Ottawa Citizen

Sussex Drive a centre of pluralism after Aga Khan buys old war museum

Philanthro­pist’s institute to foster tolerance and understand­ing


The former war museum on Sussex Drive has been purchased by the foundation of the Aga Khan, the billionair­e philanthro­pist and spiritual leader of the world’s 20 million Ismaili Muslims.

Federal officials are expected to hold a signing ceremony today to announce that the heritage building will become the Global Centre for Pluralism, a research and education institute to be owned and operated by the Aga Khan Developmen­t Network.

The centre will be a non- denominati­onal, non- profit, Canadian organizati­on dedicated to fostering pluralism in developing countries.

The ceremony will be attended by Prince Karim Aga Khan, who is a Geneva- born, Harvard- educated British citizen living in France.

The Aga Khan, who has about 75,000 followers in Canada, wants to see Canada share its pluralist values globally.

“ Tolerance, openness and un- derstandin­g towards other peoples’ cultures, social structures, values and faiths are now essential to the very survival of an interdepen­dent world,” he has said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a press release yesterday welcoming the Aga Khan.

“ Through the developmen­t network that bears his name, the Aga Khan has contribute­d significan­tly to advancemen­t and stability in Asia and Africa while promoting Islam as a thinking, spiritual faith that teaches compassion,” said Mr. Harper.

The Canadian government previously pledged $ 30 million toward the centre, which was launched in 2004 — although the location has not been previously announced. The initial investment by the Aga Khan Developmen­t Network was to be $ 40 million.

Justice Minister Vic Toews yesterday acknowledg­ed that the ruling “ changes fundamenta­lly the definition of terrorism.” He stopped short of saying the government will appeal the decision. “ We’ll take a quick look at what this means and decide whether an appeal is necessary.

“ I certainly don’t think we’re dropping the ball in terms of the actual practical steps we’re taking to fight terrorism,” he told reporters. “ I think it’s important that we review our legislatio­n to make sure it is responsive to the needs of a modern- day society fighting terrorism.”

The ruling raises immediate questions about the status of the upcoming January trial of accused Ottawa terrorist Momin Khawaja, the first Canadian charged under the act.

In September, his legal team launched a constituti­onal challenge over the act’s definition­s of a “ terrorist” and of “ terrorist activities,” arguing they were overly broad and unconstitu­tionally vague.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Douglas Rutherford responded by ruling yesterday that the section of the act requiring authoritie­s to prove terrorism offences are motivated “ in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideologica­l objective or cause,” violates Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That “ essential element” of what defines a terrorist activity “ is not only novel in Canadian law, but the impact of which constitute­s an infringeme­nt of certain fundamenta­l freedoms … including those of religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression and associatio­n … and, therefore, democratic life,” Judge Rutherford wrote in a 32- page decision.

Allowing it to stand would, he said, “ promote fear and suspicion of targeted political or religious groups, and will result in racial or ethnic profiling by government authoritie­s at many levels.”

Such an infringeme­nt, he said, “ cannot be justified in a free and democratic society.”

He rejected, however, arguments the act’s definition­s are overly broad and unconstitu­tionally vague and ruled that all other sections of the act remain in force.

They include additional definition­s of what constitute­s a terrorist activity — most notably, that such activity “ must also intentiona­lly cause death or serious injury, and it must also have the intent to intimidate the public or compel a person, organizati­on or government to do something.”

Mr. Khawaja’s demand to have seven terrorism- related charges against him quashed was also rejected.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Crown prosecutor David McKercher said the prosecutio­n will continue to prepare for a January trial. The ruling, he said, “ removes one element that the Crown would otherwise have to prove, that’s the only effect that I can see.”

That one element, though, was a radical departure from Canada’s basic criminal law principles that criminal prosecutio­ns focus on an accused person’s intent, not their motivation.

Mr. McKercher added the ruling will also not affect future terrorism cases related to, for example, possession of explosives, “ if it’s for the purposes of intimidati­on. There remain some distinctio­ns.”

But Mr. Khawaja’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, questioned whether his client’s trial can proceed, given that a key section of the act has been invalidate­d.

“ Having made a finding that the heart of the ‘ terrorist activity’ definition is unconstitu­tional, the charges should be quashed,” he said.

“ This is a decision which goes to the heart of the Anti- Terrorism Act. I can’t see how they can just continue on and say, ‘ OK, you took out the motive clause, let’s just keep going with the prosecutio­n.’ They’ve got an act that’s just been constituti­onally successful­ly challenged, they’re going to have to do something, either fold their tent or change their tack.

“ What this decision says to me and, more importantl­y, to the RCMP and CSIS is, ‘ don’t think that you can undertake investigat­ions on the basis of people’s political, religious or ideologica­l beliefs and pretend that that’s something of a terrorist investigat­ion’.

“ It throws a dagger at this notion of ethnic profiling, at this notion of profiling people on the basis of their beliefs, and says that can no longer be justified as a way of getting into a terrorism investigat­ion.”

If the government does not appeal the ruling before January, Mr. Greenspon said he will, by seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada on the grounds that Judge Rutherford, in finding the motive section unconstitu­tional, should then have quashed the charges.

In the meantime, Mr. Khawaja remains in an Ottawa jail cell, where he has been held since his March 2004 arrest. The 27- year- old Ottawa software developer is alleged to have plotted with a suspected British terror cell to blow up public sites in and around London in 2004. He denies the charges.

A Commons public safety and national security committee is currently conducting a mandatory parliament­ary review of the act. Committee member and NDP MP Joe Comartin told reporters yesterday the committee likely would have recommende­d scrapping the impugned section of the act even without yesterday’s ruling.

“ There were a number of other provisions that are bad, but this one was a really obvious one that was not going to survive a Charter challenge,” he said.

Ironically though, the ruling could make it easier to prosecute accused terrorists by removing the legal hurdle requiring prosecutor­s to prove a political, religious or ideologica­l motivation. When the act was enacted in December 2001, some legal scholars said proving such motivation in court would be difficult.

In fact, the first draft of the act introduced in the Commons of what was then Bill C- 36 did not contain the now- defunct motivation definition. It was added only after criticism from opposition politician­s and legal scholars concerned the act might be broader than the government intended. They argued it might be used to target various forms of political dissent and protest that had nothing to do with terrorism, such as labour strikes and anti- globalizat­ion protests.

The government responded

by amending the bill to define terrorist motivation, as well as adding another qualifying clause that says traditiona­l forms of advocacy and protests do not constitute terrorist acts. Still, the government has always insisted a chief reason for the act was the need to distinguis­h acts of terrorism from ordinary crimes.

A Department of Justice document outlining the intent of the act says: “ It is important to preserve a definition of terrorism so that it recognizes the unique and insidious nature of this activity.

“ Removing the notion of political, religious or ideologica­l motivation would transform the definition from one that is designed to recognize and deal strongly with terrorism to one that is not distinguis­hable from a general law enforcemen­t provision in the Criminal Code.”

But yesterday’s ruling does just that, blurring the legal distinctio­ns between terrorist and other crimes, said Wesley Wark, a security intelligen­ce expert at the Munk Centre for Internatio­nal Studies at the University of Toronto.

“ The whole purpose behind needing a definition of terrorism was to say that there is something unique about terrorist crime, therefore we need a definition of terrorism and one of the things that is unique about terrorist crimes is that they are motivated by political, religious or ideologica­l purposes.

“ You remove that and you begin to blur the difference between terrorist crimes and other forms of crimes and I suppose that does conceivabl­y strike at the whole heart of the argument that you need a separate kind of Criminal Code for terrorism.”

Practicall­y speaking, Mr. Wark said, the government still needs a separate and distinct legal code to deal with terrorist offences.

“ But the problem that the government now has is, are they going to go back to the drawing board and try and come up with another definition? That doesn’t look very likely. So we’re going to have live with the removal of this qualifier.”

 ?? WAYNE CUDDINGTON, OTTAWA CITIZEN ?? The old war museum on Sussex Drive has been vacant since the fall of 2004 when it closed to the public and its artifacts were moved to the new museum on LeBreton Flats.
WAYNE CUDDINGTON, OTTAWA CITIZEN The old war museum on Sussex Drive has been vacant since the fall of 2004 when it closed to the public and its artifacts were moved to the new museum on LeBreton Flats.

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