OTTAWA 31 Oct. 03--You'd
think that a spy agency whose number one concern is security would have
been able to prevent the relatively easy breach of its perimeter that
resulted in four Halloween arrests today and kept the massive, super-secure
bunker on lockdown for the day.
But the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada's national
spy agency, has never been one to score points on the ingenuity scale.
Indeed, an organization which can use the blanket of "national security"
to defend any action or decision it does not want to discuss in public
does not have to meet the high standards that would be required of anybody
which needs to be accountable to the public.
Indeed, 19 years into its existence, CSIS has never, until today, had
to deal with being held under siege by four of the most insidious forces
it currently faces in this country: democracy, accountability, community,
The CSIS national HQ, a massive piece of architorture, the most "secure"
building in Ottawa, was on lockdown on Halloween, no one in, no one
out, and only the most "essential workers" already herded into the half-full
parking lot well before 7 a.m.
The occupation of the interior grounds of CSIS by hordes of Ottawa police,
plainclothes cops and videographers, dozens of dark tinted SUVS and
vans, and police dogs, was all in expectation of the Halloween trick-or-treat
for the secret evidence which has held five Muslim Men -- Canada's Secret
Trial Five -- behind bars a collective 109 months, without charge or
bail, much of that in solitary confinement.
But while we were there to trick-or-treat, CSIS was playing hide-but-don't-seek
from the 75 people, ranging from babies to Raging Grannies, who came
seeking justice for the Secret Trial Five, their families, and their
communities, who continue to be under attack by Canada's security forces.
By day's end, four people were under arrest in Ottawa for managing to
gain access to the high security grounds of the facility. Anet Henrikso
of Montreal, Melanie of Ottawa, Ed Babb of Burlington, and Matthew Behrens
of Toronto are charged with trespassing. Another -- Barney Barningham
-- had been arrested for occupying an MP's office in Mount Forest, Ontario,
to protest the ongoing solitary confinement (two years, two weeks) of
Hassan Almrei in the Metro West hole. And hundreds had joined vigils,
rallies, and, in one instance, a "house of horrors," from Halifax to
Edmonton, Durham to Peterborough, St. John to Guelph.
Before the National Day of Action to Stop Secret Trials in Canada got
under way, CSIS was already revealing that it was under a great deal
of pressure from the public over its persecution of the Arabic, Muslim,
Middle Eastern and South Asian communities in Canada. CSIS director
Ward Elcock, testifying before a Parliamentary subcommittee in late
September, declared, without being prompted, that "these [security certificates]
are not secret trials, as some have alleged. This is hardly a Star Chamber."
In feeling he had to directly address the language we have been using,
Elcock showed the extent to which this issue is gaining national prominence.
Then, in advance of the October 31 demonstrations, CSIS, concerned over
the growing awareness of their persecution of specific communities,
released through its National Post mouthpiece Stewart Bell,
a report whose headline read, "CSIS not unfair to Muslims, watchdog
says." Those members of the Muslim community who read this "news" headline
may well have wondered if this were a stale, leftover April Fool's joke
or a pre-Halloween prank.
"The report was released as left-wing and Muslim activists were preparing
to demonstrate on Friday outside the Ottawa headquarters of CSIS to
protest what they call the intelligence agency's 'irrational fear of
Arab Muslims," Bell wrote. (Like his patron, CSIS, Bell too gets the
facts wrong. Our flyers clearly state "Arabs AND Muslims").
The article states that "the protesters allege CSIS is investigating
innocent Muslims and they want the government to release five suspected
Islamic terrorists who are being deported as threats to national security."
Buried deep within the article,
as it is within the actual report -- produced by the Security Intelligence
Review Committee (whose members are approved by CSIS to sit on the committee)
-- is the fact that while CSIS says it is not doing these things, there
HAVE been "a few cases of mistaken identity," small consolation to those
cases of mistaken identity and their families!
The article also ignores the findings of the International Civil Liberties
Monitoring Group which reported in May ("In the Shadow of the Law")
that in "hundreds" of instances, people in Canada "are being visited
for interviews by security forces without warrants, and taken away for
interrogation. Although the full extent of Bill C-36 [so-called "anti-terror"
legislation hurriedly passed by Parliament in 2001] was not implemented
in these cases, it has been used as a threat to 'encourage' voluntary
interviews by citing the risk of preventative detention allowed under
the Act. Victims of such police conduct have been afraid to come forward
publicly for fear of further retaliation."
So as the forces of democracy threaten to overwhelm CSIS on Halloween,
the state gears up in preparation. On the evening of October 29, only
one person shows up at the non-violence training in Ottawa. As we sit
and discuss the issues of secret trials, two members of the Ottawa police
force's MELT team (Major Events Liaison Team) -- one a police officer,
the other from the RCMP -- stroll in, take off their jackets, help themselves
to a seat, and make like this is just another visit in their daily rounds.
While one of them asks where the potluck food is -- there isn't any
-- another starts asking a bunch of questions about the demonstration:
what's planned, who's coming, what are our numbers, "are you
expecting any people you aren't expecting?" While the last question
certainly gives one room for pause to check for signs of logic, grammar
and syntax, I explain that everything they need to know is on our flyers,
on our website, and in the e-mails which the Ottawa police intelligence
unit regularly reads.
I also point out that when Ottawa organizer Brian Edgecombe and I went
to visit CSIS in July, we walked right onto the grounds, taking pictures
of the building and the site, and we were not harassed. We failed to
see how doing the exact same thing on Halloween should be a matter for
police intervention. After all, we were only trick-or-treating and seeking
a dialogue. And we'd even done the courtesy of sending an open letter
to CSIS to let them know we were coming, so we wouldn't have to wait
too long while they searched their filing cabinets for what we wanted.
Edgecombe pops in to the meeting and we proceed to treat the police
to a 90-minute lecture on the security certificate, and on their responsibilities
to uphold human rights law. We remind them of their obligation to refuse
orders which are contrary to Canada's international legal obligations.
We then cut if off abruptly with the explanation that while the police
are getting paid to be there, we're not, and we want to eat.
The following afternoon at 4 p.m., as we prepare in a downtown Ottawa
church for the arrival of out of town trick-or-treaters, the national
day of action is already underway. In the small central Ontario community
of Mount Forest, a number of people enter the office of local MP Murray
Calder, having pledged to stage a 23-and-a-half hour occupation in solidarity
with secret trials prisoners who must endure that amount of time daily
in the hole. Led by feisty 70-year-old resister Francis Barney Barningham,
the group also includes Francis Mont, who powerfully recalls his years
in a police state and compares them to developments he sees here in
"I spent my first 27 years in a police state in Eastern Europe," Mont
explains. "In that system we had no rights and we were considered guilty
until proven innocent. I remember when our neighbours were dragged off
by the police, in the middle of the night, because the mother was overheard
telling her son not to buy tickets to a Russian movie. 'We don't watch
garbage' she was heard telling her son. We never saw them again.
"Thirty years ago I came to live in Canada and became a Canadian citizen,
because I loved this country for its humanity, tolerance, compassion
and sense of justice. Here I was innocent until proven guilty. It was
unthinkable that this would ever change. Now the unthinkable has happened
and the principle is broken. Once exceptions to the rule are made, precedent
established, it will be a lot easier to abuse justice. Five today, ten
tomorrow, how many next week? Who will be next?
"Since September 11, I can see fear and paranoia slowly turning this
beautiful country into the same kind of police state I have escaped
from 30 years ago. Now the state has concentration camps they can throw
people in whenever they don't like them, without having to justify their
actions. It is the Soviet 'Gulag' all over again, on our soil this time.
I will be damned if I watch it without protest. Our leaders are destroying
those fundamental values Canada was built on. Maybe they don't know
where it will lead. I do."
Much of the local press is
out, as is an executive assistant to Calder who is never around, but
who shows up today because Barningham has written ahead to explain the
purpose of the occupation. Barney is eventually arrested and escorted
out of the office by OPP. Once outside, they explain that the office
has decided not to press charges, but that if Barney re-enters the office,
he will be charged with breaking and entering (simply for opening the
door!). They are also saying they retain the right for the next six
months to lay unspecified charges against him.
The following day, another vigil will be held at the office of Owen
Sound MP Ovid Jackson. Among the signs held there, which have made their
way from the Mount Forest protest, is one about internment which reads:
1942: Japanese Canadians
2001 Muslim Canadians
When Will We Ever Learn?
In Ottawa on Thursday night, we scan the assembled folks and wonder
how it is that people who have never been seen at a local activist event
suddenly turn up at the church, commit to being there the next morning,
and then are never seen again. Were they there to gather "intelligence"?
Were they there because they heard that Laura Shevchenko's vegan chili
was a winner? Were they bored because their TV wasn't working?
In any event, it didn't really matter for, as a group of people, we
have nothing to hide. As Kirsten Romaine points out, unlike CSIS, we
deal with problems out in the open through dialogue. Nonetheless, there
is still a certain sense of anxiety hanging over the event, as this
is the first time in CSIS history that a group of people have gone,
not only to demonstrate, but to enter the facility to enter a dialogue
about redefining national security to meet the needs of the majority
of people, not the greed of the small group of white males who run the
In such an atmosphere, one cannot help but let one's mind wander about
the myriad possibilities inherent in this scenario: declarations of
a security zone around the perimeter, preventive arrests and detentions,
charges under the anti-terrorism act for threatening a national security
institution, charges of guilt by association for our support of the
detainees and their families. While we would certainly not allow the
threat of such charges to deter us --it would be good to fight them
in open court -- they nonetheless are a bit more intimidating than the
standard fare of provincial and criminal charges we're used to seeing
at such gatherings.
Among our points of discussion are ideas about how we will respond to
police repression on the day, targetted arrests of individuals who are
not placing themselves in a position of risk, and jail solidarity in
the face of potential conditions that would likely include non-association
with one another (which would be ironic given that the whole security
certificate regime works on guilt by alleged association).
We rise early after a night on a church floor thinking alternately about
CSIS, people like Hassan Almrei, who will mark 33 days of hunger striking
that morning in his solitary confinement cell, and how to deal with
the rhythmic and arrhythmic snoring bouncing off the church walls. Outside
the church are two MELT officers who pester our bus driver with questions.
"They asked me where you guys were going, and I thought to myself, 'Geez,
if these guys don't know the answer to that, they really must be in
trouble," the driver tells us.
We're on the bus at 7 a.m. and informed by our on-site scout that CSIS
is pretty much locked down with "essential" workers already inside the
facility, likely making for a crabby workplace. Add to this the fact
that a company which delivers coffee to the bunker will not be able
to get in, and things might get pretty desperate in that confined, caffeineless
What seems to throw authorities for their first loop of the day, however,
is when our bus takes a wrong turn on the freeway and we end up far
out in the countryside, hoping to find an off ramp to turn around and
head back to Ottawa. It is unclear whether CSIS radios ahead to Montreal
that a sneak attack is on its way in la belle province.
Thanks to former Ottawa resident Janis Dahl, who redirects us in her
bug costume (she is there to put a bug in the system), we get back on
track. We eventually get our bearings and gather at the Ogilvie entrance
to CSIS. We're greeted by a small crowd of folks led by Sophie Harkat,
who is dressed with red horns and hair, and holds a trident and blood
bag. "CSIS has made my life hell," she says, and her blood bag explains
that this is what the spies have been trying to suck out of her and
her husband over the past year. Sophie's husband Mohamed Harkat is detained
on a security certificate in Ottawa, arrested on International Human
Rights Day last December 10.
Our costumed crusaders set up at the main intersection, and our detectives
and keystone kops scour the grounds with magnifying glasses, looking
for secret evidence. One man is dressed in classic spy fashion, with
newspaper held open at all times to cover his face, his sunglasses-covered
prying eyes occasionally rising above the top of the paper. CSIS and
RCMP videographers, who come dressed as CSIS and RCMP videographers,
don't seem to be into the spirit of the day. They snap pictures
of everyone who smiles for their file.
The psychological counselling couch (the subject of much discussion
over police radios) is set up, complete with a cigar-chomping Freud
aficionado, and we proceed to offer help for CSIS and local
police to get over their irrational fears of Arabs and Muslims. But
since it appears CSIS got all of its bureaucrats in early that morning,
there is no one to counsel.
Perhaps as an organization which is so careless with taxpayer dollars
that its agents purposely plan their interrogations of Muslims late
at night so they can bill for double or triple time, CSIS would rather
have the taxpayer foot the bill for its agents' counselling needs rather
than take advantage of our once-in-a-lifetime freebie.
Things proceed with a theatrical piece of fun from Montreal, a game
show called "Who is the Terrorist?" Hosted by a whip-wielding
circusmaster named Denis Coderre (who also works as Canada's Minister
of Immigrant and Refugee Rejection), we are asked to consider the case
of one man with a placard taped to his belly that reads "soldier/terrorist."
Both kill people, "Coderre" explains.
We are also introduced to Solicitor General Wayne Easter Bunny, who
hops about handing out security certificates from his egg basket. The
certificates are official looking documents informing people that they
have been declared a threat to national security. Signed by these two
ministers of the Crown ("Coderre" and "Easter"),
it states clearly:
"You will be detained until further notice.
"You will not be given access to the full information
on which we base our suspicions.
"You will not be permitted to attend all the hearings
in which we present our case to the judge.
"If the judge feels our suspicions seem okay, you
will be deported. There is no appeal.
"We will not intervene if you are killed or imprisoned
in the country to which you are deported."
A hyper Wayne Easter Bunny madly hops about eager to deliver these certificates
to any and all, including police who are very reluctant to even touch
the documents and who stage a retreat when the big rabbit comes their
(Interestingly, Wayne Easter used to head the National Farmers Union,
which was part of an effort to fight "free" trade in the 1980s. According
to a definition offered in CSIS' last report to Parliament, both Easter
and the farmers would qualify as domestic terrorists as a result of
this political stand.)
The certificate also takes pains to point out that according to CSIS,
being a threat to national security does not include any of the following
* stealing the lands and resources of native peoples
and decimating their communities
* selling weapons to countries and individuals who
may use them against you and your family, here or elsewhere
* supporting military invasions of other countries
(which just might provoke retaliation)
* stealing resources from other peoples (which might
also provoke retaliation)
* destroying the environment
* closing hospitals, reducing funding for schools,
ending housing and other social programmes
* lowering labour standards
* any activities associated with enforcing brutal
economic sanctions and causing millions to live in poverty and misery;
* deporting refugees to death and suffering.
The certificate is clear to point out that "if you are engaged in any
of these activities, please alert us and we will immediately release
you, with full apologies for the inconvenience."
"Who is the Terrorist?" introduces us as well to the ghost of Izzy Asper
and goes on to reveal an individual who wears an Osama bin laden face.
The face flips up, underneath which we find George Bush, who is immediately
shackled, has a paper bag thrown over his head, and is led with ball
and chain attached up the roadway towards the main gate of CSIS.
Police are unprepared and immediately hustle into position, with media
"Hello CSIS, open up, we have a terrorist for you!" the circusmaster
calls out, cracking her whip as the Raging Grannies launch a new rendition
of an old Christian gospel number, "What a Friend We Have in CSIS" (full
CSIS does not seem interested in this terrorist (after all, he's a militant
Christian extremist, and since CSIS has stated time and again it is
interested only in militant Muslims, Bush doesn't make the grade). We
then launch a community tour of the massive perimeter of the CSIS bunker,
which is surrounded on almost all sides by field, forest and swamp.
The building is, at some points, high on a hill, and one needs to climb
through flora and fauna to get to the top of an embankment to see it.
At other points, one climbs to an embankment and looks down on the building
from a high vantage point.
Our first stop is one such place where, as we come up the hill and look
down through the fence at the receiving area, about 25 spies are out
having a smoke break. The second they see us, led by Ed Babb of Burlington
and his 12-foot high, 3-foot-wide "Question Authority" sign,
they immediately drop their smokes and hightail it to the door, faster
than a bunch of racing keystone kops in a silent movie. We have never
witnessed such a fast exit, and it was comical and scary at the same
time: what on earth could have prompted them to be afraid of us?
As CSIS employees peak out from the windows, they pull back from sight
when we acknowledge them and wave. They can never be too careful --
they may be spotted by a Raging Granny. One woman holds a large sandwich
board which references Canada's Secret Trial Five:
"I am Mohammad Mahjoub,
I am Mahmoud Jaballah, I am Hassan Almrei, I am Mohamed Harkat, I am
Adil Charkaoui, I am a human being. I have a right to a fair trial."
As we continue the tour -- which could double as a massive bird- watching
expedition, given the pastoral setting -- we are led by radical cheerleader
Matt Corks of Kitchener, who stands atop a hill and gets some rousing
chanting going. Two newspaper photographers from the Ottawa area are
taking pictures, and one of them turns to the other and says, "I suppose
we'll be getting a visit at the office from these guys for taking pictures
of their building, eh?" The message is clear. CSIS does not like people
in its vicinity, and no matter how friendly the visitor, one cannot
help but think that our presence will result in some sort of later payback.
Indeed, much of our campaign focuses on CSIS payback: how individuals
who have refused to spy on their communities have been thrown behind
bars on secret evidence, held without charge or bail. In other cases,
Canadians have been kidnapped and sent abroad, where foreign intelligence
agencies do their dirty work in torture chambers and Guantanamo-Bay
style legal black holes.
Throughout the gathering, there is a sense that this is more than a
demonstration. It is almost like a preliminary inquiry by the community,
a step in the process of opening up an institution which has hidden
behind closed doors for far too long. It sometimes feels like we're
checking out the neighbourhood before deciding whether we'll move in.
While the scads of police and security forces indicate CSIS believes
we pose a threat, the tone of the day is quiet, calm, at times hilarious,
and determined. Here we are in a kind of terrorist meet-and-greet, for
it is we -- people who oppose the kinds of economic policies ("globalization")
that impoverish the majority of the world, that destroy the environment,
that factory farm our food, that result in the use of state terror such
as massive bombardment of poor countries -- whom CSIS considers a domestic
terrorist threat. Just look at their public report to Parliament in
June 2003, and there we are, sandwiched between "Muslim extremists"
and white supremacists.
By the time we get to the Blair Road entrance to CSIS, we again try
and turn in terrorist Bush, who has been calling out, "We love democracy
so much that we'll carpet-bomb anyone who doesn't allow us to impose
it on them."
Police inform us warily that a red backpack has been left out in the
wooded area behind CSIS, and ask if we can investigate. While this might
seem like a complete abrogation of the police's responsibilities, we
agree to look into it. After all, being good little anarchists who feel
that the community can solve its own problems without toting guns and
pepper spray, we are more than happy to save the day. Which we proceed
to do, as a friend on a bicycle calls in to say he has arrived on the
scene, where a number of cops are looking on but taking no action regarding
the backpack. Our friend notes that he recognizes the backpack as something
left inadvertently by a fellow demonstrator, and it is returned.
Edgecombe calls in to see how things are going. I try and explain where
we are at the perimeter, but he says no need. CBC has been covering
the demo live, and so he knows where to find us, thanks to the coverage.
We sing Happy Birthday to CSIS (they turn 20 next year) and hope that
as they mature they will learn how to write an affidavit, how to tell
the truth, and how not to discriminate based on faith and skin colour.
We hope those will be some of their birthday wishes when they blow out
their candles next year.
As we head toward the main entrance again after our long jaunt, some
concerns arise. It is clear that in a regular protest, we all would
have been cautioned by now not to be so close to the perimeter fence
on "private property," but CSIS has conceded issues of property lines
today. As long as we stay behind the fence, it seems, we will
not be charged.
This leads to a discussion about whether we are being baited to breach
the fence and enter a security zone, where normal criminal code and
provincial offences might no longer apply, and where 72-hour detention
without charge might kick into play if we are caught on the other side.
It's a serious issue which we need to consider as we head back to the
We gather again at the Ogilvie entrance, which has been closed all morning.
On a normal day, one can walk or drive right onto CSIS property. But
this is no ordinary day, so access could only be allowed when the electronically
operated fence slides in horizontal fashion from right to left.
At first sight, it appears the demonstrators have few options. If they
want to gain access, they will have to climb the high fence. We have
no ladders, and are unprepared for such a scenario. From the police
point of view, their job is easy: as long as the fence is closed, we
are kept out. If someone should climb the fence, they will set loose
police dogs on
But anyone looking at this scene from an objective distance might stop
to ask themselves: if CSIS is such a bunch of security geniuses, and
their building is so damned secure, how is it that their sliding electric
fence, now closed to prevent our access, is planted a good 18 inches
off ground level?
A group of trick-or-treaters approaches the fence and places placards
and security certificates on the chain links. Some signs read "Free
the Secret Trial Five," "11 Kids, Four Women: Guilty by Association?"
and "Abolish the Security Certificate," among others. On the other side,
police stand their ground, not reacting.
We carefully change our position, and sit on the ground, placing our
trick-or-treat bags under the fence, opening them up, and asking for
the secret evidence. We try and speak with the security forces massed
on the other side. We plead with them to think about the children, the
wives, and loved ones, the community members, all whose lives are terrorized
by CSIS. We talk about Nuremberg, about how we are in dangerous times
which will lead us down the same road which led to concentration camps
and massive human rights violations, a made-in-Canada Gulag. They stand
without emotion, trying not to look in our eyes.
As we sit in front of the fence, we marvel at how easy it would be to
slide underneath and get inside to continue our trick-or-treat expedition.
And so what is the subject of whimsical thinking soon becomes a reality.
Anet Henrikso of Montreal slips under the fence, to the shock and amazement
of officers on the other side. Despite the intimidating barking of police
dogs heard just beyond, she walks to the officers, demanding to see
the secret evidence. She is followed quickly by Ed Babb of Burlington
who, at 73, executes a slide onto CSIS sacred ground worthy of a major
league ball player turning a double into a triple (see the CSIS version
of Take Me out to the Ballgame, below). Babb's maneuver also allows
some time for Matthew Behrens of Toronto to slip under as well, followed
closely by Melanie, who lives in Ottawa.
As the police try and deal with us, a number suggest we get up and go
outside the fence. Rather than drag us over and under, they make a brilliant
gaffe, typical of those CSIS makes year in and year out. They start
to open the sliding electric fence, potentially allowing access to a
much larger group of people whose faces are pressed against it. The
demonstrators are just as shocked at this boner as the media, but before
they can recover and start entering, police rush past those who have
already breached the fence, and the fence is just as quickly closed.
We sit awaiting our fate, and are eventually arrested and escorted past
a van with barking police dogs, charged with trespassing, handcuffed
behind our backs, and placed in a cramped police van where we sit for
more than two hours, awaiting word on where we'll be taken. Anet is
taken downtown, to be released later on a criminal charge of violating
bail conditions from a prior demonstration. The rest of us are charged
In yet another case of mistaken identity, Melanie, who is transgendered,
insists on being placed in a van with women, but police refuse her request,
and place her with the men.
Despite busting me, placing me in cuffs behind my back, and herding
me into a kennel-like, airless police van, my arresting officer has
been reasonably friendly, but a tad nervous. As he holds my arm, I can
feel him trembling. I tell him that I do not want him to feel personally
threatened, that I am here committed to nonviolence, have no weapons,
and that I would like to be escorted inside CSIS to meet spymaster Ward
Elcock, to whom an open letter was sent more than a month ago informing
him of our visit. I ask if he knows why we are here. He nods, seeming
vaguely familiar with the crimes we are protesting.
But during processing, his tone suddenly changes for the more serious.
He asks me if I have any outstanding conditions. I shake my head no.
He asks why it is, then, that an RCMP search shows that following my
"contact with police in Ottawa" in early August I had conditions placed
on me. This is odd, for I was not in Ottawa in early August, but only
on August 25, when the families of Canada's disappeared were all together
in an attempt to visit prime minister Jean Chretien. (We had discussed
the idea of going earlier in August, but abandoned those plans.)
August 25 was a simple, peaceful affair, but it appears that a plan
for a pre-emptive August arrest might have been entered on the computer
system, complete with possible release conditions designed to either
prevent myself and other members of our delegation from attending the
October 31 demonstration and/or from even entering Ottawa. The latter
condition has been placed on numerous recent arrestees in the nation's
Although such an arrest did not occur, it is possible the "expected"
arrest and subsequent release conditions had not been removed from the
system, and they were coming up now during the standard computer check
for all arrestees.
The officer is confused, and says he will make inquiries. He returns
later and when I ask him what he was talking about, he shrugs it off
with an "It's all cleared up, nothing to worry about." One wonders...
As we wait in the cramped van, we listen to the odd report over the
police radio. Many cops comment on Ed Babb's massive Question Authority
sign, which is still being held high on the other side of the fence,
and which seems to have gotten under the skin of many of the authorities
After about an hour, the remainder of the demonstration comes to an
end and folks board the bus back to the church, escorted by numerous
police vehicles and motorcycle cops. We witness delivery trucks, garbage
trucks, and other vehicles turned away. No one gets in to CSIS as long
as we are in that van, and, as we later learn, as long as we remain
in the city.
As we finally depart, we are pleased to see out the back of the van
that someone with thick, permanent marker has written on the box operating
the entrance gate: Free the Secret Trial Five: Abolish the Secret Trial
Security Certificate! It will need a new paint job to get rid of that
As we make our way back downtown, we hear the police radio blaring out
instructions: make sure these people are on their bus and out of town
by 1:30 p.m. Repeat, continue to monitor the church and ensure no one
stays behind or returns to CSIS. Our van is escorted by a number of
undercover police vehicles.
While one hates to see such a waste of public resources spent on us,
we are pleased that, at least for today, these forces of the state focused
on us are not able to maintain their incessant harassment of the targeted
communities who were at the focus of the demonstration.
Now that we have been charged, we can proceed to plan a trial where
we can subpoena Ward Elcock, and finally get that opportunity to ask
how he thinks secret trials are compatible with demoracy and human rights.
As we clean up the church, a row of motorcycle cops sits across the
street, along with police in unmarked vehicles, making sure we get out
of town. As the bus heads to southern Ontario, a number of us remain
to ensure that Anet is released from the downtown police station, where
she is held till 3 p.m. on the criminal charge of breaching bail (she
had been arrested while standing around with several hundred other people
in the massive Montreal police sweep during the G-20 demonstrations
Meanwhile, across the country, CSIS and RCMP offices remained the focus
of demonstrations throughout the day. Despite unseasonably frigid temperatures,
vigils were held both at the RCMP in Edmonton and in Regina. In Guelph,
there was a day of public education in the downtown core organized by
CSID (Campaign to Stop Immigrant Detention), which included a free meal,
the dissemination of information surrounding secret trials in Canada,
and letter writing to the five men being held by CSIS.
CSID is currently mounting a campaign in Guelph to stop the use of the
Wellington Detention Centre as a holding tank for immigrants and refugees.
The centre is a former prison called "a concrete block with no windows
surrounded by barbed wires" by newly elected Liberal MPP Liz Sandals.
Food and discourse with the community surrounding the link between Secret
Trials and the proposed Immigrant Detention Centre were followed by
a visit to local Liberal MP Brenda Chamberlain's office by a mass delegation
to hand deliver a letter addressing the federal government's racist
security and immigration policy.
At Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, students staged a house of
horrors, featuring a variety of injustices, including the Orwellian
secret trials. In Peterborough, community members gathered for
letter writing and faxing directed at an area MP. King Square, at the
centre of St. John, New Brunswick, featured a vigil in which five individuals
each took a placard with the name of a secret trial detainee, written
in large, four-inch block letters. Each person stood with their backs
to the crowd with a black gag in their mouths. Others attending the
vigil wore black armbands, passed out flyers, and sang out, "Who Will
Speak if We Don't?" One speaker called out the name and situation of
each of the detainees,
which was followed by the crowd declaring in unison, "We are with you."
In Halifax, 25 people picketed the CSIS office, Maritime Centre, for
one hour. Five hundred copies of "Halifax Voice," exposing and condemning
the secret trials and the use of security certificates, were distributed.
One woman from the Annapolis Valley wrote and printed her own leaflet
making a poignant case on the unfair treatment of Adil Charkaoui in
Montreal. A third-year law student from Dalhousie who came to join the
picket said he was familiar with the process as set down under the Immigration
and Refugee Protection Act and anti-terrorism legislation, and declared
it a total violation of due process.
The highly visible action was held during the height of rush hour in
downtown Halifax and generated considerable public interest. Some passersby
joined the picket and many people in cars also took leaflets. Tony Seed
of the People's Front/Halifax, and editor and publisher of shunpiking
magazine, along with Dr. Ismail Zaid, president of the Canada Palestine
Association, addressed the rally. Both linked the security certificate
to a broader attack on the entire Canadian people designed to cause
splits, promote racist hysteria and create a precedent to justify the
methods of a police state.
Though the secret trial detainees are in Central Canada, Seed gave examples
of how the CSIS, RCMP and FBI have been targeting mosques and Muslim
immigrants (especially students and young people) in Atlantic Canada,
particularly New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Seed gave examples of the
dirty role the CSIS and the RCMP had played with the Department of Fisheries
and Oceans in 1999 before and after the Marshall Decision in fomenting
discord, violence and vigilantism amongst Mi'kmaq First Nations and
Acadian fishermen in Burnt Church. In May, 1999 the secret service actually
wrote "assessment reports" for the RCMP predicting "violence", even
though the Marshall Decision was not released until September. In October,
the RCMP sat back when the processors organized attacks and destruction
of the gear and livelihood of the Mi'kmaq fishers, without arresting
The organizers are planning an in-depth forum on Secret Trials, Security
Certificates and CSIS at Dalhousie University.
If you would like to help out (and there's lots of
work we need to do, from writing letters to government officials, lobbying,
public education, prisoner and detainee family support, to creating
legislation outlawing the use of secret evidence), contact the Campaign
to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, c/o PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave.
West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0.
In a direct contrast to the CSIS propaganda that they are not terrorizing
the Muslim community, we saw first-hand how fear permeates the community.
Indeed, commitments from numerous targetted individuals and groups to
help fill our buses were dropped at the last minute, understandably,
due to fears of retaliatory action by CSIS and the RCMP. Others we met
in Ottawa thanked us for doing the action, and apologized that fear
prevented them from attending.
We took quite a [financial] bath on our bus and some other expenses,
as an all-volunteer group, so if you would like to help us make up our
shortfall and contribute to our ongoing costs, donations can be made
to "Homes not Bombs" and mailed to PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave.
West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0. In some instances, we are able to provide
charitable receipts. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
if you would like more info. on this aspect of helping out.
SPECIAL THANKS TO ALL WHO TOOK PART IN AND PROVIDED MUCH OF THE LOGISTICAL
SUPPORT. This includes everyone from the organizers of the public events
in Guelph, Waterloo, Hamilton and Toronto to the wonderful folks at
First United Church in Ottawa, who put us up, the congregation at the
Northwest Unitarian Fellowship in Toronto, Laura Shevchenko, for food
organization and jail support, Mark Ertel for being on call when we
needed him most, and everyone who committed two days of their lives
to trying to ensure that this injustice is stopped in Canada. Special
thanks as well to the cross-Canada organizers who, in some instances
on fairly short notice, pulled together a lot of work on vigils and
community education efforts.
DATES TO REMEMBER:
Wednesday, November 5, 10 am: On Day 38 of his hunger strike,
Hassan Almrei appears in court (361 University Ave., Toronto) for a
continuation of a hearing to get him a written guarantee of heat in
his cold, concrete solitary confinement cell, along with shoes and a
jacket. Please fill the court with support for Hassan.
Wednesday, November 12, 12 noon: Vigil to Bring a Canadian
Home. For two years, Ahmad Abou El-Maati has been held, first in a Syrian
prison where he was tortured, and now in Egypt, where, despite being
ordered released by the Supreme Court on three occasions, he remains
behind bars. The Canadian government has done nothing to get him home,
and so we will picket the office of Forieign Affairs Minister BIll Graham
(365 Bloor East, just west of Sherbourne subway).
Thursday, November 20-Friday, November 21. Bail hearing
begins for Secret Trial Detainee Mahmoud Jaballah, father of six, Federal
Court, 361 University. Call (416) 6510-5800 to confirm details.
Monday, November 24. Begins a week-long bail hearing
for Hassan Almrei. Federal Court, 361 University. Call (416) 6510-5800
to confirm details.
December 10: Santa Speaks out Against Secret Trials
at CSIS Toronto. Details to be announced
Stay in touch: www.homesnotbombs.ca
Below are some of the songs sung at CSIS on Halloween:
To the tune of "Frere Jacques":
CSIS agents, CSIS agents,
Where are you? Where are you?
Hiding from the public, hiding from the public,
Shame on you, shame on you.
Secret trials, secret trials
Are unjust, are unjust,
If you hide the evidence, if you hide the evidence,
You've lost our trust, you've lost our trust.
To "Daisy, Daisy":
CSIS, CSIS, give us your answer,
Are you crazy, arresting folks out of the blue?
Brings shame upon our nation,
So let them go, or else we'll know
That nothing you say is true.
To "Take Me Out to the Ballgame":
Five men held in detention,
Five men held without bail:
Of evidence there is a total lack,
Charge them and try them or let them come back,
Oh, it's root, root, root out injustice,
Don't let democracy fail:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 lives on hold,
Let them out of jail.
What a friend We Have in CSIS
(Courtesy of the Ottawa Grannies:)
What a friend we have in CSIS, Guardian of our human rights.
What a privilege to know you, Making sure we sleep at night.
Oh, what peace subversives forfeit, Oh what needless pain they bear.
They insist on being different -- CSIS, Keep them in your care!
Have we trials and public hearings? Why on earth would we want them?
We should never need such crutches; CSIS will their guilt condemn.
Can we befriend a friend so faithful who will all our worries share??
CSIS knows our every weakness; terrorists don't have a prayer!
Are we terrorized and fearful, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious CSIS, still our refuge, will our paranoia share.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Must be something that you did!
We must always trust in CSIS, we must do as we are bid.
Blessed CSIS, thou hast promised: thou wilt make us safe and free..
Round up all the many suspects, put them under lock and key.
Soon we'll have a safer nation, soon we'll sing and dance once more...
Sorry CSIS, got to go now....someone's knocking at the door.....