Ukrainian News | 21Feb2008 | Editorial
Page 07

UCC should oppose unjust Bill C-3

Feb. 06, 2008 the Parliament of Canada passed an odious, undemocratic and unconstitutional piece of legislation known as Bill C-3.

This act reinstates "security certificates" a citizenship and immigration process which involves secret hearings and denies suspects the right to know what they are charged with. Security certificates also maintain a lower standard of justice. A judge ruling on the case of a non-citizen subject of a security certificate only needs "reasonable grounds to believe" that they represent a risk as opposed to "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" in a criminal case. Does that sound familiar? It should. It's exactly like Denaturalization and Deportation (D and D), the process which has been used to revoke the citizenship of innocent Ukrainians on "balance of probabilities" without bothering to charge them with any crime whatsoever.

Security certificates were deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada on Feb. 23, 2007, and the government was given a one-year deadline to make the legislation Charter-compliant. However all they changed was to provide for "special advocates" who would be able to challenge the intelligence report under which a suspect could be detained without trial, but would not be able to cross-examine the source of this intelligence. Most legal experts believe this act will once again be thrown out by the courts.

This bill passed by a vote of a 196-71, with Conservatives and most Liberals supporting it. The NDP, the Bloc Quebecois and one Liberal, Andrew Telegdi, opposed it. Telegdi was subsequently hauled on the carpet for this by Party Whip Karen Redman, who told him she would remove him as Vice chair of the Citizenship and Immigration Committee. Twenty four Liberals, including Borys Wrzesnewskyj, walked out of the chamber rather than vote on the bill.

The Liberals have promised to revoke this legislation and pass a bill that is Charter-compliant should they form the next government. They fully expect this one to once again be deemed unconstitutional following a court challenge. So, why did they vote for it and why did the party leadership make it into a "whip vote" meaning, you either support the bill or you don't vote? Because the Conservatives drew a line in the sand, making this a confidence issue. Had the Liberals voted against it, the Conservatives would have called an election and the Liberals were afraid they would run a fear-mongering campaign painting them as "soft on terrorism".

The action of the leadership of both parties was, frankly, shameful. The Conservatives should be ashamed of sponsoring a fundamentally unjust and unconstitutional bill in the first place, then doubly shamed for threatening to run a fear-mongering campaign over this fundamentally unjust and unconstitutional bill. The Liberal leadership should be ashamed of caving in to these threats instead of standing on their principles.

This piece of legislation is opposed by, among others, the Canadian Bar Association, the Quebec Bar Association, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress should add its name to this list.

Why, if the current victims of this legislation are all Muslims, should the UCC get involved? Because, first of all, as Canadians we should be concerned with any legislation that abuses civil liberties.

Second, because we too have been victimized by abuses of civil liberties. Wrzesnewskyj, in his public declarations has compared this to the World War I internment of Ukrainian Canadians, noting that few MPs dared oppose that action when it was inflicted upon innocent people. And, of course, D and D is still with us and the RCMP is still trying to entrap innocent Ukrainians through this process.

Finally, it is imperative that all minority groups and concerned citizens maintain solidarity whenever one particular group may be targeted, be it Muslims under security certificates, or Ukrainians under D and D. That's why the UCC became one of the founding members of the Citizen's Coalition, that's why the UCC created its justice committee and that why the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association came into being.

Public apathy can lead to the erosion of civil liberties for all, while solidarity among groups can help defeat it.

This was put most eloquently by Pastor Martin Niem´┐Żller who, in 1937 was arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. He survived to be a leading voice of penance and reconciliation for the German people after World War II. His words are frequently cited, to describe the dangers of political apathy.

"When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.
"When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.
"When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.
"When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew.
"When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out."