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MPs to review Canada’s extradition system in coming justice committee hearings

OTTAWA — The House of Commons Judiciary Committee is preparing to review Canada’s extradition system — a move welcomed by critics, who have long called for reforms to the process for sending people abroad to be detained and prosecuted.

OTTAWA — The House of Commons Judiciary Committee is preparing to review Canada’s extradition system — a move welcomed by critics, who have long called for reforms to the process for sending people abroad to be detained and prosecuted.

Though hearing dates have yet to be determined, the committee plans to hear witnesses in at least three sessions, which could begin before the end of the year.

“There have been many academics and human rights organizations that have made very specific suggestions about what needs to happen,” said New Democrat MP Randall Garrison, a committee member who proposed the study.

“And so my idea was that we should take them to the Judiciary Committee and let them make those proposals and hopefully we can get some enthusiasm in government to move that forward.”

Legal and human rights experts say Canada’s extradition procedures need a thorough overhaul to ensure fairness, transparency and a balance between the desire for administrative efficiency and vital constitutional protections.

In a report released last year, voices calling for change highlighted a number of problems in the handling of procedures under the 1999 extradition law and criticized the system as inherently unfair.

In the Canadian system, the courts determine whether there is sufficient evidence or other applicable grounds to justify extradition of a person.

If someone is sentenced to extradition, the Minister of Justice must then personally decide whether to order extradition to the foreign state.

Critics say the surrender procedure affects the ability of the person seeking extradition to meaningfully challenge the foreign case against them, reduces Canadian judges to stamps and allows the use of unreliable material.

Furthermore, they argue that the surrender decision made by the Attorney General is a highly discretionary and explicitly political process, wrongly biased toward extradition.

Supporters of the reform highlight the case of Ottawa sociology professor Hassan Diab, a Canadian national, who was extradited to France and jailed for more than three years, only to be released before he was even brought to justice.

Despite all this, Diab, who has returned to Canada, is due to face trial in France next April for a 1980 bombing of a Parisian synagogue.

Diab denies any involvement, and his supporters have long argued that there is a wealth of evidence to prove his innocence. They want the Trudeau government to flatly reject any new extradition request from France.

Diab isn’t the only one “suffering from this failed process,” said Tim McSorley, national coordinator for the Ottawa-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.

“Several studies have already shown that there are deep problems in Canada’s extradition system, and several experts have already proposed clear solutions,” he said. “We hope the committee will take this opportunity to develop concrete legislative solutions that will help the government quickly introduce changes to the extradition law.”

Liberal MP Randeep Sarai, chair of the Judiciary Committee, said MPs want to ensure Canada’s extradition regime protects the rights and civil liberties of citizens and permanent residents.

Sarai said that while he would not prejudge the outcome of the review, even when laws are declared constitutional, they “may need adjustment from time to time.”

Given the changing world climate, extradition is increasingly being used as a political tool, Garrison said. “And that’s why we need better protection.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 14, 2022.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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