Canada's security-certificates system is so restrictive it does the country a disservice and even al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden should not be treated that way, Alexandre (Sacha) Trudeau, the son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, said yesterday.
He was the most prominent of 15 people who offered to help chaperon Adil Charkaoui in order to ease bail conditions imposed on the 32-year-old Montreal man alleged by Ottawa to be an al-Qaeda sleeper agent.
In an appearance yesterday in Federal Court, Mr. Trudeau told Mr. Justice Simon Noël that he was available to escort the Moroccan immigrant.
But the broader thrust of Mr. Trudeau's intervention was to condemn the controversial national-security certificates.
Mr. Charkaoui, like four other Muslim men named as terrorism suspects in those certificates, could be deported under a mechanism that keeps key evidence secret, even from their lawyers.
"As it exists now, I think it is against the interests of Canada," Mr. Trudeau told Judge Noël.
Outside the court, Mr. Trudeau listed his concerns to reporters.
"The non-presumption of innocence. A burden of proof that's left on Mr. Charkaoui without showing him the evidence against him. It's very problematic," he said. "It could be bin Laden -- for me, being treated that way does no service to the judicial system."
One reporter noted that Mr. Trudeau's father used the War Measures Act to lock up hundreds of Quebeckers without charges during the 1970 October Crisis. Mr. Trudeau replied, "I wasn't alive then," and declined to comment further.
Judge Noël, who heard secret evidence from the government in a closed-door session on Thursday, said he considered that Mr. Charkaoui had respected his conditions.
But the judge said the other side had made allegations against Mr. Charkaoui, so removing most of the conditions would be akin to deeming that he no longer is a threat. "My hands are pretty tied up . . . there is a limit to what I can do by law," the judge said.
Judge Noël will render a decision later this spring after receiving written arguments.
Mr. Charkaoui and two others are challenging the constitutionality of the security certificates filed against them. Their cases are to be heard in June by the Supreme Court of Canada.