Spencer Nestico-Semianiw

McMaster’s Muslims for Peace and Justice held a teach-in on Nov. 8 about how the Canadian government has neglected the rights of its Muslim citizens.

The overall focus of the evening was on the “extraordinary rendition” policy and the use of torture on Canadian citizens accused of involvement in terrorism. Extraordinary rendition is the policy of transferring people from one country to another without the approval of any legal authority.

The event featured Abdullah Almalki and Ahmed El maati, two Canadian citizens who, in the early 2000s, were wrongly connected with terrorist activity by the RCMP after the 9/11 attacks.

During the discussion, Almalki and his legal representative Phil Tunley spoke about the various struggles that Almalki had to face during and immediately after his arrest. Tunley first discussed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other various legal documents in the context of how they related to the rights of Mr. Almalki under his circumstances.

Upon Almalki’s arrival to Syria in 2002, he was detained and arrested by Syrian officials based on information sent directly from the Canadian government. Following the incident, Almalki remained in a Syrian jail for nearly two years.

When Almalki was brought up to speak, he presented a detailed account of his mistreatment at the hands of the Syrians, perpetuated by the Canadian government.

Almalki emphasized his abuse at the hands of the Canadian government by presenting a quote from the RCMP and the Canadian Security and Intelligence service (CSIS), which stated that, “it was not the responsibility of intelligence or law enforcement officials to be concerned about the human rights of a Canadian detainee.”

Almalki explained how, at one point, he was abruptly slapped in the face by one of his interrogators. He explained, “the physical pain has by now gone away, but the humiliation I felt at that moment is still with me.”

During the question-and-answer period, students actively voiced their opinions on the issue. Many deeply sympathized with the hardships that Almalki was forced to endure and others stated how inspired they were to engage in their community through social activism.

The focus was particularly on the role that the Canadian government had to play in this issue. In need of sufficient grounds to jail Almalki in Canada, the government believed that torture in Syria would be an appropriate way to extract the necessary information. As a result, the ensuing discussion also focused on how it is the responsibility of Canadian citizens to recognize these injustices and mobilize against them.

One of the notable attendees to the teach-in was Ken Stone, the treasurer of the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War and also a McMaster alumnus. “If we want to stop these abuses like torture, the killing of prisoners and rapes of women, we really need to put pressure on our Canadian government not to get involved in these wars,” said Stone.

By the end of the night, it was clear the speakers had hit a nerve in those who had attended as they displayed gratitude for the speakers.

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