Top court may see new rights fight
McLellan considers using attacks in U.S. to win deportation of suspected terrorists
By DANIEL LEBLANC, The Globe and Mail
Thursday, September 20, 2001
OTTAWA -- The federal government could soon be arguing before the Supreme Court that the balance between individual rights and collective security has shifted toward security since last week's terrorist attacks in the United States.
Justice Minister Anne McLellan said yesterday that the deadly strikes prove that the government has to be able to "kick out" suspected members of terrorist groups, and that this exact point could be made in a case that is before the Supreme Court.
She said her department will soon decide whether to ask the Supreme Court to hear new arguments to allow the deportation of two suspected terrorists to countries where they could be tortured.
Federal lawyers argued for the expulsion of Manickavasagam Suresh and Mansour Ahani in their initial presentation to the court earlier this year, bluntly predicting that the cases would "determine whether Canada will become a haven for terrorists."
But Ms. McLellan suggested that the government's case could have been made stronger by the terrorist attacks against New York City and Washington.
A ruling is still pending in the cases of Mr. Suresh and Mr. Ahani, who seek refugee status and claim that they face torture in their home countries if deported.
Mr. Suresh is accused of being a fundraiser for a Sri Lankan terrorist group, while Mr. Ahani is a former member of the Iranian security forces who says he fled his country rather than carry out a heinous assassination as ordered.
Ms. McLellan said the bloody attacks in the United States raise new issues that might need to be addressed by the Supreme Court.
"The events of Tuesday [Sept. 11] speak very clearly to the very real risk of terrorism to all of us and how very, very difficult it is to deal with terrorist organizations, to find members thereof, to ensure that we are taking all necessary steps against them, to attempt to kick them out of the country," she said.
When asked why the court might need to hear new arguments, Ms. McLellan spoke about the balance between individual rights and collective security.
"As I said before, there has to be a discussion in many places in this country about whether or not the balance that we are always attempting to strike has shifted a little bit as of last Tuesday," she said.
The Canadian Alliance, which raised the issue during Question Period, said the government will make the right choice if it asks the court to hear new arguments in the deportation cases.
"That's exactly what I want her to do," said Alliance MP Vic Toews.
In a related issue, Ms. McLellan suggested the government is not likely to outlaw specific groups as part of its coming ban against fundraising by terrorist supporters.
The Alliance is calling on the government to follow the British model, which names terrorist groups and outlaws their fundraising activities.
Ms. McLellan compared the forthcoming law to the current bill on criminal gangs, which does not outlaw membership in groups such as the Hells Angels but does provide for stiffer sentences for leaders and members found guilty of committing crimes.