Should Mohamed Harkat be deported to Algeria?

I just read in the Ottawa Citizen that the brother of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Alexandre, has called on the Liberal government not to deport alleged Algerian terrorist Mohamed Harkat back to his native land. Recall that Mr. Harkat was subject to a National Security Certificate and found to be inadmissible to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).  Many in this country find these certificates abhorrent as they do not allow the accused to see the intelligence/evidence amassed against him and thus represent a miscarriage of justice.  Interestingly, this tool has been challenged in the highest court on several occasions and alterations have been ordered but the measure still exists, and has in fact been upheld, much to the chagrin of a lot of people.

Mr. Trudeau (Alexandre) is entitled to his view, although for the brother of a serving PM to weigh in on a matter of national security does raise eyebrows.  Trudeau the Younger has been involved in the Harkat case for over a decade and has not been a fan of the Canadian government’s policies since 9/11, alleging unspecified human rights abuses.  So yes, he is free to voice his opinion.  Except that in my opinion his is wrong.

Perhaps we should remind ourselves of the government’s allegations against Mr. Harkat.  The state believes that he was a member of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, that he ran a guesthouse for mujahedin heading for Chechnya and that he lied about this activity when he arrived in Canada and claimed refugee status.  His security certificate has been on a roller coaster ride through the courts for over a decade, but was upheld as “fair and reasonable” in May 2014.  As a result, the government has the right to deport him to his native Algeria.  Mr. Harkat and his supporters claim that he will undergo torture if he is returned, citing Amnesty International reports to back up their contention.

So why do I think that the government is right in this instance?  Simply because anyone who misrepresents himself on an entry application is, in theory, inadmissible to Canada.  This power has been used to deport war criminals and bogus refugee claimants and has to be available in cases of terrorism.  Mr. Harkat did not disclose his activities in Afghanistan upon his arrival – in fact he continues to deny them.  We are thus left with a “he said she said” dilemma.  Except that I think the government’s case is strong.

Note that this is not a contradiction with my earlier position on the revocation of citizenship for convicted terrorists.  Those found guilty of terrorism in Canada and people like Mr. Harkat are akin to apples and oranges.  The former were brought up or lived here for years, radicalised here and were incarcerated here: we own them irrespective of whether they have dual citizenship or not. Mr. Harkat and the others subject to the security certificates came to our shores as violent extremists, misled authorities as to their past and hence don’t belong here.  They are inadmissible under the law.  I think the distinction is quite clear.

Others would argue that the Mr. Harkat that arrived in Canada in 1995 is not the same man 20 years later and should thus be credited for turning his life around.  Perhaps.  But as I wrote in the case of Mr. Khadr, I know of no evidence that demonstrates that Mr. Harkat was deradicalised or that he no longer abides by the ideology he held in the early 1990s (again, an ideology he denies ever having held).  Yes, his wife and supporters will vouch for him, and that is noble, but it is far from compelling.  To my mind he has certainly disengaged but he has not necessarily deradicalised.  Should his claim that he has changed even matter?

The question thus remains: what do we do with old terrorism cases that date back two decades?  Do we take people’s stories at face value? Do we let sleeping dogs lie and ignore the potential threat to national security?  Given that we have been chasing and deporting Nazi war criminals for 70 years,  should we not have similar policies for violent extremists?

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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