Yet another person is planning to sue the Canadian government for its ‘complicity’ in alleged abuse in connection with a counter terrorism investigation. An Algerian citizen, Djamel Ameziane, says that Canadian security services (read: CSIS) co-operated with their US partners while he was in the Guantanamo detention facility, even though they should have known that the US was abusing him. He wants $50 million and has retained an Edmonton lawyer. His suit alleges that “the Crown’s conduct constituted acquiescence and tacit consent to the torture inflicted upon” him.
I have several issues – not surprisingly – with this legal action, the first and foremost is that suing for alleged government involvement in mistreatment is now becoming a competitive sport in which plaintiffs, like professional athletes, are asking for larger and larger ‘salaries’. Where does this end, with a $100 million payout? $200 million? A billion? But here are some other facts that weigh against Mr. Ameziane’s claim:
a) he has no status in Canada. According to the Globe and Mail he is a failed refugee claimant who arrived in this country in 1995 on a fake Dutch passport and left in 2000. Should a non-citizen have the right to sue the Canadian government? Why was his claim rejected anyway (see below)?
b) he went from Canada to Afghanistan in 2000, allegedly with money provided by a Tunisian contact, and according to US information went to a Kabul guesthouse run by Al Qaeda. He traveled to the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan with the Taliban and was captured after 9/11 while trying to escape through Pakistan on a bus. He says of course that he did not go to Afghanistan to join a terrorist group and that he was simply caught up in ‘the wrong place at the wrong time’. That may well be but at a minimum Mr. Ameziane is guilty of poor decision making: who the hell went willingly to Afghanistan in 2000? I suspect there is a lot more to his story than he is admitting.
c) CSIS is accused of sending information to the Americans on him. If so, this suggests that he was of interest to Canadian authorities during his five-year stay in the country. We have been down this road before: I repeat, investigations are carried out on people where there are reasonable grounds to suspect there is a threat to national security or public safety. CSIS would have been negligent in not pursuing all leads if it determined that an investigation was warranted. As I noted before, the lack of eventual charges is irrelevant in a national security investigation. Why would CSIS have been looking at him in the late 1990s and did it uncover information that contributed to the rejection of his refugee claim?
Again, we have a case of a person suing the wrong party. If anyone deserves to pay it is the US. It was the US that picked up Mr. Ameziane in Pakistan. It was the US that flew him to Guantanamo. It was the US that allegedly mistreated him. It was the US that sent him back to his native Algeria. Notice which country has no role in any of this? Canada. So why is Canada being sued? Because its agencies were fulfilling their statutory mandates?
This is becoming a tragicomedy, as I predicted. Tragedy in that people were treated horribly in the colossal mistake that was the US decision to use the naval base in Guantanamo to house those it believed had a link to the 9/11 attacks or who it was convinced posed a clear and present danger to the homeland. We will see many, many more actions against the US because of Gitmo and it is far from clear what net benefit the facility delivered to the US. Comedy in that the piling up of lawsuits and the collective naivete of Canadians who are convinced that none of these men were legitimately looked at by CSIS and the RCMP is becoming a farce. Those who suffered absolutely deserve compensation. But that compensation has to come from the guilty parties, NOT the Canadian taxpayer (of which I am one). It is time to say no to this cash grab.
President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting. Phil worked as a strategic analyst in the Canadian intelligence community for over 30 years, including 15 at CSIS, with assignments at Public Safety Canada and the Ontario Provincial Police. He specializes in radicalization and homegrown Al Qaeda/Islamic State/Islamist-inspired extremism. firstname.lastname@example.org