Hunger strike at “Canada’s Gitmo”

From the Calgary Sun, Feb. 18:

OTTAWA — A Liberal MP has accused the Conservatives of trying to keep the public in the dark about the state of three terrorist suspects on a hunger strike in a prison derisively known as Guantanamo North.

On Monday, MPs on the Citizenship and Immigration committee will visit Kingston Immigration Holding Centre, where the three men are being held on security certificates.

Scarborough-Agincourt Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis proposed the trip in a committee motion but also wanted the media to tag along.

Conservative MPs, however, would not give unanimous consent to bringing reporters.

Further details are provided by the Montreal Hunger Strike Support Committee in a call for global protests in solidarity with the strikers Feb. 7. Via e-mail:


“[They have a] refrigerator stocked with a variety of juices, soy milk, honey and chocolate sauce.” — Canadian “Public Safety” Minister Stockwell Day, asked on 2 February about the hunger-strike at Canada’s Guantanamo Bay

Canada’s Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister seems to think that human rights violations are okay as long as prisoners have access to chocolate sauce. Canada has its own mini-version of Guantanamo bay, a new six-cell prison that was opened in April 2006 specifically for immigrants and refugees who are detained without charge or trial, under secret evidence, indefinitely, under threat of deportation, to places where it has been recognized that they are at risk of torture.

The three detainees – Mahmoud Jaballah, detained since August 2001, Hassan Almrei, detained since October 2001, and Mahmoud Jaballah, detained since June 2000 – have been held under Canada’s draconian “security certificate” process (see background below), on vague allegations that they may have something to do with that increasingly meaningless but all-powerful label “terrorism”. They have never ceased to insist on their innocence and demand a fair and open trial, which is no more than the legal right of every person in Canada.

All three are currently on hungerstrike, demanding minor improvements to their conditions of detention, amounting to being treated with some degree of dignity. Their demands include access to an independent ombudsman to receive complaints (something which exists at other prisons in Canada). The Canadian government’s response has been consistent with the way the detainees and their families have been treated from the very beginning of their ordeal: stony silence, callous denial, misinformation and outright lies. The spirit is captured by the Minister of Public Safety’s response to a public appeal by family members – on day 70 of a potentially deadly hungerstrike – that the prisoners have access to chocolate sauce in the detention centre.

As of Wednesday, it will be day 75 for Mahjoub, and day 64 for Almrei and Jaballah of a juice and water only hungerstrike. Because the men are even being denied the daily medical monitoring that is standard in a hungerstrike (see letter from almost 70 health professionals calling for medical monitoring at, the situation could become life-threatening at any time.

The general atmosphere of paranoia in Canada is doubtless jacked up since the country was invoked as a potential target by al-Qaeda.

See our last posts on Canada and the general immigration crackdown.