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Lawyer raps eroded democracy

Anti-terrorism laws have helped suppress free speech and choice, he argues.
JOE MATYAS, Free Press Reporter   2004-01-16 03:36:48  

Anti-terrorism laws enacted in Canada after the 9/11 attacks in the United States are contributing to the erosion of democracy in Canada, a constitutional lawyer said in London yesterday. The new laws have "been used against our own citizens to suppress free speech, the anti-globalization movement, opposition to the closing of schools and hospitals and anti-poverty protests," said Rocco Galati of Toronto.

The idea citizens have a right to protest responsibly is being undermined by laws that are suppressing basic rights, he told members of the Women's Canadian Club of London.

Demonstrators are increasingly being pictured as anarchists who must be curtailed and those who defend their right to protest are being threatened, he said.

Galati said he and another lawyer were threatened with a security charge punishable by up to 14 years in prison for wanting to call a former employee of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service as a witness in an Ottawa demonstration case.

Galati, a former federal Justice Department lawyer who has argued more than 2,000 constitutional cases involving governments, made headlines in December when he said he wouldn't take any more cases involving suspected terrorists because of death threats against him.

The announcement came one day after Galati held a news conference with Abdurahman Khadr, 20, a Canadian citizen who was freed after being held in a U.S. military prison near Cuba.

Galati had pressed the Canadian government to facilitate Khadr's return to Canada.

He said such legal representations have been described in the media as 9/11 cases.

"There has never been a 9/11 case in Canada," he said, adding no evidence has yet been brought forward to make such a case against any Canadian citizen.

Galati said Canada's constitutional democracy and the rights of Canadians are being seriously challenged by police actions in the name of security and by proposed trade agreements.

The Quebec national assembly and the old city of Quebec were walled in by a chain-link fence during the Summit of the Americas in 2001 "by simple police order."

The fence was erected without an act of Parliament, legislature motion or act of cabinet and 11,000 armed police officers were deployed, he said, adding he told a judge: "Where I come from, that's called a coup d'etat."

Galati said demonstrators have every right to alert the public to trade agreements that would put corporations on an even footing with nations and make the rights of people subservient to them.

"Understand this," he said. "What it is all about is that Coca Cola will have the same rights as the government of Canada."

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