Matthew Behrens

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Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who coordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. His column "Taking Liberties" examines connections between national security and civil liberties. Behrens has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. "national security" profiling for many years.

Mohamed Harkat condemned by a secret system of 'justice'

It was ironic that on International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, family, friends, and supporters of secret trial detainee Mohamed Harkat gathered with him and his wife, Sophie, to weep and reflect on three federal court decisions against him. The latest decision upheld the regime of secret hearings and judicially sanctioned rendition to torture; and Harkat's supporter's recommitted to ending what domestic and international critics have labelled a star chamber process.

Due to a system based on secret allegations that neither accused nor lawyers can contest, Harkat has, for eight years, been subject to a "security certificate," a measure by which individuals can be detained, held indefinitely without charge, and ultimately be deported, despite the risk of torture.


Ottawa professor fights extradition for 1980 bomb attack in France

Like a number of Muslim men in Canada, Ottawa's Dr. Hassan Diab is forced to wear the ultimate symbol of state control: a GPS monitoring unit.

This tracking device, for which the impoverished and currently unemployed university professor was forced to pay $30,000 for the first year (and now $1,500 monthly), is permanently affixed to his leg, tracking his every move under strict house arrest.


Sanctions-busting telethon supporters risked jail for Abdelrazik

Abousfian  Abdelrazik returned home to Canada from Sudan on June 27, 2009.

Viewers tuning in to Wednesday evening's videocast from Montreal could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled across a surreal version of the infamous PBS fund drives that annually dominate American airwaves.

Indeed, the perky pitches from energetic hosts, a phone bank of pledge takers, and a large map of Canada with pins marking the city of each donation would have seemed familiar to anyone who enjoys public television or radio.



Militarism degrades, disrupts and destroys democracy

Photo: VAC-ACC/flickr

As the Canadian government plays at fighting wars in Iraq/Syria and in eastern Europe, we see daily examples of how militarism ultimately degrades, disrupts and destroys democracy. Indeed, we are subjected to a gravitational pull of obedience to martial values that blinds us to a series of uncomfortable realities that are visible in plain sight but unmentionable in mainstream discourse. While a slavish media hangs on every General's word, Ottawa refuses to release the costs of its overseas adventures. Politicians who voted against the Middle East mission now say we must rally around the troops.

Will Canada disengage from its increasingly militarized culture?

Photo: Ashwin Kumar/flickr
Matthew Behrens provides insightful reflections about the violent events that happened in Ottawa on Wednesday Oct 22.

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Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa

Photo: Ashwin Kumar/flickr

I often find it hard to feel empathy for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But when I saw the grim picture of him talking on the phone following the end of his confinement in the locked down House of Commons yesterday, I sensed in him a vulnerability he rarely exhibits. Harper, like his fellow MPs, Parliamentary staff, media, visitors and children in the downstairs daycare, had likely hunkered down behind locked doors, no doubt traumatized by uncertainty when an armed gunman entered the building. Because no one knew who the gunman was after, all were potential targets.


Demonizing those Canada calls 'radicalized'

Photo: Scott Barron/flickr

Scare headlines about young people becoming "radicalized," going overseas, being transformed into robotic Super Muslims, graduating from Beheading School, and being returned to Canada ready to strike at the heart of our values, freedoms, and traditions have filled the media in the past few months, leading to an upcoming Canadian campaign of bombing Iraq and repressive new legislation to be introduced this week in Parliament.

Given the Fourth Estate's role as stenographer to power, it is unsurprising that the many articles asking "why" young people are attracted to overseas adventures are all playing into the same "blame Islam" game that results in horrible "jihad" headlines, increased fear, and suspicion of anyone who does not look like the CBC's Peter Whitemansbridge.


ISIS: Their barbarism… and ours

Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t/flickr

The incessant drumbeat of war, accompanied by the harsh propaganda of "barbarism" and "brutality" directed at individuals in Syria and Iraq, is as wearily familiar as that used to demonize the German "Hun" a century ago and dozens of other "enemies" in the interim.


Poland in the torture hot seat: Is Canada next?

Photo: European Court of Human Rights. Credit: marcella bona/flickr

A little-noticed European Court of Human Rights decision regarding Polish complicity in torture may well have ripple effects on this side of the Atlantic and, hopefully, produce some accountability in the Ottawa bunkers of CSIS, the RCMP, and the foreign affairs and justice bureaucracies. In addition, its precedent would be most useful in hauling some high-profile Liberals out of their comfortable retirement to inquire about their role in the CIA-led global kidnap and disappearance-to-torture regime that has marked much of the 21st century.


The pain and suffering behind Canada's immigration inventory

Photo: nanovivid

It's always been a symbolic reflection of Canadian refugee and immigration policy that the name of the country's largest newcomer processing centre is the Greater Toronto Enforcement Centre (GTEC). There is no official welcoming centre for those fleeing persecution and related horrors. Rather, GTEC is a machine devoted to tracking down, detaining and deporting as many people as possible who have been failed by Canada's broken refugee determination process.

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