What to make of the father of the 11-year-old boy who drowned after falling into an icy pond while bravely trying to rescue his friend?
We ached for Muralitharan Nadarajah as he wept clutching a picture of his son.
We questioned our initial sympathies when newspapers began reporting that the RCMP was alleging that Nadarajah was, of all things, a terrorist.
We wondered if such a brave little boy could really have come from such terrible stock.
The truth is, I don’t know. But for sure, I won’t just be taking anybody’s word for it.
Remember Project Thread? In August 2003 the RCMP and our immigration department proudly announced that that they had uncovered an al Qaeda sleeper cell — 24 young men largely of Pakistani origin — buzzing around the Pickering nuclear power plant.
So what happened? Notwithstanding the seriousness of the allegations, not one was actively pursued or proven, boggling the mind as to how such allegations can be so devoid of substance.
How about Maher Arar? The RCMP led us, and the Americans, to believe that he was an Islamic extremist. He was deported to Syria and tortured. The RCMP later realized it goofed but did little to set the record straight. When it seemed that RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli might need to take some responsibility for this baseless allegation he stood up in front of us all and completely changed his testimony about what he knew and when.
In my career, I have seen many accusations made that proved to be wholly without any basis in fact.
Why does this happen?
For one, the public is still suffering from post 9/11 gullibility i.e. the unbridled willingness to believe that there is a terrorist around every corner. Sort of like the 1950s fear of a communist hiding under every bed.
Second, such allegations are so easy to "prove". There are no rules of evidence that apply to these cases, there are no public hearings in which to expose any cracks in such cases, and the standard of proof is so ridiculously low that authorities don’t even have to prove that the person has actually assisted in any act of terrorism or was even aware of any impending act of terrorism. It is sufficient to deport a person if it can be shown that he was a "member" of a terrorist organization even if it was not a terrorist organization at the time that he was a member.
Finally, security agencies get budgets in proportion to the security threats that are perceived to exist. In the absence of preventing actual plots, such agencies may be tempted to focus on those who simply might meet our overly broad definition of "terrorist".
The danger of this approach, of course, is that while the RCMP is tied up with "technical" terrorists, they just might let a real one slip away.
Guidy Mamann is the senior lawyer at Mamann & Associates and is certified by the Law Society as an immigration specialist. Reach him at 416-862-0000. Direct confidential questions to firstname.lastname@example.org