After two years barefoot in an unheated cell, Hassan Almrei shows off his new Chinese sneakers through an inch of bulletproof glass: “the government spent over a hundred thousand in court costs trying to keep me from getting these two buck shoes.”
Hassan is a suspected terrorist, a refugee from Syria. He’s spent five years in a temporary holding cell, without charge, without access to the evidence against him. This isn’t a secret CIA prison or Guantanamo Bay. It’s a provincial jail in suburban Toronto.
featuring Hassan Almrei, Sophie and Mo Harkat, Diana Ralph and Matthew Behrens
camera Mark Ellam
editor Étienne Gagnon music Anthony Rozankovic associate producer Booker Sim executive producer Gordon Henderson broadcasting producer Robert Hurst
written, directed and produced by Alexandre Trudeau
All over the world, human rights are being sacrificed in the name of the War on Terror. Even in nice, friendly Canada.
A handful of men are now held under Security Certificates, a loophole in immigration law that allows indefinite detention without charge or trial. While the government argues for their deportation to Middle Eastern countries where they’ll likely be tortured, the detainees are forced to wait for years in temporary holding cells.
Shocked to learn this is happening in Canada, Alexandre Trudeau investigates the shadowy law, first visiting detainee Hassan Almrei in prison. He might be a threat, his smile a smokescreen. But his suffering is real. He’s gone on six long hunger strikes to get the most basic necessities, like heat, a blanket, shoes. He’s spent years in solitary confinement. Still, he maintains his composure, even managing a joke and a smile.
"If I’m guilty, charge me, sentence me, and don’t shed a tear. But don’t deport me to torture without a trial. That’s not the Canada I love.”
Trudeau meets Hassan’s rag-tag support team. Diana Ralph is a Jewish Lesbian social worker who’s agreed to open her home to Hassan if he’s released. Sweet-as-apple-pie lawyer Barb Jackman is pushing the case to the Supreme Court. Activist Matthew Behrens fights ceaselessly to protect Hassan’s human rights.
Touched by their dedication, Trudeau is transformed from journalist to activist, testifying on Hassan’s behalf: “it’s not my business to know whether he’s guilty. He hasn’t been charged so I assume he’s innocent.”
Soon, the legal drama reaches the front page, with the UN coming out strong against Security Certificates: “if human rights aren’t respected in Canada, then where?”
But the government insists it has assurances the men won’t be tortured if deported.
Half a world away in Syria, Trudeau investigates these claims, meeting the lawyer who fought to free Maher Arar, the Canadian “rendered” to torture in Syria by the CIA: “there are no assurances here. Only torture.”
Back in Canada, as the nation waits for the Supreme Court decision, the detainees are transferred to “Gitmo North,” a maximum-security prison hundreds of miles from family and friends. Then things go from bad to worse, as a right-wing Conservative government is elected.
SECURE FREEDOM tells the story of a fight for justice in a country known for human rights, a country whose citizens believe such abuses happen anywhere but at home.
SECURE FREEDOM premiered Sunday, September 10th 2006 at 7pm on CTV.
DVDBuy the film
Includes: The original English language version and the French version PRISONNIERS DE LA LIBERTÉ.
(U.S. and Canada only.)