Ottawa changes stance on Mahjoub after seven years

For almost seven years, our government has been telling us that Mohamed Mahjoub is a terrorist.


We have been told that he is so dangerous that he needs to be detained indefinitely in a maximum-security facility. In fact, even releasing information as to why he is being detained would threaten Canada’s very national security.


Well, last week, a federal court judge ruled that Mahjoub could be released, albeit on strict terms and conditions, notwithstanding a vigorous opposition mounted by the lawyers for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.


Having learned of the order, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day told reporters in Ottawa that he’s satisfied with the strict conditions imposed on Mahjoub’s release and that he’s “basically … comfortable with the process.”



Shouldn’t the Minister responsible for our public safety be freaking out at the mere thought of such a “dangerous” person being anywhere near the public regardless of the conditions imposed by the court? Apparently not! So what’s really going on here?

Our counter-terrorism legislation, which allows for the indefinite detention of terror suspects merely upon the signature of two ministers, and the evidence used in that connection is becoming increasingly difficult to defend. The law was flawed from the outset. For example, similar provisions never applied to Canadian citizens. Obviously, politics trumped our concern for true security.

Also, the procedure was intended to be “summary” in nature. Instead, detentions have dragged on for years under conditions that have threatened the sanity and physical health of these detainees. The Supreme Court of Canada is on the verge of a ruling on the constitutionality of this legislation.

Further, since the detainees are denied access to the evidence used to detain them, we are expected to have blind faith in CSIS and the RCMP who are the main suppliers of evidence to the court. The court and the public witnessed the RCMP squander its credibility by providing unreliable information to the Americans to the effect that Maher Arar was a suspected Islamic extremist and by doing little or nothing about it when the agency found out that it got it wrong.

Finally, the implications of our abandoning centuries-old notions of due process are finally coming to roost. In the case of a Canadian citizen, Huseyin Celil who is languishing in a jail somewhere in China facing unspecified terrorist charges, our Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Mackay complained to Beijing that he has “never seen any documentation of direct evidence whatsoever to link Mr. Celil [to these acts].”

Sounds familiar?

When we find our ourselves in the same company as communist China in matters relating to human rights, perhaps it is time that we take stock.

Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann & Associates and is certified by the Ontario Law Society as an immigration specialist. Hear him live each Sunday morning at 11 on Toronto's AM640. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at