Members of dormant national security roundtable seeking answers [CCRS]

Always found the CCRS a useful forum during my time working on multiculturalism issues, where we would bring the “soft side” of counter-radicalization approaches to the table.

While it is normal for a new government to review the mandate and the membership, and whether or not it duplicates other consultative bodies (I think not), pleased that the Liberal government has signalled its intent to maintain the CCRS:

A group of Canadians who advise the federal government on national security issues are in the dark about the future of a 16-member roundtable they were appointed to.

Members of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security are supposed to meet in-camera at least twice a year, yet the group hasn’t met since October 2014.

The roundtable was set up in 2005 to act as a sounding board for cabinet ministers and other high-ranking federal executives on how security matters and government policies affect different ethnic communities. Over the years, it has covered topics such as countering violent extremism, migration and cyber-security.

“I feel I’m in limbo,” said Farzana Hassan, a newspaper columnist and past-president of the Canadian Muslim Congress who was appointed to the roundtable in June 2015.

“It seemed like a very good fit and I jumped on the idea and I accepted the appointment, but I have not heard anything,” she told CBC News.

This past spring, Hassan and several other members contacted by CBC received a letter informing them that the government is re-thinking the roundtable’s activities and composition.

“I get the sense that they would want us to resign because we were appointed by the previous government and, you know, this government’s policies and outlines on certain issues is very different from the previous government,” said Hassan.

“I feel I can do more. I can share my ideas, but I have not been given the opportunity to do so,” she said.

Chair sees lack of communication

Myrna Lashley, a psychologist, was appointed to the roundtable in 2005 and has been the group’s chairperson since 2007. But after receiving the letter in March, Lashley suspects her involvement has come to an end.

“Effectively when you get that letter, you have been told ‘thank you,'” Lashley said.

In the meantime, Lashley is concerned the federal government is not communicating as effectively on national security issues with Canada’s ethnically diverse communities, such as Syrian refugees.

In the past, Lashley says the group met with and advised ministers of public safety and justice as well as senior executives from the RCMP, CSIS and Canada Border Services Agency on all sorts of issues that could or would affect an array of cultural groups.

“We could give them an idea of how different communities might react to something so that they could formulate it in a way that would be acceptable to all Canadians,” said Lashley.

Lashley points to the creation of the special advocate program, which provided independent, top-secret, security-cleared lawyers to represent people subject to a security certificate or immigration proceedings.

“We were the ones that said ‘let’s try a special advocate,’ that came from us,” Lashley said.

The Department of Public Safety refused CBC’s request for an interview. But in an email, a spokesperson said, “While the government is currently reviewing the membership of the table, it looks forward to resuming CCRS meetings in the near future.

Source: Members of dormant national security roundtable seeking answers – Politics – CBC News

Niqab ‘never an issue’ for federal roundtable on culture and security

Not surprising given that the niqab, while an issue of integration, is not one of security (given that it has to be removed at airport security etc):

The question of whether Canadian Muslim women should wear the niqab is a non-issue for the government’s hand-picked sounding board on culture and security, says the Montreal professor who heads the panel.

The matter of face coverings became an election campaign focus as the Conservative government turned to the courts in an unsuccessful effort to preserve a rule banning them during the taking of citizenship ceremony oaths.

Stephen Harper’s party insists obscuring the face at the very moment one becomes a citizen runs contrary to Canadian values. Opponents have accused him of using a culturally sensitive issue to stir up xenophobic sentiment and, in the process, the votes of people who feel threatened by unfamiliar traditions.

The topic has “never been an issue” for the federally appointed Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security, which meets every few months, said Myrna Lashley, the body’s long-time chairwoman.

“I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. And I don’t want to go there. I just wish the whole thing would go away,” said Lashley, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Montreal’s McGill University who studies terrorism and security.

“I’m a researcher, I’m not a politician. That’s their thing, not mine.”

Source: Niqab ‘never an issue’ for federal roundtable on culture and security

Hero or extremist?: Tables turn on man who helped Canadian government with would-be jihadists

More on the Government’s removal of Hussein Hamdani from the Cross Cultural Roundtable on Security and the limited background information of the organization, Point de Bascule, that made the accusations (see earlier Hussein Hamdani says federal election politics behind his suspension):

Hamdani has also helped CSIS and the RCMP approach sometimes reluctant groups, while intervening with youths showing signs of radicalization on behalf of their parents.

“I’ve probably done more than anyone else in Canada,” Hamdani says. “And because we’re exposed to certain information that’s not public and we work with the RCMP and CSIS, I have security clearance and my background has been vetted. There are no links to anything of concern.”

That was until a Quebec blog, Point de Bascule, re-published some of his student writings in April and alleged he was linked, through his charitable donations, to organizations like IRFAN-Canada, designated a terrorist group by the federal government in 2014 for its links to Hamas.

Point de Bascule, which has been active since 2006, describes itself as an “an independent and non-partisan website describing the means and methods used by Islamist organizations and leaders in order to further their program in Canada.” It is run by Marc Lebuis.

Point de Bascule highlighted the fact that Hamdani urged Muslims to vote against same-sex marriage, for example.

What is curious, Hamdani says, is that none of this information is new. “Islamicization” meant something different in the pre-9/11 world, he explains. Besides, he says, his views on same-sex marriage have evolved.

‘We work with the RCMP and CSIS, I have security clearance and my background has been vetted. There are no links to anything of concern’

The federal government knew about his student activism, as well as his role in organizing a World Muslim Summit in Toronto in 2003, another point raised by Point de Bascule as evidence of his radical nature (and listed on his roundtable bio).

In 2004, Hamdani also wrote openly about studying Islamic movements in the occupied West Bank, where he met with Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin, an article published the year after Yassin was killed in an Israeli air strike, and the year before Hamdani was named to the Roundtable.

Blaney had Hamdani suspended from the roundtable the day the story appeared on TVA, “pending a review of the facts.”

…. So who is Marc Lebuis [and his Point de Bascule website] , and who is behind his website?

Efforts to reach Lebuis through the website, by phone, or through his Twitter account over the last week have been unsuccessful.

Adam Thompson, the clerk for the Senate’s Committee on National Security and Defence, said the committee had no CV or other form of biography on file for Lebuis. Lebuis was presented by the chair of the committee, Conservative Senator Daniel Lang, as the “founding director of the Montreal-based independent research organization Point de Bascule,” but no further qualifications were given.

There is no business or charity listed as Point de Bascule, or under Lebuis’s name, although the website does accept donations.

Seigfried Mathelet, a post-doctoral researcher at the Université du Québec à Montréal, said he knows of Lebuis as a “pseudo-expert” who has worked for years to gain influence with political decision-makers and the mainstream media, even though he has no links to academic research.

His modus operandi, like that of numerous anti-Islam bloggers and organizations based in the U.S., Mathelet explained, is to take anything problematic associated with Islam – like the Boko Haram or ISIS attacks – and link them to people in Canada.

Unlike the U.S. websites, where many are registered charities or funded by foundations that have to declare their donations, it is not known who, if anyone, is funding Lebuis or Point de Bascule, which is said to employ 10 researchers.

Hero or extremist?: Tables turn on man who helped Canadian government with would-be jihadists

Hussein Hamdani says federal election politics behind his suspension

Hard not to believe Hamdani, given all the vetting he has been through and his overall track record as a member of the CCRS.

I always found him thoughtful in his contributions when I attended the CCRS, both in his appreciation of some of the factors behind radicalization as well as suggestions regarding what policies and programs could be more effective.

Consultative and advisory bodies are more useful when there is a diversity of views.

While I can understand the Government’s sensitivity towards his public support for the Liberals, it would have been more honest to list that as the reason then try to dredge up accusations from 20 years ago.

And even if true (which I doubt given the source), who among us has not something in our past that today we are uncomfortable with.

More anti-Canadian Muslim wedge politics?

Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney suspended Hussein Hamdani from the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on National Security this week.

Blaney’s office is looking into questions raised by the French TVA network about politically charged statements it alleges Hamdani made as a university student, and allegations about radical organizations that it says Hamdani had associations with.

Blaney’s office did not explain why it was taking the action now, when it acknowledges it has known about the allegations for “some time.”

But Hamdani told CBC News he believes the decision is politically motivated, and denies all the allegations outright.

“I’ve been vetted and I’ve received various levels of security clearance over the years. So to have this come out now, to me, it clearly has political motivations that are attributed to it,” he said. All members of the roundtable are vetted by CSIS and the RCMP, he said.

“Perhaps they’re not pleased that I’m very critical of Bill C-51,” Hamdani said. “Perhaps the government is displeased that I have been supporting Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.” Bill C-51 is the Conservative government’s controversial proposed anti-terror legislation.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Blaney called the allegations against Hamdani “very concerning.”

“This individual’s membership on the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on National Security has been suspended immediately pending a review of the facts. While questions surrounding this individual’s links to radical ideology have circulated for some time, it was hoped that he could be a positive influence to promote Canadian values. It is now becoming clear this may not have been the case.”

The suspension is a blow to the reputation of a lawyer who has been a prominent Hamilton leader, considered a moderate voice on Muslim issues and whom a local business magazine named in its 40 under 40 roundup in 2012.

Cross-Cultural Roundtable chair Dr. Myrna Lashley told CBC News she was shocked by the allegations.

“That’s not the Mr. Hamdani that I know. I’ve never heard any of these things that was reported.”

Hussein Hamdani says federal election politics behind his suspension – Latest Hamilton news – CBC Hamilton.

Heritage department takes aim at religious radicals – The Globe and Mail

Heritage department takes aim at religious radicals – The Globe and Mail.