Panel discussion about state surveillance and repression of members of Montreal’s black community in the 1960s and today
by Jamie Floyd
A panel discussion to raise awareness against state surveillance, racial oppression and injustice occurred last Wednesday at Dawson with founder of the Alphie Roberts Institute, David Austen, civil liberties lawyer Khalid El Gazzar and members of Project Fly Home.
“This event is in the context of Black History Month and a six month campaign to get Abousfian Abdelrazik delisted off the U.N 1267 list,” the moderator of the night said.
Austen discussed black Canadians in the 1960s and their fight to be valued and respected. He explained how Canada has long omitted indigenous and black people from its history and how in the 1960s the French and the English were the only two main groups in Canada.
“There was no room for another race or other races. These other races were left out of the race,” Austen said.
Austen also explained state surveillance in the 1960s.
“Any group that seemed to contradict the idea of citizenship and what was the Canadian narrative was spied upon by the Royal Canadian Mounted Officials,” Austen said.
He then spoke about Warren Hart, an FBI agent sent by the RCMP to spy on the Black Panther organization and the 1969 Concordia University riot, in which students protested against racism.
The conversation then changed to Abdelrazik, a Sudan born Canadian who was arrested and detained for a year and a half after a visit to his home country, supposedly at the request of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), for allegedly being associated with terrorists. However, he was never charged or convicted of any crime.
The room sat in silence as Gazzar, a former member of Abdelrazik’s legal team explained that after his client was brought back to Canada, he was put on the United Nations’ 1267 list without being informed. This list was implemented after 9/11 by the UN Security Council Resolution and prohibits anyone who is alleged of being associated with either the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden of traveling and it freezes their assets.
“In order to be listed, all that is required is for a state to forward a name of someone they suspect of being linked to any of the entities. Getting on the list is easy, getting off is nearly impossible,” said Gazzar, “what the list means is that you’re presumed guilty.”
In order to be taken off the list, all 15 international members of the Security Council have to collectively be in favor of a removal.
“You have to prove you’re innocent, it’s not [the Security Council] who have to prove you’re guilty. It’s like proving fairies and goblins don’t exist,” Gazzar said.
Members of Project Fly Home told several other stories of racial injustice.
“We should inform ourselves of these issues and take some action,” Gazzar told the room in his closing statement, while petitions and flyers were being handed out.