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Charkaoui sues federal government

After being detained for six years under a security certificate, local teacher aims to clear his name

Montrealer Adil Charkaoui has launched a $24.5-million lawsuit against the government agencies and representatives who played a major role in his two-year imprisonment and four years spent living under strict house arrest conditions.

The last of Charkaoui’s conditions were struck down in September 2009, and in November his lawyers asked the government to issue him an apology and grant him both citizenship and reasonable reparations for the damage caused by his six-year ordeal.

“They asked the government to respond within 10 days – they didn’t, which left him no choice,” said Mary Foster, a member of the Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui.

“Adil’s struggle is extremely inspiring, and the fact that he is asking for an apology is symbolically important,” Foster said. “[His] life has been damaged, and there has to be some recognition for the rights violated in such a horrendous way.”

In 2003, Charkaoui was detained under a security certificate, a piece of immigration law that allows the government to use secret evidence to detain non-citizens indefinitely under threat of deportation. The Quebec Bar Association and the Canadian Bar Association have both released detailed statements opposing security certificates.

In his role as the attorney-general at the time, Liberal MP Wayne Easter signed the certificate and was personally named in the lawsuit.

Easter said he was not aware that Charkaoui’s lawyers had asked for an apology and reasonable reparations before launching the suit. “[Charkaoui is] exercising his legal right in a democracy, and it will go wherever it will,” he said.

Easter added tht the government has to take a balanced approach to security issues. “Government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, and it has to take all measures to do that. At the same time, [we] do not want to infringe on people’s liberties,” he said.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled security certificate legislation unconstitutional, but delayed the effects of its decision by one year. The following year, the Harper government introduced a new security certificate law and issued Charkaoui another certificate, although the conditions instituted under the old law stayed in place.

Throughout this time, Charkaoui, a French teacher and father of four, was forced to wear a GPS-tracking ankle bracelet – which he has called his “bracelet of shame” – and was not permitted to leave the island of Montreal. He also had to be accompanied at all times by one of his parents.

“The toll this has taken on me and on my children is incalculable,” Charkaoui said in a press release. “That is why my three oldest children – aged eight, six, and four – who lived through this nightmare with me, are also named as applicants.”

The lack of evidence presented by government lawyers and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) prompted Quebec judge Danièle Tremblay-Lamer to lift the conditions and later remove the certificate in fall last year.

Hassan Almrei, whose certificate was also struck down, has also demanded an apology from the government.

Three Arab Muslim men, Mohammed Harkat, Mohammad Mahjoub, and Mahmoud Jabballah, continue to live under house arrest due to security certificates.

Charkaoui’s suit names CSIS, the Canada Border Services Agency, the attorney-general of Canada, and the ministers of justice, public safety, and Immigration. Conservative MP Stickwell Day and Liberal MP Denis Corderre are also personally named.

Corderre did not respond to The Daily.