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Lack of Accountability Unnaceptable

It is unacceptable that the government is refusing to take responsibility for the crimes committed against Maher Arar. By refusing to severely punish those responsible for falsely targeting Arar as a terrorist and violating his fundamental rights -- to safety and security, to due process, to justice, the right to know the truth of his case, his right to a full apology and compensation for his suffering, its regrets are hollow indeed.

Even the Commissioner of the RCMP Giuliano Zaccardelli is not taking responsibility for his criminal negligence and the wrongdoing of his officers as cited in the Arar Inquiry report released on September 18. In fact, those who have been involved in the Arar case have mostly been given promotions and citations. In his testimony before the Parliament's Public Safety Committee, Zaccardelli apologized to Mr. Arar and family for "whatever part" the actions of the RCMP "may have" contributed to the "terrible injustices" that Arar suffered. This is not taking responsibility. This is paying lip service. Rather than saying that the Arar Inquiry report implicates him and the RCMP, that the RCMP fabricated evidence against Arar and smeared his integrity and reputation at a time when it was emerging in public that Arar had been framed etc., Zaccardelli's "apology" is a public relations stunt. Proof positive of this is that he refuses to resign his position, which is warranted given the gravity of the crimes. That would be taking responsibility. Instead the matter is reduced to one of making "reforms" in "information sharing and training" of the RCMP. In the past this has served as a diversion to gloss over the crimes that were committed while doing nothing to stop the ability of the police to engage in criminal activity.

Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day in his statement before the same parliamentary committee also whitewashed the crimes of the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). The callous way that Mr. Day talks about "compensation" for Mr. Arar as a choice between "an apology" and "helping him find a job" makes light of the gravity of these crimes. It is not based on principle. Far from guaranteeing that such a crime will never happen again in Canada, the Harper government wants to protect those who have committed these crimes and further victimize Mr. Arar. So long as there is no redress when violations of law are committed, Day's statements before the Parliament's Public Safety Committee mock the rule of law and guarantee that the racial profiling and targeting of Canadians from the Middle East, South Asia or those who profess the Muslim faith, will continue. Without a redress mechanism that puts an end to violations of laws at all levels, the ability to affirm rights is denied. Rights only have meaning when they are guaranteed in law and a redress mechanism is applied when they have been violated.

This is a serious matter confronting the people and society. When those entrusted to uphold the law commit acts of state-terrorism and can do so with impunity, this is doubly dangerous because they do so under the cloak of legality. They act in the name of law and order and purport to go after "terrorists" in the name of "protecting Canadians and Canadian society" as Zaccardelli stated. The Arar case shows that they have the power to take or destroy lives. What about the men who are being held without charge under the security certificate provisions and countless other people whose stories we don't hear about?

The government must be called to account. The RCMP, CSIS and all those who were involved in the crimes against Maher Arar must be brought to justice. These would include not only the Commissioner of the RCMP and those agents who fabricated information which framed Maher Arar as a "terrorist," but those in the government departments who were implicated in this whole criminal affair such as Mr. Franco Pillarella. As Canada's ambassador to Syria at the time of Arar's imprisonment, rather than do everything possible to get a Canadian citizen out of a Syrian jail as soon as possible and demand accountability of Syria, Pillarella collaborated with his torturers to procure "information" to be used as proof that Arar was a terrorist. As for Canadian officials responsible for Canada's relations with the U.S. -- they have escaped public scrutiny altogether!

The danger is that the Arar case will be used to permit further arbitrariness and violations of the rule of law on the part of the Canadian state and its institutions. Furthermore, if there is to be true political accountability of the government to the people, the anti-terrorism legislation that was enacted in December 2001 must be scrapped. This unjust law provided the legal basis for the RCMP and CSIS and other police apparatus to have carte blanche to persecute and frame innocent people, all in the name of protecting the rights and security of Canadians. No one's rights, safety and security are safe when such a law exists.

(Comments from Philip Fernandez)