Thomas Walkom writes that Canada is taking steps back towards sanity, but has a ways to go.
Gradually, tentatively, the country is groping its way back to sanity. Yesterday in Toronto, a judge ruled it didn't make any sense to keep a sick, 46-year-old man who has not been charged with any crime locked up for almost seven years. Meanwhile, in Ottawa, the opposition majority is set to let two of the most odious provisions of Canada's illiberal anti-terror laws – enacted in panic following 9/11 – die a richly deserved death.
We haven't gained our equilibrium yet. Egyptian refugee claimant Mohamed Mahjoub may be able to rejoice now that Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley has allowed him to be detained under house arrest rather than in a special jail built just outside of Kingston. But there are still two other immigrants there who have been imprisoned for years without charge.
And while many Canadians have belatedly discovered the importance of civil liberties when it comes to these so-called security certificate cases, few are championing 20-year-old Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen currently held against all the norms of international law in George Bush's Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
Which is to say that we have a way to go.
But still, we've made a start. Stéphane Dion's Liberals have acknowledged that they made a gross error in supporting two of the most draconian provisions of the anti-terror laws – the power to jail any citizen without charge and the power to compel individuals, who have not been charged with any crime, to answer police questions.
Unless the Liberals change their minds again, this means that they, along with the New Democrats and Bloc Québécois, will defeat a government motion to extend these two powers past their March 1 expiry date.
I can't imagine being imprisoned. I can scarcely imagine many things worse than being imprisoned indefinitely without knowing the charges against oneself. The Guantanamo Bay prison is the eternal shame of the United States. Canada should be above it.
Canadians who worry about Canada becoming the 51st state should rail against these very real threats to human rights and civil liberties as passionately as they do about perceived threats to the health care system.