Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s brother has asked the federal government to stop the deportation of an Algerian man, Mohamed Harkat, who has been accused of being an al-Qaeda sleeper agent.
Alexandre “Sacha” Trudeau sent a letter to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to prevent an order to deport Harkat, a 47-year-old former pizza delivery man, who has been fighting to stay in Canada for more than a decade.
Harkat was first arrested in 2002 on a security certificate, on the suspicion that he was linked to al-Qaeda- an accusation he denies. His lawyers made a constitutional challenge against the security certificate, but the Supreme Court of Canada upheld it in 2014.
Alexandre, a documentary filmmaker, has long supported Harkat and in a letter to Goodale published in the Ottawa Citizen said Harkat does not pose a public safety risk.
“I am absolutely convinced that at this moment, he (Harkat) poses no danger whatsoever to the public or to public safety in Canada but rather offers a positive commitment to the life he has created here,” he wrote.
“Just as importantly, Canadian and international law prohibit complicity in torture, and there is good reason to believe that Mohamed’s deportation to Algeria could lead to his torture.”
Speaking in Vancouver Wednesday, the prime minister acknowledged his brother’s lobbying efforts.
“I love my brother very much,” Justin Trudeau told a reporter. “He has the same rights that every Canadian has to advocate on the issues and the causes that he believes in.”
A watchdog group says Trudeau should be barred deciding the fate of terror suspect Mohamed Harkat because the prime minister’s brother is lobbying the government on the issue.
Duff Conacher, a founder of Ottawa-based Democracy Watch, says Trudeau should publicly recuse himself from involvement in the file.
A spokesperson for the Minister of Public Safety would not comment directly on the case.
“While we are unable to comment on specific cases due to privacy considerations, it is important to know that rigorous safeguards are in place to prevent those who need protection from being removed from Canada,” read an email from Public Safety Canada.
Conservative public safety critic Erin O’Toole called the actions by the prime minister’s brother inappropriate.
“We are very concerned by the highly inappropriate role being played by the brother of the Prime Minister with respect to an important public safety matter,” O’Toole said in a statement. “The Prime Minister and his Ministers should rely on the expertise of Canada’s public safety agencies who are charged with keeping Canadians safe.”
Security certificates allow the federal government to deport non-citizens suspected of involvement with terrorism.
In 2007, the Supreme Court struck down the security certificate regime, declaring it unconstitutional.
The federal government then issued a revised certificate in Harkat’s case in 2008 after the secretive process was overhauled to bring it in line with constitutional guarantees and ensure better legal representation of defendants.
*With files from the Canadian Press