Canadian Council for Refugees



2 September 2003

Montreal.  The Canadian Council for Refugees today denounced the detention of 20 persons in the Toronto area on the basis of “suspicions”, noting that it is unfair to the persons directly concerned, disturbing for Muslim communities, and unhelpful for Canadians.

“Canada’s justice is built on the premise that it is unfair to arrest a person based only on a suspicion,” said Kemi Jacobs, President.  “Yet Canada’s immigration system violates that fundamental rule, and now 20 people have been detained and publicly labelled as possible terrorists by virtue of suspicions that may turn out to be unfounded.  The equivalent for Canadians would be  to find yourself detained based on suspicions of pedophilia, without any hard evidence, and finding the news of your arrest is in all the papers the next day.”

For members of the Muslim, South Asian and Arab communities, the handling of the cases is distressing, since it highlights how easy it is to be publicly labelled a “terrorist suspect” if you happen to have certain origins.

For Canadians more generally the case heightens anxiety in these times of insecurity, without offering any grounds for confidence that justice will be done.  If the men are innocent, their reputation has been unfairly tarnished; if on the other hand any are guilty, using the immigration process to deport them will not help to bring them to justice or prevent them from committing crimes elsewhere.

The CCR calls on the government to treat the cases as straightforward cases of apparent immigration violations.  Any suspicions of terrorist activity should be addressed through criminal investigation, and if the suspicions are subsequently found to be grounded, criminal charges should be laid.

For more information, please contact:
Kemi Jacobs, President, CCR (416) 588-6288 (ext. 202)
Janet Dench, Executive Director, CCR (514) 277-7223 (ext. 2)

The Canadian Council for Refugees is a non-profit umbrella organization committed to the rights and protection of refugees in Canada and around the world and to the settlement of refugees and immigrants in Canada. The membership is made up of over 175 organizations involved in refugee sponsorship and protection and in newcomer settlement. The CCR serves the networking, information-exchange and advocacy needs of its membership.