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Canada's counter-terrorism strategy: Still terrorizing Muslims

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The response to Canada's unveiling of its counter-terrorism strategy has been predictably limited. 

If you are reading the mainstream press or following your Facebook feed, you'd think that the "strategy" was all about silencing environmentalists and anti-capitalist activists.

The Building Resilience Against Terrorism -- Canada's counter-terrorism strategy names environmentalists and anti-capitalist only once.

Islam, on the other hand, comes up 20 times.

Where the targeting of environmentalists, animal rights activists and the like is framed by critics as an attempt by the Harper government to silence legitimate dissent - the targeting of Sunni Muslims remains unquestioned, nay even unmentioned.

It is as if the idea that Muslims are terrorists requires no justification.

This is not a new idea. Year after year, Muslims in Canada are being targeted as terrorists without a large-scale social response. In 2003, 24 Pakistani men were arrested on baseless allegations of "threat to national security". When it came to light that intelligence agencies had no evidence to speak of, the men were all deported on flimsy immigration grounds. 

Similarly since 2000, five Muslim men have lived under Security Certificates in Canada. Though two of them Adil Charkaoui and Hassan Almrei had their certificates quashed and are now suing the government, three others Muhammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohamed Harkat have spent over ten years either in jail or on brutal house arrest without any charges being laid against them. 

Under a security certificate, secret evidence is accepted, no charges are laid and no fair trial takes place. This cannot be justified under any moral or legal argument - so much so that in 2007 the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. In 2008, the conservative government simply passed it again as a new law. 

The litany of injustices against these men are too long to enumerate. Just in one case, a large part of Muhammad Mahjoub's documents were seized by officials from the Department of Justice last summer. The officials read these confidential documents, and then mixed them up their own documents, and now can't figure out which documents belong to the defence which don't. This after the Canada Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) accepted that since 1996, either CSIS or the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) tapped solicitor-client conversation between Mr. Mahjoub and his lawyer. It continued this practice until 2010, even after a court ban in 2008, insisting that they stop. In essence Mr. Mahjoub's right to defend himself has been irreparably harmed. 

So pervasive is the Islamophobia (See Fathima Cader and Sumayya Kassamali's primer) that once deemed a threat to national security, Muslim men can't have the most basic of legal rights - confidential access to a lawyer. (On February 20, Muhammad Mahjoub will in Court at 180 Queen West to have his security certificate quashed, do attend if you can, details here, his Facebook page is here.)

The Building Resilience Against Terrorism strategy further lays out how it will not just target individuals who have committed crimes but "vulnerable" communities and individuals who could be radicalized. 

In the United States, there have been a number of high profile cases where the FBI has targeted 'vulnerable' communities by placing in informants who have entrapped and ensnared young Muslim men in to terrorist plots. In a detailed almost hour long documentary by Democracy Now, these cases of entrapment have been profiled over the last few years. Right now, Shain Duka, one the Fort Dix Five convicted on terrorism charges is pleading to the US Supreme Court that he be released on the grounds that he was entrapped. 

Similar issues have already arisen in Canada.  In 2006, 18 men were arrested on terrorism charges, known colloquially as the Toronto 18, eleven were eventually convicted based on evidence from two informants that were paid over $4million. Though in March 2009, Defence lawyers tried to argue that they had been entrapped, these motions were dismissed by Justice John Sproat. 

The National Post in its coverage of the new counter-terrorism strategy writes, "Since 2006, a handful of youths have travelled to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia to join terrorist groups aligned with al-Qaeda, while others were stopped as they were leaving. All appeared to have bought into a conspiracy-driven narrative that claims the West is trying to destroy Islam and that Muslims are required to respond violently." 

No source is identified for this factoid, a possible sign that it is information leaked by CSIS officials speaking on "background". It it likely then that these three communities, Pakistani, Somali and Yemeni will become increasingly targeted by CSIS officials and informants creating terror plots. A close reading of the report shows that CSIS officials are most concerned about Somali-Canadians, an obvious intertwining of the worst of Islamophobic and racist ideologies. 

In a few articles, we see mention of white supremacists as a possible threat to security. A PostMedia article even quotes a former CSIS agent at the very bottom of one article asserting that perhaps white supremacists might actually be a greater threat to Canada. 

You think? A recent Wikileaks-style expose of just one website selling neo-Nazi propaganda found 74 names and addresses of buyers in Canada. The report also found dozens of white supremacist gatherings taking place across the country, many in Southern Ontario. Right now, at least three men, Robertson de Chazal, Shawn Donald Finlay MacDonald, and Alastair Miller with known links to white supremacist group Blood and Honour are being charged in a number of violent assaults and hate crimes from 2008-2010 against a Filipino man who was set on fire, a Black man, a Latino man, and an Indigenous woman in Vancouver, B.C. (See video of anti-racist activists at their court appearance here). 

So, how many times were the words white supremacists mentioned in the counter-terrorism strategy? Once.

Instead of focusing on how environmentalist are being targeted in a new green-scare, it is imperative that social movements begin to join forces to fight the entire discourse of terrorism itself and publicly condemn the counter-terrorism strategy for being Islamophobic and racist. It is not enough to say that environmentalists and anti-capitalists are being silenced by being called terrorists, but rather to demand that the entire counter-terrorism strategy be thrown out.  

Though, it is impossible to detail it here, it is critical to remember that Indigenous communities are being consistently targeted in massive surveillance and terrorizing operations even though they are not named in the counter-strategy document at all. For more info, read Russell Diabo and Shiri Pasternak's account of INAC surveillance here, and Tim Groves and Martin Lukacs's article on RCMP targetting of Indigenous communities here.

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