The term refugee has taken on new meaning in the 20th century, leading some to define this century as the ‘Century of the Refugee’. This is due to the dramatic uprooting and displacement of over 60 million refugees, the greatest forced migration in the history of mankind” (Peralta, 1997, p.1). Canada has traditionally maintained an open door for refugees, and many of the worlds refugees have sought asylum within its gates. Yet, these past years have brought a sow change to that policy, with efforts now concentrating on preventing refugees from coming to Canada, and trying to expel those that are already there (Canadian Council for Refugees, 1998, p.5). This fact is powerfully exposed to the world in the groundbreaking work of Mary Jo Leddy, a book entitled “Our Friendly Local Terrorist.” Leddy, who had worked for years as a refugee advocate at the Toronto based Romero House community, writes eloquently and passionately of one man who escaped political torture in Turkey only to receive more of it in Canada. Writing in her role as an advocate and witness, she gives details of the story she was privy to, revealing just how corrupted the powers of the Canada Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) have become in recent years.
The story begins when a man by the name of Suleyman Goven, a Alvei Kurd refugee from Turkey living in Canada, sought her assistance in 1994. It was just 3 years after he had come to Canada seeking asylum. For reasons unknown to him or anyone else, he suddenly came under the scrutiny of the CSIS as a suspected terrorist. At the interview, or what was more apt to be called an interrogation, Goven was grilled for over 7 hours as to his part in terrorist plots and activities, accusations that had no basis in reality. He denied all of the accusations, much to the dismay of his interrogators. Then, to the shock and dismay of both Goven and Leddy, the CSIS agents began to try to cohearse Goven into being a spy for them, bringing them information on other refugees within the Kurdish community. This, they said, he would need to to in order to be given his landing papers, papers he needed in order to be granted refugee status and to bring his family over from Turkey. Goven refused, and his life has been a nightmare ever since.
Leddy chronicles the plight of Goven, who, for over a decade, suffered mentally from the near constant harassment of CSIS agents. It was not just Goven who received the harassment, but also his friends, families, and even new refugees in the community who came into contact with him. The CSIS, it seems, was desperate to find something to pin on Goven, and would go to drastic measures to get it. “Our Friendly Local Terrorist” tackles one of the most troubling issues of our time, the powers that are being given to security agencies in order to battle the War on Terror. The CSIS has blatantly disregarded Canadian law governing privacy, civil liberties and human rights in order to fight a perceived terrorist threat that may, or may not, be as threatening as it is made out to be in the popular media. Leddy reveals with stark clarity the disturbing similarities between the interrogation tactics of countries such as Turkey, where refugees flee from, and the tactics of supposedly free countries such as Canada, where the refugees must flee to.
Concept 1: CSIS – Above the Law
Canadian Anti-Terrorist Policy Under Fire by Simon Liem
By its actions, the CSIS has proven its belief that it is above the laws regarding civil and human rights. The violations perpetrated by CSIS agents to Mr. Goven in the name of freedom seem hardly better than what was going on in his own country of Turkey. Refugees such as Mr. Goven flee these countries in order to find freedom, but instead only find more of the same abuse and suffering they were fleeing from in the first place. Western nations such as Canada and the United States pride themselves on their adherence to democratic ideals and dedication to human rights, thus making them a common destination for international refugees. However, it can be seen by the actions of the CSIS that when it comes to issues of national security, the democratic government of Canada is not in control. Instead, in Canada, control is in the hands of the CSIS, who are given the power to do what they deem is necessary in order to keep Canada free of terrorist threat.