Covering events from January-December 2001

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Adrienne Clarkson
Head of government: Jean Chrétien
Capital: Ottawa
Population: 31 million
Official languages: English, French
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes

There were sporadic reports of the use of excessive force by police officers. The Supreme Court ruled against extradition on charges that carry the death penalty unless assurances had been obtained that capital punishment would not be applied.

Police brutality

  • In April, police used excessive force against demonstrators during the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. Eyewitnesses observed the use of tear gas against protesters who were not involved in violent behaviour or posing any threat to property or the police. Tear gas was fired directly at individuals and into private property for no apparent reason. Plastic bullets were used in situations where the safety of police officers and the integrity of the Summit were not threatened. Police used an electro-shock device on a peaceful demonstrator who had refused police instructions to move. Some of those under arrest were reportedly denied prompt legal representation and were held in overcrowded cells for prolonged periods. No independent inquiry into the allegations had been convened by the end of the year.
  • The trial of the four police officers for the manslaughter of Otta Vass, who was beaten to death in Toronto in August 2000, had not taken place by the end of 2001. A further hearing on the case was scheduled for June 2002.
  • In November the Saskatchewan provincial government announced the establishment of a commission of inquiry into indigenous peoples and the justice system. There had been allegations that for a number of years some members of the Saskatoon City Police had routinely abandoned "troublesome" members of the indigenous community in areas far from the population centre, where they were at risk of dying of hypothermia.
  • An investigation into the deaths of two indigenous men, Rodney Naistus and Lawrence Wegner, near Saskatoon, did not result in criminal charges. The two men had been found frozen to death in the outskirts of the city in early 2000.
  • In September, the two police officers charged in connection with the abandonment of an indigenous man, Darrell Night, in freezing temperatures in January 2000, were acquitted of the charges of assault, but convicted of unlawful confinement. Both officers were sentenced to eight months' imprisonment and were dismissed from the police force.
  • AI continued to call for an independent inquiry into the 1995 shooting by Ontario Provincial Police of Dudley George, an indigenous man involved in a land claims protest. During the year the organization supported the call for a coroner's inquest into the death.
Death penalty
  • In February, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark decision on Canadian extradition procedures in potential death penalty cases. Ruling in the case of two Canadian citizens facing extradition to the USA, the Supreme Court unanimously held that the Canadian Minister of Justice is now constitutionally required to seek and obtain extradition assurances against the death penalty "in all but exceptional cases".
  • In March, Glen Sebastian Burns and Atif Ahmad Rafay, who had been arrested in Canada for the 1994 murder of Atif Ahmad Rafay's parents and sister in Washington state, USA, were returned to stand trial after Washington state authorities provided assurances that neither man would face the death penalty if convicted.
  • A new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act was adopted in November which could result in certain groups of people being sent to a country where they could be at risk of torture or being removed from Canada without getting access to any form of risk review. The Act was set to enter into force in June 2002.
  • In January, Haroun M'Barek, whose application for asylum had been denied, was sent back to Tunisia in spite of information that was presented to the authorities that he would face torture upon being returned. In 1996 a Tunisian court had sentenced him in absentia to 12 years' imprisonment, following an unfair trial, for "attempting to interfere with the welfare and security of people and goods" and "creating a gang of wrongdoers". Haroun M'Barek was arrested on his return to Tunisia and reportedly tortured. No investigation was known to have been carried out into his allegations of torture. In March, he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment. He was released in May, pending a new trial. He was able to return to Canada in September after the Tunisian authorities agreed to issue him a passport.
Anti-Terrorism Act

The Anti-Terrorism Act was adopted in December. Although the Act focuses on bringing individuals accused of certain offences to justice, there were concerns that it undermined the right to a fair trial and might disproportionately impact on certain ethnic and religious communities.

AI country reports/visits


An AI delegate monitored the policing of the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in April.

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