on? Statistics Canada has advanced several reasons to explain the growing absence of U.S. travellers. The main ones include:

The high Canadian dollar: Canada just isn't the bargain it was when the loonie was worth only 62 cents US in early 2002. Then, a U.S. greenback was worth $1.61 Canadian. Almost five years later, that premium had shrunk to $1.12.
High gasoline costs: Gas prices have soared in the past few years. In the spring of 1999, a U.S. motorist was paying about 90 cents for each U.S. gallon. By the spring of 2004, it was $2. By the summer of 2006, the gas bill had reached $3 per gallon.
Increased border security: In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans stayed home. But Canada managed to pick up some market share, because a road trip to Canada after the attacks in 2001 was perceived to be a safer option that flying to Europe. That boom lasted only until 2002, however. After that, Americans became increasingly reluctant to head north. Tougher border security measures put in place in recent years have led to often long lines at border crossings. As well, the perception of big delays and hassles gets a lot of play in U.S. border states.
Scott says there's no question that security issues are a factor, especially in the case of same-day car travel across the border.

"Cross-border security is the biggest [issue] because people hear about cars waiting for hours at the border and it discourages them," she says. "Without a doubt, that would be a contributing factor."

Tougher border security measures put in place in recent years have led to often long lines at border crossings. (CBC) New developments may only exacerbate the problem. As U.S. passport regulations tighten, parties on both sides of the border are growing concerned over the potential impact on cross-border tourism.

The Conference Board of Canada cautioned that the rule changes could cost Canada $3.6 billion in lost tourism revenue and 14 million U.S. visitors over the five-year period ending in 2010.

Not promoting Canada to foreign tourists?
Other reasons for the decline have been put forward. The 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak garnered widespread media coverage in the United States and led to many cancelled conventions in Canada. Visits to the hardest-hit city, Toronto, fell noticeably that year.

Some suggest that there's a lot of confusion in the American public over when new border documentation rules will kick in and how severe they will be (passports or new "smart cards"). Only 26 per cent of Americans have a passport; the Canadian figure is 40 per cent.

But others suggest that some of the blame lies closer to home.

The Tourism Industry Association of Canada says we aren't doing nearly enough to promote Canada as a tourist destination. And the budget of the Canadian Tourism Commission has been cut at a time when many other countries have been rapidly increasing their marketing efforts aimed at foreign tourists.

The commission estimates that each dollar spent on sales and marketing in North America produces $10 in tourism revenue.

Taxing government
Federal cost-cutting plans may have played a part in the problems facing the industry. In 2006, the government repealed the Visitor Rebate Program (VRP), a tax refund once available to tourists.

Then-treasury board president John Baird defended the move, saying only three per cent of eligible travelers actually applied for the rebate.

Responding to the government's decision to axe the VRP, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada issued a press release condemning the decision.

"This shortsighted fiscal policy will result in a net loss of $46 million in government tax revenue and the loss of over 5,700 jobs in the tourism sector," it read.

It further argued that, although cutting the program saved $79 million, its removal would create a $239 million loss in GDP.

Scott says Baird's argument for cutting the program is a valid one, but questions the logic of tourism budget cuts.

"To slash the tourism budget right now is not a good idea," she argues. "I wouldn't say we're in recovery, but we have the potential to have an uphill swing and we need to ride that very carefully."

Encouraging signs
But all is not lost for the Canadian tourist industry. One encouraging trend is that as some markets are declining, others are on the rise. Although less American tourists are coming to Canada, the industry is seeing signs of increased numbers from growing overseas markets. In fact, Scott predicts one particular country will become a major market for Canada's tourist industry.

"The next big wave for Canada is going to be the Chinese travel industry because the [Chinese] borders have opened up," she says. "My prediction is that we'll have a huge influx of Chinese tourists coming here. The numbers coming from Asia could well surpass any numbers we ever had coming from the U.S. by a long shot."

Scott also foresees long-term growth from new overseas markets.

"The tourism base is going to broaden in terms of where people are coming from and I think it's going to steadily increase," she says.

Despite the dropping numbers of foreign tourists, Canadians are doing their part to keep the domestic tourist industry in the black. According to Statistics Canada, domestic tourism was on the rise in 2006 and domestic tourist spending went up in the third quarter of 2006. Tourism also created 663,500 jobs in that same period

Monday, February 26, 2007

Canadian premiers push for relaxed border rules

Interesting that the tourist expenditures of Canadians in US are more than the other way around. I wonder if tourism from the US is down the last while. It would seem that since the Canadian dollar is worth less than the US there would be more US expenditure here. Perhaps it is the snowbirds make the difference!
I wonder if the Canadian government is making any money from the processing of so many more passports.

Premiers push Washington to relax border rules
Last Updated: Monday, February 26, 2007 | 12:23 AM ET
CBC News
Three Canadian premiers are in Washington to press for an easing of the U.S. rules that will require a passport to cross the land border.

At a joint news conference on Sunday to start the four-day visit, Manitoba's Gary Doer, Ontario's Dalton McGuinty and New Brunswick's Shawn Graham said new rules requiring a passport will hurt cross-border trade and tourism.

The premiers said they are getting a sympathetic response from U.S. governors, who will also face the same kind of tourism and economic problems the provinces fear.

Doer met Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, the chairwoman of the National Governors' Association, on Sunday. The governors "are concerned about the economic impact of this proposal," he said.

McGuinty reiterated his call for a "much more secure" driver's licence, with "cutting-edge technology," which he said could eliminate the need for a passport to cross the border.

"We would work with the federal government to have citizenship encoded in the card itself," said the premier, who hopes to roll out the high-tech driver's licences by the end of the year.

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Doer called for the U.S. to delay the passport rules as long as possible. They could come into place as early as next year, or as late as the middle of 2009.

Graham said "our countries are an exceptional case" because there are communities that straddle the border, and people on both sides are used to easy crossings.

The CBC's Henry Champ suggested the premiers would get a good reception because the governors recognize the problems, and because there are more Democrats in Congress.

Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson, who appeared alongside the premiers, said there has been positive feedback to a pilot project underway in Washington State and British Columbia to see if new driver's licences would pass muster for border security.

On Monday, the premiers will present their case to the governors who are visiting Washington for their association meeting.

In terms of trade and tourism:

Canada is the largest export destination for 38 states, Graham said.
Cross-border trade totals $1.9 billion a day, he said.
American tourists spent $10 billion in Canada in 2004, and Canadians spent $11.7 billion in the U.S., McGuinty said.
The premiers fear cross-border traffic will slow to a crawl if everyone needs a passport. They are also worried some travellers simply won't bother.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said last week that children 15 and under and teens 16 to 18 travelling with schools, groups or teams can cross with certified copies of their birth certificates instead of passports.

It would make sense to extend that exemption to seniors, McGuinty said.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Detainees react to Supreme Court ruling on Security Certificates

Some people have pointed out that the detainees are "free" to leave Canada but this freedom is to go to countries where they face torture or perhaps even death.

Detainee ruling comes after 'years of hell'
Last Updated: Friday, February 23, 2007 | 3:37 PM ET
CBC News
Relatives of the men arrested under the federal government's national security certificates praised a high court ruling Friday ordering a new system, while expressing fear that their legal battles are far from over.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously the certificate system is unconstitutional and has given the federal government one year to rewrite the law.

"It's the happiest day of my life," said Mohamed Harkat, who was interviewed by CBC Newsworld from his home in Ottawa.

He said he was "crying for 3½ years in jail" as he continued asking authorities what evidence they had against him.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, writing for the court, said the process of hearing such cases behind closed doors without a lawyer for the accused present is a violation of fundamental justice.

The court suggested Parliament could solve the problem by allowing special security-cleared lawyers to attend the hearings to challenge the evidence and protect the rights of the accused.

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Harkat was recently released on bail and remains under house arrest. He can leave his home on three supervised outings for a total of four hours a week, with advance notice.

Appearing at an Ottawa news conference, his wife, Sophie, choked back tears, then laughed and said, "I thought I could do it without crying this year."

"It's been four years of hell for us," she said.

Strict bail conditions, hunger strikes continue

Diana Ralph, a supporter of another detainee, Hassan Almrei of Mississauga, Ont., said the ruling "finally starts to correct this grotesque law," which she said includes the "vicious" threat of deportation.

Ralph said Almrei is on day 78 of a hunger strike in which he has refused solid food at the immigration holding centre in Kingston, Ont.

"We call for their release and the complete end of bail conditions and for a discontinuation of the continuing threat to deport these men to countries where they are likely to face torture," said Kevin Skerritt of the Justice for Mohamed Harkat Committee.

With the unanimous ruling, there is at least a year of uncertainty for five men who were detained under the security certificates for alleged links to al-Qaeda.

One-year grace period

However, Johanne Doyon, counsel for Moroccan detainee Adil Charkaoui, described the judgment as a "nearly total victory" for the challengers and predicted the government wouldn't dare deport any of them during the one-year grace period it will take to revise the law.

Ahmed Jaballah, the son of a Toronto detainee from Egypt who is staging a hunger strike with Almrei, said he's worried that freedom is a long way off for his father, Mahmoud.

"It's a step in the right direction, but I'm still concerned with what will happen to these men."

He said even if the security certificates are quashed after the one-year period, their cases could go back to court and proceedings could continue for years.

Jaballah said his father is on the 81st day of a hunger strike.

Detainees await government reaction

In the House of Commons, Bloc Québécois MP Monique Guay asked the Conservative government if it would "abandon its George Bush approach" and amend the law allowing secret trials of non-citizens.

The government is still reviewing the court decision and will respond in a "timely and decisive fashion," Dave MacKenzie, parliamentary secretary for public safety, told the Commons.

Charkaoui, who was arrested in Montreal 2003 under a security certificate and released on bail in 2005, said he is "anxious" to see whether a government with "former Reformers who want to limit the role of the judiciary" will adopt the court's recommendations.

He said the law under which he was detained but never charged is unfair

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why US will not admit Arar's Innocence

This is from the Globe and Mail. Another reason is that Arar still has an appeal pending on his suit against the US government.

A world of Maher Arars
Why won't the U.S. admit Maher Arar's innocence? It may be fear of precedent. Tales of other suspects seized and sent abroad to face torture are beginning to come to light in Europe. This week, those stories helped bring down the Italian government. And as Doug Saunders reports, this could be just the beginning.

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

E-mail Doug Saunders | Read Bio | Latest Columns
On an October evening five years ago, a Gulfstream III executive jet appeared in the sky above Rome and requested a landing at Ciampino Airport, a small military and tourist-flight destination on the ancient Via Appia. On board the 14-seat plane were two pilots, a steward, five CIA agents and a tall, elegant Canadian wearing a green sweater, a pair of jeans and metal shackles.

The Gulfstream, registered to a CIA-connected firm known as Presidential Aviation, was on European soil for exactly 37 minutes. When it had finished refuelling, it left Ciampino at 8:59 p.m. and headed to Amman, Jordan. There, Maher Arar was carried off the plane, beaten, and loaded into a van headed to Damascus, where he would face 10 months and 10 days of horrendous torture.

Those 37 minutes are now coming back to haunt Europe.

Mr. Arar's ordeal, and the wealth of investigations and recriminations that have followed in Canada, has provoked a deep sense of alarm in European politics this week. This Syrian-Canadian's case, the abject apology he received from Prime Minister Stephen Harper last month and the bewildering lack of acknowledgment from Washington, has made a half-dozen governments realize that they may soon face similar public self-examinations.

The possibility, revealed in a European Union report last week, that as many as 20 more Arar-like cases may be emerging within Europe, is souring relations between Europe and the U.S. in anti-terrorism operations, and between European governments and their own people in electoral politics.

Major court cases are under way in Germany and Italy against domestic and U.S. agents for kidnapping citizens and sending them to Muslim countries to be tortured — cases that could implicate senior government officials and tarnish national leaders, as they have in Canada.

It is fair to say that Mr. Arar's spectre claimed its first major victim on Wednesday in Rome, when a parliamentary conflict over co-operation with the U.S. "war on terrorism," tainted by the use of Italian airports to transport Mr. Arar and others to sites of torture, led to the collapse of Italy's government.

Those 37 minutes that Mr. Arar spent on the tarmac in Rome, apparently with the consent of Italian authorities under anti-terrorism agreements with the U.S., have now become part of the controversy. An Italian magistrate, Salvatore Vitello, will travel to Canada later this winter as part of his investigation to determine whether Italians and Americans were guilty of kidnapping.

Across Europe, prosecutors such as Mr. Vitello have shifted their energies from charging potential al-Qaeda terrorists to investigating officials who may have overstepped the bounds of law in their pursuit of antiterrorism.

"We are investigating Mr. Arar's transit through Rome, which is itself a crime if behind it there was an actual crime — that is, if in the U.S. he was illegally kidnapped. If that is the case, if he was kidnapped, then Rome was part of it," Mr. Vitello told The Globe and Mail. "The fact that he was in Rome for those 37 minutes — somebody must have given permission for that."

A year ago, his investigation would have been another colourful sideshow in the flamboyant world of European jurisprudence. But Mr. Arar's precedent has changed that.

In Canada, the Arar case has led to the resignation of RCMP chief Giuliano Zaccardelli, to an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the payment of $11.5-million in damages to Mr. Arar, and to tensions between a Conservative government and a U.S. Republican administration. Foreign minister Stockwell Day has engaged in a heated showdown with his U.S. counterparts over his demand that Mr. Arar be removed from an American no-fly list. And the Liberal Party, in a forthcoming election, will be confronted with its indifference and possible collusion in the Arar case.

The issue of "extraordinary rendition" — the U.S. practice of seizing suspected terrorists, placing them on unmarked airplanes, and sending them without charge or trial to countries that practice torture — has festered for years in the background of European politics. But it has been an issue that has mainly concerned political parties and activists on the far left, groups that are predictably anti-American. In mainstream politics, it has simply been part of the War on Terrorism's background noise.

There has now been a palpable change. The carte blanche given after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to U.S. authorities to conduct anti-terror operations on European soil has become a menacing liability, and the subject of potentially destructive investigations, in several European countries. Governments are also reducing military co-operation with the U.S: This week saw Britain and Denmark announcing plans to withdraw troops from Iraq, with others expected to follow.

And when the European Parliament last week released a report condemning the 1,245 CIA flights made in Europe and the 20 European citizens subjected to "rendition," the responses no longer fell along predictable left-right lines.

European leaders are now looking nervously to Canada. Mr. Arar's "rendition" in 2002 was probably the first major use of the practice to come to light, and Canada is the first country to have been scorched politically by the explosive discovery that innocent people were tortured as a result of the practice.

Senior Canadian government officials and European Union diplomats have told The Globe and Mail that they believe the U.S. is avoiding any apology or acknowledgment of wrongdoing in the Arar case because it could open a Pandora's box of recriminations from Europe, where two cases almost identical to Mr. Arar's are being tried in Germany and Italy and at least 18 more could be pending.

American intelligence officials are facing criminal charges in European courts, and an admission that mistakes have been made could transform transatlantic relations into an enormous forensic investigation, they say.

Europe is now feeling the pain that Canada has undergone, in part as a result of information unearthed in the half-dozen inquiries into Mr. Arar's treatment. In Italy, the fallout has centred on the case of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, a Milan cleric also known as Abu Omar, who was seized by CIA agents in 2003 and flown to Cairo, where he was tortured and sexually abused in prison. He was released this week.

Last Friday, Italy had its Arar moment. Milan magistrate Armando Spataro indicted 26 U.S. citizens, including Italian CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady, and five Italians in the rendition of Abu Omar. All of them face charges of kidnapping. The Italian officials include the head of intelligence, Nicolo Pollari, who like the RCMP chief was forced to resign over the case, which is known in Italy as the Imam Rapito ("kidnapped imam") affair.

The U.S. has refused to acknowledge the Italian prosecution or to admit that the rendition occurred. It has also refused the magistrate's request to extradite the defendants (the Italian government has also decided not to press the extradition request at the highest levels). But Italian law allows people to be tried, convicted and sentenced in absentia, so the case will continue, likely revealing embarrassing information about high-level support for the renditions in Italian governments.

In Germany, a case strikingly similar to Mr. Arar's has led to arrest warrants against 13 CIA officers and damning revelations about German complicity in kidnapping. That case involves Khaled el-Masri, who was seized while on vacation in 2003 and sent to Afghanistan for five months (similarly, Mr. Arar, a computer programmer, had been returning from a family vacation). As with Mr. Arar, it appears that Mr. el-Masri has no relationship with terrorism and that his rendition was founded on completely false evidence.

Both Sweden and Portugal are also facing major investigations which accuse their governments of allowing citizens to be seized and sent to Egypt and other countries for torture, without any criminal charges.

Significantly, the case against the U.S. is now being made by judges and officials who have traditionally held pro-American, terror-fighting positions.

Mr. Spataro, the Milan magistrate, is as far from an anti-American firebrand as you can get in Italy: He has spent much of the past 30 years prosecuting terrorist and Mafia groups in Italy, and is not known for a hostility to U.S. interests.

"The job is the same — I have led many investigations against internal terrorism since the early 1970s. Many of my colleagues were killed by terrorist organizations," Mr. Spataro said this week from a Milan office filled with Americana — the wall behind his desk is dominated by a Norman Rockwell print chronicling the integration of southern U.S. schools.

"But we were absolutely sure that it is impossible to fight terrorism without respect for the laws. And with this investigation I hope that we can confirm that it is impossible to win over Islamic terrorism without the respect for law."

The Arar and Abu Omar cases were different in this respect: Along with his indictments of intelligence officials last week, Mr. Spataro laid criminal charges against Abu Omar himself, charging him with membership in a criminal organization (a crime in Italy). Mr. Spataro said that he strongly believes that Abu Omar could have been prosecuted for terrorism far more efficiently if the U.S. practice of rendition had not been followed. But now, he says, the terror-fighters are just as guilty as the alleged terrorist.

"I want to make clear that according to Italian law there is no difference between prosecuting terrorism and prosecuting those who fight terrorism," he said.

That seems to be the bridge that was crossed in Europe this week: It is now the people who were the most stalwart anti-terrorist fighters, the most loyal supporters of George W. Bush's approach to al-Qaeda, who are speaking out against the abuses of that system. With an eye on Canada, the moderates and centre-rightists of Europe are realizing that the U.S. is not prepared to offer a reasonable explanation for those abuses.

That was the case this week with Gijs de Vries, the EU's head of anti-terrrorism, who announced that he will step down in March because he has lost faith in his U.S. partners. He previously had embraced the American approach to counterterrorism, and harshly criticized the European parliament for its rendition-system investigation, with which he refused to co-operate. But on Wednesday, he said that the lack of U.S. explanation for its actions had made it impossible for him to do his job properly.

"The CIA renditions, together with Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and the military commissions act, unfortunately have tarnished the image of the United States in the fight against terrorism, among Muslims and non-Muslims," he told reporters. "I hope the United States, now that there is a new political dynamic in the U.S. Congress, can return to a mainstream interpretation of international human rights."

It was this sort of realization, on a larger scale, that led to the collapse of the Italian government on Wednesday. The expansion of a U.S. military base and the presence of Italian troops in Afghanistan were bound to be divisive in Italy, where Communists and other parties of the extreme left always have built a strong base on anti-Americanism. Those parties make up part of the left-wing coalition government of Romano Prodi, which took power from Silvio Berlusconi in last spring's elections.

But the U.S. base became a rallying point for more than just the far left. A public sense that Italian airports and bases have been used for immoral or questionable activities has led the wider Italian public to take part in protests against the expansion, drawing tens of thousands of people.

It created an environment where even the parties of Mr. Berlusconi's right could vote against the pro-American measures without upsetting their constituencies. On Wednesday, it was mainly right-wing politicians who voted against the military-base expansion and the Afghanistan measure, bringing down the government.

Sergio Romano, a former Italian senior diplomat and leading voice of the country's centre-right, told The Globe and Mail that he now believes that the U.S. should not have bases on Italian soil, because it has abused its friendly relationship with its European allies to the point that it can no longer be trusted.

"I believe that the very same people who have been most aware that terrorism is a threat are now the people who are critical in this case of kidnapping," he said from his Milan office. "I think that calling it a 'war on terrorism' has caused a number of mistakes on our part."

It is bizarre to find the likes of Mr. Romano, an ardently pro-American voice, calling for restrictions on U.S. rights in Europe. But with an eye to Mr. Harper's government, European leaders are realizing that it is perilous to support the Bush administration at this awkward political moment.

"I think there is a body of opinion which feels that this kind of thing should be looked at with new eyes," Mr. Romano said "We know very well that the Americans used their bases in Djibouti to attack al-Qaeda in Ethiopia this year . . . If they decide to attack Hezbollah, God forbid, they'll be using Italian bases to do it.

"And we won't be told beforehand. We'll learn the next day. And you become complicit in such things. We do not want that any more."

Doug Saunders is a London-based member of The Globe and Mail's European bureau. His Focus column, Reckoning, will return next week.

North American Security and Prosperity Initiative

This is an interesting account of plans for deep integration of Canada US and Mexico. It is virtually undiscussed by the mainstream media. I am finally realizing that many important issues are virtually ignored by mainstream media while the public are fed sensational stories such as the trials of serial killers. The eventual outcome of this process would be a North American Union dominated by the US.As with NAFTA the US would be assured of preferred access to the natural resources particularly oil of Canada and Mexico.

Timeline of the Progress Toward a North American Union
Canadian, U.S., and Mexican elites, including CEOS and politicians, have a plan to create common North American policies and further integrate our economies. This plan goes by various names and euphemisms, such as "deep integration", "NAFTA-plus", "harmonization", the "Big Idea", the "Grand Bargain", and the "North American Security and Prosperity Initiative". Regardless of which name your prefer, the end goal of all of these plans is to create a new political and economic entity that would supercede the existing countries. Advocates refer to it as a "North American Community", but it is also known as the North American Union (NAU). Theoretically, it would be similar to and competetive with the European Union (EU). The individual currencies of each country would be replaced by a common currency called the "Amero" and everything from environmental regulations to security would be brought in line with a common standard.

Vive le offers the following timeline as a resource to educate the general public about the progress of the three countries toward a new North American Union (NAU).

Vive le opposes the creation of the North American Union (NAU) because we believe it will mean the loss of Canadian sovereignty and democracy and hand over more power to giant, unelected corporations. We also believe that unlike the EU, the countries joining the NAU are not roughly equal in size and power and that this means the U.S. will most certainly be setting policy for all three countries. Considering the unpopularity of the Bush administration and its policies in the U.S., Canada, and around the world we believe that erasing the borders between our countries and adopting U.S. policies at this time is a bad idea and will create economic, political and military insecurity in this country. We hope that raising awareness about the plan to create a North American Union (NAU) will create opposition and encourage debate in all three countries, but especially in Canada.

Note: This timeline is a work in progress and will be updated as events progress. If you notice a correction that needs to be made or an event that should be included, please email

1921: The Council on Foreign Relations is founded by Edward Mandell House, who had been the chief advisor of President Woodrow Wilson.
1973: David Rockefeller asks Zbigniew Brzezinski and a few others, including from the Brookings Institution, Council on Foreign Relations and the Ford Foundation, to put together an organization of the top political, and business leaders from around the world. He calls this group the Trilateral Commission (TC). The first meeting of the group is held in Tokyo in October. See: Trilateral Commission FAQ
1974: Richard Gardner, one of the members of the Trilateral Commission, publishes an article titled "The Hard Road to World Order" which appeared in Foreign Affairs magazine, published by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). In the article he wrote: "In short, the 'house of world order' would have to be built from the bottom up rather than from the top down. It will look like a great 'booming, buzzing confusion,' to use William James' famous description of reality, but an end run around national sovereignty, eroding it piece by piece, will accomplish much more than the old-fashioned frontal assault." Gardner advocated treaties and trade agreements as a means of creating a new economic world order. See: The Hard Road to World Order
November 13, 1979: While officially declaring his candidacy for U.S. President, Ronald Reagan proposes a “North American Agreement” which will produce “a North American continent in which the goods and people of the three countries will cross boundaries more freely.”
January 1981: U.S. President Ronald Reagan proposes a North American common market.
September 4, 1984: Conservative Brian Mulroney is elected Prime Minister of Canada after opposing free trade during the campaign.
September 25, 1984: Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney meets President Reagan in Washington and promises closer relations with the US.
October 9, 1984: The US Congress adopts the Trade and Tariff Act, an omnibus trade act that notably extends the powers of the president to concede trade benefits and enter into bilateral free trade agreements. The Act would be passed on October 30, 1984.
1985: A Canadian Royal Commission on the economy chaired by former Liberal Minister of Finance Donald S. Macdonald issues a report to the Government of Canada recommending free trade with the United States.
St. Patrick's Day, 1985: Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan sing "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" together to cap off the "Shamrock Summit", a 24-hour meeting in Quebec City that opened the door to future free trade talks between the countries. Commentator Eric Kierans observed that "The general impression you get, is that our prime minister invited his boss home for dinner." Canadian historian Jack Granatstein said that this "public display of sucking up to Reagan may have been the single most demeaning moment in the entire political history of Canada's relations with the United States."
September 26, 1985: Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announces that Canada will try to reach a free trade agreement with the US.
December 10, 1985: U.S. President Reagan officially informs Congress about his intention to negotiate a free trade agreement with Canada under the authority of trade promotion. Referred to as fast track, trade promotion authority is an accelerated legislative procedure which obliges the House of Representatives and the Senate to decide within 90 days whether or not to establish a trade trade unit. No amendments are permitted.
May 1986: Canadian and American negotiators begin to work out a free trade deal. The Canadian team is led by former deputy Minister of Finance Simon Reisman and the American side by Peter O. Murphy, the former deputy United States trade representative in Geneva.
October 3, 1987: The 20-chapter Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement (CUSFTA or FTA) is finalized. U.S. trade representative Clayton Yeutter offers this observation: "We've signed a stunning new trade pact with Canada. The Canadians don't understand what they've signed. In twenty years, they will be sucked into the U.S. economy."
November 6, 1987: Signing of a framework agreement between the US and Mexico.
January 2, 1988: Prime Minister Mulroney and President Reagan officially sign the FTA.
January 1, 1989: The Canada US Free Trade Agreement (CUSFTA or FTA) goes into effect.
June 10, 1990: Presidents Bush (U.S.) and Salinas (Mexico) announce that they will begin discussions aimed at liberalizing trade between their countries.
August 21, 1990: Mexican President Salinas officially proposes to the US president the negotiation of a free trade agreement between Mexico and the US.
February 5, 1991: Negotiations between the US and Mexico aimed at liberalizing trade between the two countries officially become trilateral at the request of the Canadian government under Brian Mulroney.
April 7 to 10, 1991: Cooperation agreements are signed between Mexico and Canada covering taxation, cultural production and exports.
May 24, 1991: The American Senate endorses the extension of fast track authority in order to facilitate the negotiation of free trade with Mexico.
June 12, 1991: Start of trade negotiations between Canada, the US and Mexico.
April 4, 1992 Signing in Mexico by Canada and Mexico of a protocol agreement on cooperation projects regarding labour.
August 12, 1992: Signing of an agreement in principle on NAFTA.
September 17, 1992: Creation of a trilateral commission responsible for examining cooperation in the area of the environment.
October 7, 1992: Official signing of NAFTA by Michael Wilson of Canada (minister), American ambassador Carla Hills and Mexican secretary Jaime Serra Puche, in San Antonio (Texas).
December 17, 1992: Official signing of NAFTA by Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, US president George Bush, and Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, subject to its final approval by the federal Parliaments of the three countries.
March 17 and 18, 1993: Start of tripartite discussions in Washington aimed at reaching subsidiary agreements covering labor and the environment.
September 14, 1993: Official signing of parallel agreements covering labor and the environment in the capitals of the three countries.
1993: The Liberal Party under Jean Chretien promises to renegotiate NAFTA in its campaign platform, titled "Creating Opportunity: the Liberal Plan for Canada" and also known as The Red Book.
December 1993: Newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien signs NAFTA without changes, breaking his promise to renegotiate NAFTA. U.S. President Bill Clinton signs NAFTA for the U.S.
November 1993: The North American Development Bank (NADB) and its sister institution, the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC), are created under the auspices of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to address environmental issues in the U.S.-Mexico border region. The two institutions initiate operations under the November 1993 Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Mexican States Concerning the Establishment of a Border Environment Cooperation Commission and a North American Development Bank (the “Charter”). See: About Us (The North American Development Bank)
January 1, 1994: NAFTA and the two agreements on labour and the environment go into effect, replacing CUSFTA.
November 16, 1994: Canada and Mexico sign a cooperation agreement regarding the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
December 1994: The Summit of the Americas is held in Miami. The three signatories of NAFTA officially invite Chile to become a contractual party of the agreement. The Free Trade Area of the Americas or FTAA is initiated. According to the offical FTAA website, "the Heads of State and Government of the 34 democracies in the region agreed to construct a Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA, in which barriers to trade and investment will be progressively eliminated. They agreed to complete negotiations towards this agreement by the year 2005 and to achieve substantial progress toward building the FTAA by 2000." See: FTAA
December 22, 1994: Mexican monetary authorities decide to let the Peso float. The US and Canada open a US$6 billion line of credit for Mexico.
January 3, 1995: Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo presents an emergency plan.
January 1995: President Clinton announces an aid plan for Mexico.
February 9, 1995: Mickey Kantor, the US Foreign Trade representative, announces Washington’s intention to include the provisions of NAFTA regarding labor and the environment in negotiations with Chile.
February 21, 1995: Signing in Washington of an agreement regarding the financial assistance given to Mexico. Mexico in turn promises to pay Mexican oil export revenue as a guarantee into an account at the Federal Reserve in New York.
February 28, 1995: Mexico announces the increase of its customs duties on a number of imports from countries with which it does not have a free trade agreement.
March 9, 1995: President Zedillo presents austerity measures. The plan envisages a 50% increase in value added taxes, a 10% reduction of government expenditure, a 35% increase in gas prices, a 20% increase in electricity prices and a 100% increase in transportation prices. The minimum wage is increased by 10%. The private sector can benefit from government assistance. The inter-bank rate that is reduced to 74% will be increased to 109% on March 15.
March 29, 1995: Statistical data on US foreign trade confirms the sharp increase in Mexican exports to the US.
April 10, 1995: The US dollar reaches its lowest level in history on the international market. It depreciated by 50% relative to the Japanese yen in only four years.
June 7, 1995: First meeting of the ministers of Foreign Trade of Canada (Roy MacLaren), the US (Mickey Kantor), Mexico (Herminio Blanco) and Chile (Eduardo Aninat) to start negotiations.
December 29, 1995: Chile and Canada commit to negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement.
June 3, 1996: Chile and Canada start negotiating the reciprocal opening of markets in Santiago.
November 18, 1996: Signing in Ottawa of the Canada-Chile free trade agreement by Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada and Eduardo Frei, President of Chile. The agreement frees 80% of trade between the two countries. It is the first free trade agreement signed between Chile and a member of the G 7.
July 4, 1997: The Canada-Chile free trade agreement comes into effect.
1997: The US presidency proposes applying NAFTA parity to Caribbean countries.
April 17, 1998: Signing in Santiago, Chile of the free trade agreement between Chile and Mexico by President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León of Mexico, and President Eduardo Frei of Chile.
August 1, 1999: The Chile-Mexico free trade agreement comes into effect.
September, 1999: The Canadian right-wing think tank the Fraser Institute publishes a paper by Herbert G. Grubel titled "The Case for the Amero: The Economics and Politics of a North American Monetary Union." In the paper Grubel argues that a common currency is not inevitable but it is desirable. See: The Case for the Amero
July 2, 2000: Vicente Fox Quesada of the National Action Party (PAN), is elected president of Mexico, thus ending the reign of the Revolutionary Institutional Party (RIP) that had held power for 71 years. Mr. Fox is sworn in on 1 December 2000.
July 4, 2000: Mexican president Vicente Fox proposes a 20 to 30 year timeline for the creation of a common North American market. President Fox’s “20/20 vision” as it is commonly called, includes the following: a customs union, a common external tariff, greater coordination of policies, common monetary policies, free flow of labor, and fiscal transfers for the development of poor Mexican regions. With the model of the European Fund in mind, President Fox suggests that US$10 to 30 billion be invested in NAFTA to support underdeveloped regions. The fund could be administered by an international financial institution such as the Inter-American Development Bank.
November 27, 2000: Trade negotiations resume between the US and Chile for Chile’s possible entry into NAFTA.
2001: Robert Pastor's 2001 book "Toward a North American Community" is published. The book calls for the creation of a North American Union (NAU).
April 2001: Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and US President George W. Bush sign the Declaration of Quebec City at the third Summit of the Americas: “This is a ‘commitment to hemispheric integration." See: Declaration of Quebec City
August 30, 2001: The Institute for International Economics issues a press release advocating that the United States and Mexico should use the occasion of the visit of President Vicente Fox of Mexico on September 4-7 to develop a North American Community as advocated by Robert Pastor in his book "Toward a North American Community." See: A Blueprint for a North American Community
September 11, 2001: A series of coordinated suicide terrorist attacks upon the United States, predominantly targeting civilians, are carried out on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Two planes (United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11) crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, one plane into each tower (One and Two). Both towers collapsed within two hours. The pilot of the third team crashed a plane into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. Passengers and members of the flight crew on the fourth aircraft attempted to retake control of their plane from the hijackers; that plane crashed into a field near the town of Shanksville in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Excluding the 19 hijackers, a confirmed 2,973 people died and another 24 remain listed as missing as a result of these attacks. In response, the Bush administration launches the "war on terror" and becomes very concerned with security.
December 2001: New U.S. Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci publicly advocates "NAFTA-plus". See: The Emergence of a North American Community?
December 2001: U.S. Governor Tom Ridge and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister John Manley sign the Smart Border Declaration and Associated 30-Point Action Plan to Enhance the Security of Our Shared Border While Facilitating the Legitimate Flow of People and Goods. The Action Plan has four pillars: the secure flow of people, the secure flow of goods, secure infrastructure, and information. It includes shared customs data, a safe third-country agreement, harmonized commercial processing, etc.
February 7, 2002: Robert Pastor gives invited testimony before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, House of Commons, Government of Canada, Ottawa. See: INVITED TESTIMONY OF DR. ROBERT A. PASTOR
April 2002: The Canadian right-wing think tank the C.D. Howe Institute publishes the first paper in the "Border Papers" series, which they have described as "a project on Canada's choices regarding North American integration." The Border Papers were published with the financial backing of the Donner Canadian Foundation. Generally the border papers advocate deep integration between Canada and the U.S., and the first border paper "Shaping the Future of the North American Economic Space: A Framework for Action" by Wendy Dobson popularized the term "the Big Idea" as one euphemism for deep integration. To read the border papers, you can visit the C.D. Howe Institute website at Use the publication search form (1996 to current, PDF) and choose "border papers" from the "Serie contains" drop down menu.
September 9, 2002: President Bush and Prime Minister Chrétien meet to discuss progress on the Smart Border Action Plan and ask that they be updated regularly on the work being done to harmonize our common border.
December 5, 2002: The text of the Safe Third Country Agreement is signed by officials of Canada and the United States as part of the Smart Border Action Plan. See the final text here: Final Text of the Safe Third Country Agreement Refugee support groups on both sides of the Canadian-U.S. border criticize the new agreement dealing with refugees for stipulating that refugees must seek asylum in whichever of the two countries they reach first. Critics say that preventing individuals who first set foot in the U.S. from making a claim in Canada will increase cases of human smuggling, and that other refugees will be forced to live without any kind of legal status in the U.S. See for example: 10 Reasons Why Safe Third Country is a Bad Deal
September 11, 2002: The National Post publishes an article by Alan Gotlieb, the chairman of the Donner Canadian Foundation and Canada's ambassador to the United States from 1981 to 1989, titled "Why not a grand bargain with the U.S.?" In the article, Gotlieb asks "Rather than eschewing further integration with the United States, shouldn't we be building on NAFTA to create new rules, new tribunals, new institutions to secure our trade? Wouldn't this 'legal integration' be superior to ad hoc responses and largely ineffective lobbying to prevent harm from Congressional protectionist sorties? Wouldn't our economic security be enhanced by establishing a single North American competitive market without anti-dumping and countervail rules? Are there not elements of a grand bargain to be struck, combining North American economic, defence and security arrangements within a common perimeter?" See: Why not a grand bargain with the U.S.?
November 1-2, 2002: Robert Pastor presents "A North American Community. A Modest Proposal To the Trilateral Commission," to the North American Regional Meeting, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Pastor called for implementation of "a series of political proposals which would have authority over the sovereignty of the United States, Canada and Mexico. ... the creation of North American passports and a North American Customs and Immigrations, which would have authority over U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within the Department of Homeland Security. A North American Parliamentary Group would oversee the U.S. Congress. A Permanent Court on Trade and Investment would resolve disputes within NAFTA, exerting final authority over the judgments of the U.S. Supreme Court. A North American Commission would 'develop an integrated continental plan for transportation and infrastructure.'" See: A North American Community. A Modest Proposal To the Trilateral Commission
December 6, 2002: The White House issues an update on the progress of the Smart Border Action Plan. See: U.S. Canada Smart Border 30 Point Action Plan Update
December, 2002: US Secretary Colin Powell signs an agreement between the United States and Canada to establish a new bi-national planning group at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) headquarters in Colorado Springs. The new bi-national planning group is expected to release a report recommending how the militaries of U.S. and Canada can "work together more effectively to counter land-based and maritime threats." See: U.S. and Canada Sign Bi-National Agreement on Military Planning
January 2003: The Canadian Council of Chief Executives headed by Tom D'Aquino (also a member of the trinational Task Force on the Future of North America) launches the North American Security and Prosperity Initiative (NASPI) in January 2003 in response to an alleged "need for a comprehensive North American strategy integrating economic and security issues". NASPI has five main elements, which include: Reinventing borders, Maximizing regulatory efficiencies, Negotiation of a comprehensive resource security pact, Reinvigorating the North American defence alliance, and Creating a new institutional framework. See: North American Security and Prosperity Initiative (PDF).
October 21, 2003: Dr. Robert Pastor gives testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives, International Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs on "U.S. Policy toward the Western Hemisphere:Challenges and Opportunities" in which he recommends the formation of a "North American Community."
January 2004: NAFTA celebrates its tenth anniversary with controversy, as it is both praised and criticized.
January/February 2004: The Council on Foreign Relations publishes Robert Pastor's paper "North America's Second Decade," which advocates further North American integration. Read it at: North America's Second Decade
April 2004: The Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) publishes a major discussion paper titled "New Frontiers: Building a 21st Century Canada-United States Partnership in North America." Some of the paper’s 15 recommendations expand on the NASPI framework in areas such as tariff harmonization, rules of origin, trade remedies, energy strategy, core defence priorities and the need to strengthen Canada-United States institutions, including the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD). Other recommendations focus on the process for developing and executing a comprehensive strategy, including the need for greater coordination across government departments, between federal and provincial governments and between the public and private sectors. See: Building a 21st Century Canada-United States Partnership in North America
October 2004: The Canada-Mexico Partnership (CMP) is launched during the visit of President Vicente Fox to Ottawa. See: Canada-Mexico Partnership (CMP)
November 1, 2004: The Independent Task Force on the Future of North America is formed. The task force is a trilateral task force charged with developing a "roadmap" to promote North American security and advance the well-being of citizens of all three countries. The task force is chaired by former Liberal Deputy Prime Minister John Manley. It is sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in association with the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and the Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales.
December 29, 2004: The Safe Third Country Agreement comes into force. See: Safe Third Country Agreement Comes Into Force Today
March 2005: The Independent Task Force on the Future of North America releases "Creating a North American Community - Chairmen’s Statement." Three former high-ranking government officials from Canada, Mexico, and the United States call for a North American economic and security community by 2010 to address shared security threats, challenges to competitiveness, and interest in broad-based development across the three countries. See: Creating a North American Community Chairmen’s Statement
March 14, 2005: Robert Pastor, author of "Toward a North American Community" and member of the task force on the future of North America, publishes an article titled "The Paramount Challenge for North America: Closing the Development Gap," sponsored by the North American Development Bank, which recommends forming a North American Community as a way to address economic inequalities due to NAFTA between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. See: THE PARAMOUNT CHALLENGE FOR NORTH AMERICA: CLOSING THE DEVELOPMENT GAP (PDF)
March 23, 2005: The leaders of Canada, the United States and Mexico sign the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America at the trilateral summit in Waco, Texas. Canada is signed on by Prime Minister Paul Martin. See:
March 24, 2005: The 40 Point Smart Regulation Plan is launched as part of the SPP agreement. It is a far-reaching plan to introduce huge changes to Canada's regulatory system in order to eliminate some regulations and harmonize other regulations with the U.S. Reg Alcock, President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, launches the Government of Canada's implementation plan for Smart Regulation at a Newsmaker Breakfast at the National Press Club. For the original plan and updates see: Smart Regulation: Report on Actions and Plans
March 2005: Agreement to build the Texas NAFTA Superhighway: “A ‘Comprehensive Development Agreement’ [is] signed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to build the ‘TTC-35 High Priority Corridor’ parallel to Interstate 35. The contracting party involved a limited partnership formed between Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., a publically listed company headquartered in Spain, owned by the Madrid-based Groupo Ferrovial, and a San Antonio-based construction company, Zachry Construction Corp.” Texas Segment of NAFTA Super Highway Nears Construction, Jerome R. Corsi, June 2006, The proposed NAFTA superhighway will be a 10 lane super highway four football fields wide that will travel through the heart of the U.S. along Interstate 35, from the Mexican border at Laredo, Tex., to the Canadian border north of Duluth. Minn. The "Trans-Texas Corridor" or TTC will be the first leg of the NAFTA superhighway.
April 2005: U.S. Senate Bill 853 is introduced by Senator Richard G. Lugar (IN) and six cosponsors. “The North American Security Cooperative Act (NASCA) is touted as a bill to protect the American public from terrorists by creating the North American Union. The North American Union consists of three countries, U.S., Canada, and Mexico, with open borders, something that is proposed to be in effect by 2010. Thus, it would ensure the fulfillment of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.” NASCA Rips America, April 2005,
May 2005: The Council on Foreign Relations Press publishes the report of the Independent Task Force on the Future of North America, titled "Building a North American Community" (task force report 53). See: Building a North American Community
June 2005: A follow-up SPP meeting is held in Ottawa, Canada.
June 2005: A U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee policy paper is released: “The CFR did not mention the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), but it is obvious that it is part of the scheme. This was made clear by the Senate Republican Policy Committee policy paper released in June 2005. It argued that Congress should pass CAFTA … The Senate Republican policy paper argued that CAFTA ‘will promote democratic governance.’But there is nothing democratic about CAFTA’s many pages of grants of vague authority to foreign tribunals on which foreign judges can force us to change our domestic laws to be ‘no more burdensome than necessary’on foreign trade.” CFR's Plan to Integrate the U.S., Mexico and Canada, July 2005,
June 9, 2005: CNN's Lou Dobbs, reporting on Dr. Robert Pastor's congressional testimony as one of the six co-chairmen of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Independent Task Force on North America, began his evening broadcast with this announcement: "Good evening, everybody. Tonight, an astonishing proposal to expand our borders to incorporate Mexico and Canada and simultaneously further diminish U.S. sovereignty. Have our political elites gone mad?"
July 2005: The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) passes in the U.S. House of Representatives by a 217-215 vote.
November 2005: Canadian Action Party leader Connie Fogal publishes an article called "Summary and Part 1:The Metamorphosis and Sabotage of Canada by Our Own Government- The North American Union." See Summary and Part 1:The Metamorphosis and Sabotage of Canada by Our Own Government The North American Union
January 2006: Conservative Stephen Harper is elected Prime Minister of Canada with a minority government.
March 31, 2006: At the Summit of the Americas in Cancun, Canada (under new Prime Minister Stephen Harper) along with the U.S. and Mexico release the Leaders' Joint Statement. The statement presents six action points to move toward a North American Union, aka a North American Community. These action points include: 1) Establishment of a Trilateral Regulatory Cooperative Framework 2) Establishment of the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) 3) Provision for North American Emergency Management 4) Provision for Avian and Human Pandemic Influenza Management 5) Development of North American Energy Security 6) Assure Smart, Secure North American Borders. Read the full statement at: Leaders' Joint Statement
April 2006: A draft environmental impact statement on the proposed first leg of the "NAFTA superhighway", the "Trans-Texas Corridor" or TTC, is completed.
June 2006: Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado. demands superstate accounting from the Bush administration: “Responding to a report, Tom Tancredo is demanding the Bush administration fully disclose the activities of an office implementing a trilateral agreement with Mexico and Canada that apparently could lead to a North American union, despite having no authorization from Congress.” Tancredo Confronts 'Super-State' Effort, June 2006,
June 15, 2006: U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez convenes the first meeting of the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), the advisory group organized by the Department of Commerce (DOC) under the auspices of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and announced by the leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico on March 31, 2006.
July 2006: Public hearings on the proposed "NAFTA superhighway" begin in the U.S.
July 25, 2006: The article "Meet Robert Pastor, Father of the North American Union" is published. See: Meet Robert Pastor: Father of the North American Union
August 21, 2006: An article titled North American Union Threatens U.S. Sovereignty" is posted to
August 27, 2006: Patrick Wood (U.S.) publishes an article titled "Toward a North American Union" for The August Review. See: Toward a North American Union
August 28, 2006: A North American United Nations? by Republican Congressman Ron Paul (Texas) is published. See: A North American United Nations?
August 29, 2006: Patrick Buchanan (U.S.) criticizes a North American union in his article "The NAFTA super highway." See: The NAFTA super highway
September 12-14, 2006: A secret "North American Forum" on integration is held at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Elite participants from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are present. It is ignored by the mainstream media. See the Vive le article for the secret agenda and participant list: Deep Integration Planned at Secret Conference Ignored by the Media

September 13, 2006: A Maclean's article on integration notes that according to Ron Covais, the president of the Americas for defence giant Lockheed Martin, a former Pentagon adviser to Dick Cheney, and one of the architects of North American integration, the political will to make deep integration of the continent happen will last only for "less than two years". According to the article, to make sure that the establishment of a North American Union will take place in that time, "The executives have boiled their priorities down to three: the Canadian CEOs are focusing on 'border crossing facilitation,' the Americans have taken on 'regulatory convergence,' and the Mexicans are looking at 'energy integration' in everything from electrical grids to the locating of liquid natural gas terminals. They plan to present recommendations to the ministers in October. This is how the future of North America now promises to be written: not in a sweeping trade agreement on which elections will turn, but by the accretion of hundreds of incremental changes implemented by executive agencies, bureaucracies and regulators. 'We've decided not to recommend any things that would require legislative changes,' says Covais. 'Because we won't get anywhere.' " See: Meet NAFTA 2.0

COMING IN 2007: Construction is set to begin on the "NAFTA superhighway".
COMING IN 2007: Another trilateral meeting, to be held in Canada. The six actions towards creating a North American Union (NAU)aka a North American Community as set out in the Cancun Leaders' Statement will have been taken in part or in full. Regarding regulations, according to the statement: "We affirm our commitment to strengthen regulatory cooperation in [food safety] and other key sectors and to have our central regulatory agencies complete a trilateral regulatory cooperation framework by 2007."
Sources aside from articles provided within the timeline:
Vive le, FAQ, Sovereignty vs Deep Integration
North American Forum on Integration, NAFTA Timeline
North American Union/Testimony, Publications and Reports, Sourcewatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, North American Union/Testimony, Publications and Reports
Free Market News Network Corp, N. AM. UNION TIMELINE
Wikipedia, various entries,

North American Competitiveness Council Aims at Deep Integration of US and Canada

While there was some discussion of this on TV and on Newman's CBC Politics program I found virtually nothing on it on the CBC news website or even on Google Canada news. Very important matters are being discussed with little coverage and with no participation except by CEO's, and their servants in government. There is supposed to be a report of what the NACC recommended in the public domain but I haven't hunted it down as yet.

Ottawa Meeting Aimed At Integrating North America (Meera Karunananthan), February 23, 2007

North American integration will be the primary focus of a high-level trinational meeting taking place in Ottawa today. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff will meet with Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, Trade Minister David Emerson and their Mexican counterparts.

“While recent media reports have claimed that the meeting will focus on border security,” says Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians, “we know that the goal of this meeting is to advance a much larger corporate-led agenda for North American integration — something our government has been very secretive about.”

“The big business community has been an integral part of these negotiations, while the public and most of our elected officials have been left out,” says John Urquhart, Executive Director of the Council of Canadians.

The North American Competitiveness Council, an official tri-national working group of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America composed of 30 CEOs from some of North America’s largest companies, has been a driving force behind the deep integration process. The NACC is scheduled to present over 50 recommendations today aimed at “making Canada more competitive.”

“If making Canada competitive is the prime focus, why haven’t other stakeholders like labour groups, environmental organizations and social justice groups been invited to the table?” says Jean-Yves LeFort, trade campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “Whose security and prosperity are they promoting?”

A September 2006 report issued by the governments of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico stated that the meeting would take place in order to “review progress” on the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and “develop concrete initiatives” in preparation for the leaders’ summit expected to take place in Kananaskis in June 2007.

“The Security and Prosperity Partnership goes beyond simply the passport issue,” says Lefort. “The agreement calls for 300 policy changes in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico and gives wide-ranging powers to the business élite without any consideration for the public interest or the environment.”

The Council of Canadians is demanding that Canada cease all further participation in the Security and Prosperity Partnership and that Stephen Harper consult with Canadians in a meaningful way on Canada-U.S. relations.

Meera Karunananthan is media officer with the Council of Canadians

Friday, February 23, 2007

Arar still to be on US no fly list. Canadian security certificates unconstitutional

Friday, February 23, 2007
US still to keep Arar on no-fly list: Canadian Security Certifcates Unconstitutional

Of course the US has never apologised for misleading Canadian officals, indeed lying to them, or for sending him to Syria instead of Canada. It is great that the Supreme Court has found security certificates unconstitutional but probably the Conservatives will find some way of amending the legislation to make it legal and the status quo can remain for a year.

'We agree to disagree' with U.S. on Arar: MacKay
Last Updated: Friday, February 23, 2007 | 5:44 PM ET
CBC News
Canada and the United States "agree to disagree" on the status of Maher Arar, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said Friday alongside his U.S. counterpart, Condoleezza Rice.

MacKay, Rice and Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa spoke at a press conference in Ottawa following a day of high-level talks on a range of issues, including trade, security and flu pandemic response plans.

"We agree to disagree at times," MacKay said. "It's clear Canada and the United States hold a different position on this issue."

MacKay went on to praise the "tremendous unprecedented co-operation" between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico in areas of security.

Rice reiterated previous comments on the Arar affair, saying the United States respects Canada's decision on Arar, but makes its own security decisions based on "our own information."

Arar still on U.S. 'no-fly' list
Arar, a Canadian citizen who was born in Syria, was detained in 2002 by U.S. authorities who suspected him of terrorist links and deported him to his homeland, where he was jailed and tortured. Arar's name was later cleared by a Canadian judicial inquiry, which blamed his deportation in part on the RCMP.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to Arar in January and offered him a $10.5-million compensation package for his ordeal.

The U.S. State Department has said it would keep Arar on its security watch list, even though Ottawa has been pushing for his name to be removed.

In January, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said he saw the U.S. information during a visit to Washington and found nothing new to suggest Arar is a safety risk.
MacKay's comments came on the same day as the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the security certificate system used by the federal government to detain and deport foreign-born terrorist suspects.

The court found that the system, described by the government as a key tool for safeguarding national security, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

MacKay noted the decision allowed the government a year to examine the decision and re-write the law.

Canadian security certificates and sending off to torture

This is an update of an earlier story. The security certificates are not new and I gather are not even part of the special terrorist provisions passed after 9/11. As the article points out they have been around since 1978. They seem to be an earlier abomination. The fact they are not applied to citizens doesn't change the fact. As the article also points out Canada can claim no high ground concerning sending someone off to be tortured. It is almost certain that at least one of these defendants would be tortued in Egypt if not killed.

Canadian security
Security certificates and secret evidence
Last Updated February 20, 2007
CBC News
Mahmoud Jaballah says he's no terrorist and he's never been charged with any crime in Canada. But since 2001, Jaballah has been in a Canadian jail because the government of Egypt says he's part of a terrorist organization called al-Jihad. The Canadian government believes that and says he's not a legitimate refugee, so it's trying to deport him back to Egypt, where Jaballah says he will be tortured and killed.

Jaballah is one of five terrorism suspects that have been in this situation. All have been held without charge in Canada on secret evidence they're not allowed to see.

Security certificates
Citizenship and Immigration Canada can remove a person considered to be a security threat by issuing a Security Certificate signed by the solicitor general and the minister of citizenship and immigration, and endorsed by a judge of the Federal Court.

When a security certificate is issued:

All other immigration proceedings are suspended until the Federal Court makes a final decision about the certificate.
Foreign nationals who are the subject of a Security Certificate are automatically detained. Permanent residents may be detained on a case-by-case basis.

If the Federal Court decides that the certificate is unreasonable, it is quashed. If the court decides that it is reasonable, the certificate becomes an order for removal of the person. The court's decision can't be appealed.

Since 1978, security certificates have been issued 28 times. The latest use was in November 2006 in the arrest of an alleged spy in Montreal.

Their friends call them "The Secret Trial Five." Two have been released on bail — under strict conditions — but three remain in custody. And three of the five have taken their case to the Supreme Court of Canada. The court began hearing arguments in the case in June 2006.

The Secret Trial Five are fighting deportation to Morocco, Algeria, Syria and Egypt, where Jaballah says he was tortured before.

"They make me naked and they put me in the chair and they tie the chair and try to put electric shock on my private parts and sometimes he put me like this and hit my feet," he says.

Jaballah says it happened in Cairo at a prison for religious militants where torture is routine according to ex-prisoners and human rights groups.

Whether democracies should look the other way is not an academic question, not when the United States seems to have ignored the Geneva Conventions in the abuse of prisoners at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad and at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Officially, Canada condemns such practices. And, in the case of Maher Arar, it is holding an inquiry. Arar says he was tortured after being shipped off to Syria by the U.S. But what if it's Canada that does the shipping?

Barbara Jackman is a lawyer for three of the so-called Secret Trial Five.

"The convention against torture makes it an absolute prohibition. There is no justification ever for returning someone to torture," she says.

Jackman says Canada signed that convention but is now contradicting it. "Canada's position is that if the person is a security risk, that's enough justification to send them back to torture. That seems to be what Canada's saying in these cases."

What is so baffling about the situation of these men is that the government keeps trying to do to them exactly what it says it would never do. The official line is that if someone can show they face a real risk of torture if deported, then Canada would not deport them. In fact, though, even after the government's lawyers have conceded in court that the risk is real, they still keep trying to deport them.

And it's not like we're even arguing over whether they will be tortured. They accept, the government accepts, that they will be tortured. And yet they've decided to deport them to torture," Jackman says.

On Dec. 10, 2004, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that security certificates used to detain suspected terrorists indefinitely for months without charge are constitutional.

A three-judge panel made the decision at an appeal hearing by Adil Charkaoui, 31, a Moroccan-born man accused of being an al-Qaeda operative. The decision upheld a December 2003 ruling by the separate Federal Court that said sections of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act fell in line with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"The appellant has been unable to demonstrate that the procedure for reviewing the reasonableness of the security certificate issued against him ... do not meet the requirements of the charter," the appeal court wrote in the 89-page ruling.

The court ruled that non-citizens and permanent residents can be subjected to a different standard of legal treatment than citizens.

The judges also upheld the use of secret evidence, and said that authorities have an obligation to suppress evidence if its release might harm national security.

Charkaoui challenged the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court, which agreed in August 2005 to hear the case.

In June 2006, lawyers for Charkaoui and two other detainees argued before the Supreme Court that locking people up without charge violates Canadian and international law. Lawyers for the federal government said the security certificates are needed for national security.

The court is expected to release its decision on Feb. 23, 2007.

Harper chastises Liberals and defends US rendition in effect

This is from Hansard Nov. 2002. Note that Harper shows no concern for the rendition of Arar, no doubt because he is a suspected terrorist. He defends the US decision since Arar is a Syrian citizen. He complains in effect that the Liberals are soft on terrorism and should not have granted Arar citizenship. Of course the Liberals in turn defend the RCMP who were feeding the US and Canadian officials false information that was subesequently also leaked to Canadian news media. This link comes from this site.
[Oral Questions]
* * *



Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the government's right hand does not know what its left hand is doing when it comes to national security.

The foreign affairs minister said for two months that the United States had offered no justification or information for the deportation of Maher Arar. Yet we now know that the RCMP knew of Arar's activities. They questioned him nearly a year ago and they were notified weeks ago by the FBI of its information.

My question is, when did the minister know of the RCMP's holding of information on this matter?


Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we would not in any circumstances of course disclose information of that sort, whether we had it or not, with respect to a particular individual.

Of course we raised issues regarding the consular rights of the individual involved, but in no circumstances would we confirm or make any comment on any information that we might have about an individual--

The Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, he said he did not know. It would be nice if there were somebody here to actually answer a question on this.

While the minister participated in high level consultations to defend a suspected terrorist, it apparently took a trip by the U.S. Secretary of State for the minister to admit what he really knew.

Officials now acknowledge that they have had evidence on Arar's activities for weeks. Why did it take a newspaper article to correct the record? Why did the minister and the government not reveal these facts to the House before today?

Hon. Wayne Easter (Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is working with United States authorities on this issue to clarify the matter. We do not comment publicly on these matters related to international security.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, perhaps I will ask that minister. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was asked in the House of Commons about this file. He acted as if he knew absolutely nothing and said he was going to consult the United States because he had no justification or information.

The minister's department has an agency under him, the RCMP, which had that information. When was that information passed on to the Minister of Foreign Affairs?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is confusing the issue of a citizen's consular rights, that is, rights to consular support in any circumstance, and the issue of whether or not there was substantive information that concerned this particular individual in the possession of U.S. authorities.

In the former, of course we will intervene in order to ensure that consular rights are respected. In the latter, we will not be prepared to comment.

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it is time the Liberals told the truth: that their system of screening and security checks is pathetic. Arar was given dual Syrian and Canadian citizenship by the government. It did not pick up on his terrorist links and the U.S. had to clue it in.

How is it that the U.S. could uncover this man's background so quickly when the government's screening system failed to find his al-Qaeda links?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I point out to the hon. member for Calgary--Nose Hill that Mohammed Atta, the conspirator behind the September 11 destruction of the World Trade Center, received his visa from U.S. authorities six months after September 11.

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the government needs to take responsibility for what it is doing to protect Canadian security. The fact is that these Liberals were asleep at the switch.

Arar was not properly checked. Instead, the government ran around chastising the U.S. for sending Arar back to Syria, where he is also a citizen.

Why is it that the Liberal security system is so weak here that they overlook vital information that the U.S. picked up on a routine check?

Hon. Wayne Easter (Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if hon. members on the opposite side would listen, I want to make it very clear that we are on top of our game in terms of international security. The RCMP and CSIS are very much on top of their game in ensuring that we are protecting Canadian citizens against terrorism.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Canadians asked to stop transferring prisoners to Afghan authorities

If Afghanistan is a sovereign country you would think it would have control of all prisoners. Of course it doesn't. Many prisoners are in US controlled prisons. Anyway a solution that allows the Canadians to check on treatment of prisoners transferred seems to be a reasonable solution.

2 groups ask court to stop transfer of Afghan prisoners
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 21, 2007 | 3:16 PM ET
CBC News
Two human rights groups said Wednesday they are taking legal action to stop Canadian soldiers from handing over their prisoners in Kandahar to Afghan security forces.

The practice exposes the prisoners to possible abuse and torture and is a violation of international law, Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said in Ottawa.

It also contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, they said.

The groups said they will file an application to the Federal Court of Canada asking for a judicial review of the practice, which is allowed under the Canada-Afghanistan Detainee Agreement, signed Dec. 18, 2005.

"Canadian soldiers must never be part of a process that could lead to torture," said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.

"The detainee agreement should mirror our domestic values and match our international commitments and not be a conduit to possible future human rights violations."

Continue Article

Amnesty International has written a letter to the federal government asking it to put an end to any transfers until the application is heard in court, Neve said.

Paul Champ, a lawyer for both organizations, said Canadian soldiers have detained about 40 to 50 people since Canada first sent troops to Afghanistan in early 2002.

"We are not talking large numbers of people here," he said at the news conference.

The transfers take place in and around Kandahar, Champ said.

Neve said Afghanistan is notorious for torturing prisoners.

Under the detainee agreement with Afghanistan, Canada is not given the right to monitor detainees after they have been handed over and has no safeguards to ensure that they will not be tortured or even executed in Afghan prisons, Neve said.

Previously, Canadian soldiers would transfer detainees directly to U.S. forces. Human rights groups have no way of knowing whether some ended up in Guantanamo Bay, he said.

Canada does inform the International Red Cross when it hands the prisoners over, he said.

Neve said both the Afghan National Security Directorate and the Afghan National Police accept detainees transferred by Canadian forces, and human rights groups say both organizations have a record of "pervasive and widespread" use of torture.

Torture still occurring, Afghanistan rights group alleges
According to the 2006 report of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the country is suffering from the absence of the rule of law, a culture of impunity and abuse of power by government officials, a weak judicial system, slow progress on legal cases and lack of reforms in the judicial and social system.

It also notes that "the incidence of torture on detained or imprisoned persons was still occurring throughout the past year, although cases of torture have declined."

The Canadian Forces have refused to allow detainees access to legal counsel before being transferred to Afghan authorities, Neve said. This practice is contrary to the Charter of Rights, he said.

Britain and the Netherlands have negotiated through their agreements with Afghanistan the right to check on the condition of their detainees, according to Neve. Amnesty has urged Canada to do the same, Neve said.

One solution to the problem, he said, is for Canada to set up its own detention system that it could share with Afghan authorities. Such a system would also enable the Canadian Forces to train Afghan security forces in the humane treatment of prisoners.

Shirley Heafey, a board member of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said the legal action is a last resort.

"It's not the best way to get things done," she said.

She said the two groups are filing the application to say to the federal government that it must "pay attention" to the problem.

Champ said the two groups expect the application to be heard by the Federal Court by this fall.

Canada has more than 2,000 troops in Afghanistan, the majority in the southern province of Kandahar.