The news has come out that Canadian officials indirectly contributed to the arrests and torture of three Muslim-Canadians. This revalation followed an inquiry by retired Supreme Court Judge, Frank Iacobucci into the separate, but thematically linked, cases of Ahmad El Maati, Muayyed Nureddin and Abdullah Almalki. The RCMP, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and the department of Foreign Affairs, all did things that had the unintended consequence of having the three men imprisoned and tortured in Syria. The CSIS and the RCMP shared information, leading to Nureddin’s torture. The RCMP, Iacobucci’s inquiry reveals, received, from outside foreign agencies, information and accusations the men were “Islamic extremists”. They then shared this information with Syria before checking the validity of the claims for themselves. It should be noted that they were never officially charged with any crimes.
In today’s Globe and Mail, Wesley Wark, a security specialist, would not let us forget the importance of intelligence sharing. Although we must be careful to protect the civil rights of citizens, intelligence sharing is a critical step on the road to global security, he argues. The last line of his piece:
“Judicially inspired degrees of caution about the sharing of intelligence might save some Canadians from harm; it might also expose many Canadians to harm.”
This sounds very callous. It amounts to justifying the mistreatment of the three men because such acts are essential aspects of a system (intelligence sharing) that will prevent potential harm. But can’t we have both: intelligence sharing with rigorous fact-checking and oversight, thus maintaining our status as a part of the global network without indirectly throwing your own citizens under the bus?