The Issue

About Security Certificates

Security certificates are an immigration tool that allows the Canadian government to deport non-citizens it deems a threat to national security. They have been around in some form in Canada’s immigration legislation for over fifty years. In 1978 they were included in the Immigration Act in a form closely resembling their current one, and in 1991 when the Act was updated, further adjustments were made. Over time, and particularly after 9/11, security certificates have morphed into an anti-terrorism tool.

For reasons of national security, the allegations and evidence held against security certificate detainees are never fully revealed, and significant parts of their trials are held in secret. Although the goal of a security certificate is deportation, because many of the individuals issued with them have been found to be at serious risk of torture if returned to their countries of origin, they can be detained indefinitely in Canadian prisons.

A Brief History

Anyone who isn't confused really doesn't understand the situation.

- Edward R. Murrow

2000 - 2003

The Secret Trial 5 are arrested under security certificates.

April 26, 2006

The Kingston Immigration Holding Centre (KIHC) - dubbed ‘Guantanamo North’ - opens. KIHC was designed as a long-term holding facility specifically to house security certificate detainees.

February 23, 2007

The Supreme Court of Canada finds security certificates to be unconstitutional. The case was brought forth by Adil Charkaoui, and was joined by Hassan Almrei and Mohamed Harkat. Despite the unanimous ruling, the Court suspended its decision for one year to give Parliament time to amend the law.

February 22, 2008

Special advocates are introduced to the security certificate system. These security cleared lawyers are allowed to view the secret evidence that the neither detainees or their lawyers can. However, after they view the secret evidence, they are no longer allowed to speak to the detainees about their case, essentially barring them from any meaningful contact from the people they represent.

October 10 and 11, 2013

Security certificates are challenged before the Supreme Court of Canada for the second time by Mohamed Harkat. A decision is expected in spring 2014.


Adil Charkaoui

Moroccan-born Adil Charkaoui was arrested in 2003 under a security certificate. Mr. Charkaoui is married with four children and is currently working on his PhD in education from the Université de Montreal. He spent 21 months in prison without charge and over four years under house arrest before winning his case in 2009. He is consequently suing the Canadian government for over $20 million.

Hassan Almrei

Mr. Almrei was born in Syria, and came to Canada in 1999 as a refugee. He was arrested shortly after 9/11 and spent seven years in jail without charge. After an additional three years under house arrest, Mr. Almrei won his case in 2009. He is also suing the Canadian government. Mr. Almrei currently lives in Mississauga, Ontario.

Mahmoud Jaballah

Mr. Jaballah was a school principal in Scarborough, Ontario when he was first arrested in 1999. The father of six is the only person in Canadian history to endure three security certificates. After his first certificate was dismissed in 2000, a second certificate was issued in 2001. He spent over six years in jail without charge, and is now living under house arrest in Toronto.

Mohamed Harkat

Mr. Harkat was arrested under a security certificate in 2002. He spent 43 months in jail before being released under strict house arrest conditions in 2006. Mr. Harkat was recently the centre of the second Supreme Court challenge against security certificates. A decision on the status of his certificate, as well as the law surrounding it, is expected in spring 2014. Moe lives in Ottawa with his wife Sophie Harkat.

Mohammad Zeki Mahjoub

Mr. Mahjoub spent seven years in jail with no charges before being released under house arrest in 2007. In 2009, he made headlines by asking to be returned to prison, saying the house arrest conditions were too damaging to his family. Mr. Mahjoub declined participation in The Secret Trial 5. He currently lives under house arrest in Toronto.

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