‘There is nothing recklessly imprecise about highlighting those obligations’

Amnesty International responds to Jason Kenney’s letter


On Tuesday, Paul noted the exchange of written words between Amnesty International and Jason Kenney. On Wednesday, Amnesty International responded to Mr. Kenney’s open letter.

You begin by chastising Amnesty International for raising these concerns when we should instead be focusing on human rights concerns in countries like Iran and North Korea.  Minister, we most certainly do.  A casual review of our most recent reports, actions and news releases covers such countries as Iran, Syria, Bahrain, China, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Georgia, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.  We do regularly point to areas where we believe Canada’s own human rights laws, policy and practice are in need of reform.  Universal human rights principles apply as equally to Canada as they do to other countries.  Furthermore, the stronger Canada’s domestic human rights record is; the greater our leadership on the world stage. 


‘There is nothing recklessly imprecise about highlighting those obligations’

  1. “Furthermore, the stronger Canada’s domestic human rights record is; the greater our leadership on the world stage.”

    I don’t agree with much in AI’s response but I thought this sentence was correct. 

    We have apartheid system here in Canada to control Natives and yet we lecture the world about how brilliant we are. When the daily life of Natives is not so bleak, Canada can start lecturing world on how to improve itself. 

    “While Canada routinely ranks in the top ten of the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) – a quality of life indicator based on income, education and life expectancy applying the same criteria to Canada’s aboriginal population reveals some striking figures. Registered Indians living on reserves are ranked approximately 68th, somewhere between Bosnia and Venezuela, while off-reserve Indians are ranked 36th.”

    Thomas Sowell ~ It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.

    • Well the impossible has happened – I’m agreeing with you!

      What’s next? Cats living with dogs? The dead rising from their graves? Mass hysteria??

      • I love Tony. Why use one word when two will suffice ;)

  2. Mr Kenney has been in this job since 2008, and he still doesn’t understand the basics of it.

    Now he’s been publically slapped down.

    Perhaps if he gave up the political shenanigans and concentrated on the work?

    • Perhaps if he gave up the political shenanigans and concentrated on the work?

      You’re assuming that the political shenanigans are a side effect of the work he’s engaged in.  I submit to you that it’s plausible that “political shenanigans” are actually the work he’s engaged in.

      • LOL you’re probably right. Goodness knows he hasn’t accomplished anything to do with actual immigration.

        Tamil ‘invasions’,  ‘wanted posters’, ‘war criminals’…and a lot of other headline-grabbing stuff but nothing on actual immigration.

        Maybe he knows the whole thing is out of his control anyway.

  3. I think Jason Kenney should be patient and thoughtful and give Amnesty the benefit of the doubt. 

  4. The overarching goal and binding international obligation in such cases is to ensure that when there are credible allegations that an individual may have committed genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity or other crimes under international law, all of which are subject to universal jurisdiction, the state in which the individual is present (Canada in this case) is obligated to ensure the allegations are promptly, thoroughly, independently and impartially investigated and that, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, the individual will be criminally charged and tried in keeping with international fair trial standards“.

    I’d like the Minister to tell us all publicly that a thorough investigation has found that there is insufficient admissible evidence to try any of these men in a criminal proceeding for the war crimes and/or crimes against humanity that they’ve been accused of, and that this is why we’re apparently not going to do anything to bring these men to justice for their crimes. Alternatively, he could tell us all that he thinks Amnesty International’s interpretation of our international legal obligations vis a vis war criminals and international violators of human rights is incorrect.  Hopefully, in a more substantive way than simply saying “Poppycock”.

    The Minister’s initial response seemed to indicate that he thinks that Amnesty International is focused entirely on safeguarding the rights of the thirty men set for deportation.  As though A.I.’s focus is all on Canada.  It seems to have never occurred to him that Amnesty International’s primary concern is that perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity be brought to justice, and that we fulfill what obligations we have to the international community, and more importantly the obligation we have to the VICTIMS of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  If the Minister believes that we have no international obligations in this regard, and that letting men accused of crimes against humanity go free is entirely proper, then I’d like him to explain to us the legalities of that in some detail.  Should that be the case however, then I might suggest that all of the Minister’s very public focus on “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” is, in reality, nothing more than “self-congratulatory moral preening”.

    • What makes you certain that  there is “insufficient admissable evidence to try any of these men for the war crimes and/or crimes against humanity that they have been accused of?”
      Further, why would Amnesty International expect Canada to try these individuals for the war crimes when those trials typically take place at the Hague?

      • On the first point, nothing makes me certain that there’s insufficient evidence for criminal trials, but if there is indeed sufficient evidence to try these men criminally for war crimes or crimes against humanity then I believe we should be doing something to ensure that these men are tried for war crimes and/or crimes against humanity, and Amnesty International seems to believe that we have not just a moral obligation in this regard but also a legal obligation to do so under international law.  The reason I think it’s possible that there may be insufficient evidence to try these people in a criminal court is that we seem to be making no effort to see that these people are tried in a criminal court.  If that’s not because of a lack of admissible evidence, then why is it?  Do we just think that war crimes and crimes against humanity aren’t serious enough charges?  Is it that signing the Rome Statute was one thing, but trying to actually USE the International Criminal Court to bring international criminals to justice is a bridge to far?

        So, as for the Hague, YES!!!  If there’s sufficient evidence to try these men for war crimes and/or crimes against humanity, and the governments in their home countries are unwilling to charge them (in some cases, it should be noted, perhaps because they were committing said crimes on behalf of the current government of their home country) then we should absolutely do what we can to see that they’re tried before the International Criminal Court.  Amnesty International is not saying that trying these men in Canada is the first choice, or even the preferred choice.  They’re only saying that we should consider doing so in cases where “it is not possible to extradite, surrender or otherwise transfer the individual to his or her home country, another country, or an international tribunal” (emphasis mine).

        This is a government that accuses Canadians who don’t think that we should spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new prisons of being “soft on crime”.  However, they simultaneously seem to think that attempting to bring men who have committed war crimes and/or crimes against humanity to justice would be a waste of taxpayer money (yet somehow letting war criminals go free is NOT soft on crime???).  It’s LUDICROUS.

        • Okay, so how do these men get extradited to their own countries or to the Hague if we offer them sanctuary in Canada? 
          I personally have never heard of a war crime tribunal/trial involving another country taking place outside of the Hague.  What exact legal jursidiction does a country like Canada have to compel international witnesses to come to this country to testify in such a hearing?

          • Who said anything about offering them sanctuary in Canada???

            If their own countries want to prosecute them for war crimes or crimes against humanity, we can extradite them home to face those charges. 

            If some THIRD country wants to charge them with war crimes or crimes against humanity, I believe that we can extradite them to that third country to face those charges. 

            If no sovereign nation ANYWHERE outside of Canada is willing to charge any of them with war crimes or crimes against humanity, then we should do whatever we can to make sure they’re brought to justice at the Hague before the International Criminal Court (that was set up for just this sort of situation). 

            Finally, if no other country on the planet is going to charge them with war crimes or crimes against humanity, and the Hague won’t prosecute them either, then I think we should consider charging them here in Canada if we really have sufficient evidence that they’re guilty of war crimes.  As for the jurisdictional issue specifically vis a vis Canada, we have our very own Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act which received Royal
            Assent in 2000.  Not only does the Act exist, we have also already charged international war criminals, in Canada, under this very act, including one case from Rwanada where we’ve already convicted the war criminal here in Canada and sentenced him to life in prison.

            If, however, there’s really not a single jurisdiction anywhere in the solar system, including Canada, that is interested in these men being brought to justice for the crimes they are alleged to have committed, then we shouldn’t call them “war criminals”, ’cause I for one am not thrilled with the idea of rounding up 30 “war criminals” and just setting them free to resume their lives outside of Canada.

  5. If that’s “moral preening” then I’ll take that over Kenney’s low-brow gutter talk any day of the week.

  6. Without a mocking, snide, patronizing and sarcastic response, how does Amnesty International expect to be taken seriously? I don’t trust an organization that responds to criticism in a rational, reasoned tone.

  7. I appreciate you clarifying the rare cases in which war criminals are tried outside of the Hague or their own countries.  When I mentioned providing sanctuary in Canada – I meant, providing Canadian citizenship or landed immigrant status and refusing to hand-over war criminals for trial to their home countries.  Unfortunately, Canada has a reputation for doing just that.   
    One of your comments does cause me to seek out further clarification, however.  How do you suppose it will be feasible for Canada to launch a successful trial proving war crimes against individual if “no other country on the planet is going to charge them and the Hague won’t prosecute either?”
    Everyone knows there is a big difference between what is true and what can be proven in a court of law.    You should look up Jackie Tran, a non-Canadian born gang-leader leaving in Calgary.  He was finally deported but not without considerable work on the part of the police.  You might not feel comfortable sending criminals to live elsewhere but are you comfortable having them at large in your backyard?

    • Do you suppose it will be feasible for Canada to launch a successful
      trial proving war crimes against individual if “no other country on the
      planet is going to charge them and the Hague won’t prosecute either?”

      Maybe not, but that’s why I don’t think we should have had four separate press conferences calling these guys “war criminals” if no one anywhere is interested in charging them with war crimes, and that the CBSA website shouldn’t say things like “it has been determined that [the suspects] violated human or international rights under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act or under international law” when that is, at best, BLATANTLY misleading, and at worst an outright falsehood.

      I’ve said consistently from the beginning that these people have been deemed inadmissible to Canada and deportation orders have been issued against them, and I have no problems whatsoever with capturing and deporting them on that basis.  My problem is with the ridiculous political grandstanding that’s happening as politicians make grandiose, and in some cases largely unsubstantiated (publicly anyway) claims about “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” in what seems to me is a transparent effort to rally the “law and order” crowd and make a routine immigration matter seem like a more exciting and exponentially more meaningful exercise than it really is.  I also find it ASTONISHING that the same government that put these men’s pictures and names on a website that says that it’s “been determined” that they “violated human or international rights under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act or under international law” at the very same time cites “privacy concerns” when asked to clarify what some of the men have been accused of.  That a Minister of the Crown can essentially say about a suspect “it would violate his privacy rights to tell you what he’s been accused of, but trust me, he’s a war criminal” is just indefensible imho.

      If we’re going to bring these men to justice, or work with others to ensure that they’re brought to justice on war crimes charges, then tell the public you need help finding war crimes suspects.  If the only thing anyone is ever going to charge them with is being in Canada illegally and/or dodging a deportation order, then tell the public you need help finding people who are here illegally and are dodging deportation orders.  Conflating the two is just naked politics imho, and I’m shocked that more people don’t seem to see that.

      Also, in at least one case of the 30 “most wanted” we’re going to have trouble deporting the man, as he’s now a pastor in New York and apparently hasn’t been in Canada since 1993 (He’s still on the most wanted website btw, even though presumably CBSA found out that he’s not in Canada anymore when the first newspaper story came out that he and his family are thinking of suing Ottawa for branding him a “war criminal”).  Also, since leaving Canada this “war criminal” has been given U.S. citizenship, so even if he comes back and we want to kick him out again, I’m pretty sure the Americans are going to insist we send him to them, and not back to El Salvador (not that El Salvador, or any other nation on Earth, wants to actually charge him with anything).

      • Just because a person establishes a new life in a new place does not mean they did not commit a crime somewhere previously….as for suing Canada…didn’t Brian Mulroney threaten to sue right before Allan Rock paid up?
        What I don’t understand is what your major complaint is:  Is it that you believe that the government is lying about having received credible information that these 30 men are war criminals;  or    Is it that the government is planning just to deport these individuals without ensuring that they are tried for their crimes;   or   Is is that the government publicized their actions?

        • My major complaint is that to me the “war criminal” label is naked political grandstanding.  If these men are war criminals then I believe that my government has a duty to at least attempt to do SOMETHING to make it look like they’re maybe considering some plan to perhaps see that these men are maybe brought to justice someday, by someone, somewhere.

          If all the government is going to do is stick them on the next plane out of Canada and wash their hands of them, then they’d better not really be war criminals.

          I also do have a problem with the fact that in some of these cases the Minister is essentially saying “Due to privacy concerns I can’t tell you what evidence there is against this man, or even what he is alleged to have done, all I can tell you is that he’s a war criminal”.  I swear there are elements to some of the Minister’s public comments on this operation that Franz Kafka couldn’t have written better himself.

          • Okay, so you doubt the validity of their claim that these people are war criminals BUT just in case it is true….as the involvement of Amnesty International would suggest….you want full disclosure of all evidence and you want Canada to try everyone.  I understand perfectly.  Thank you.

          • @healthcareinsider:disqus

            Did you miss the part where the reason I doubt the veracity of the government’s claims that these men are war criminals is that the government is apparently not willing to do so much as make a few phone calls to see that they’re brought to justice for their crimes?  It’s not just that the government’s not going to try them, or isn’t divulging the evidence against them, the government’s doing NOTHING to bring them to justice.  No discussions with the ICC.  No conversations with the countries where the crimes are alleged to have taken place.  Certainly, as you say, no effort to try them here under our laws.  NOTHING.  We’re gonna stick them on a plane, and wash our hands.

            It’s true, I’m not completely convinced that these men are all guilty of war crimes, but if they are, I care a great deal that someone try to bring them to justice for their crimes.  Is that really a less valid position to hold than the position held by people who are apparently completely convinced that these men are guilty of war crimes and yet aren’t willing to do ANYTHING to bring them to justice???

  8. We already have a porous immigration system that costs Canadians millions of dollars from que jumpers,illegals,and low-lifes who enter our country by circumventing our lax laws. Really dont feel any moral obligation to spend millions more trying the world’s scum in our overcrowded legal institutions. When we catch those who are wanted or suspected of crimes in other countries, ship them back to their place of origin,” tag them” so they can’t re-enter our country, and be done with it.