In SECURE FREEDOM, host Alexandre Trudeau follows activists seeking justice for terror suspects held without trial in Canada’s “Guantanamo light.”

It premiered primetime on the 5th anniversary of 9/11 to some 600,000 viewers on CTV’s W-5, Canada’s most-watched current affairs and documentary program. I was credited as co-producer and was the primary researcher, field producer, sound recordist and provided additional cinematography.

Hassan Almrei is a refugee from Syria – and a suspected terrorist. He’s spent five years jailed without charge, without even access to the evidence against him. This isn’t Guantanamo Bay or some secret CIA prison.  It’s a provincial jail in suburban Toronto.

A handful of men are held under “security certificates,” a loophole in immigration law that allows indefinite detention without charge. While the Federal government argues for their deportation to Middle Eastern countries notorious for torture, the detainees are forced to wait for years in temporary holding cells.

Shocked that this is happening in his own country, Alexandre Trudeau and I team up once again to investigate the shadowy law. Hassan Almrei might be a threat, his smile a smokescreen. But his suffering is real.  He’s spent years in solitary confinement.  He’s gone on hunger strike to get heat, a blanket, shoes.

“If I’m guilty, charge me, sentence me, and don’t shed a tear, Almrei states frankly. “But don’t send me to torture without a trial.”

Trudeau and I meet Hassan’s rag-tag support team. Diana Ralph is a Jewish LGBTQ social worker who’s agreed to open her home to Hassan if he’s released.  Sweet-as-pie lawyer Barb Jackman is taking the case to the Supreme Court.  Activist Matthew Behrens fights ceaselessly for Hassan’s rights.

Moved by their dedication, Trudeau is transformed from journalist to activist, testifying on Hassan’s behalf: “it’s not my business to know if he’s guilty. He hasn’t been charged so I assume he’s innocent.”

Soon, the legal drama makes headlines, with the UN coming out against security certificates.  But the government insists the men won’t be tortured if deported.

In Syria, the lawyer who fought to free Maher Arar paints a different picture: “there’s no assurances here. Only torture.”

SECURE FREEDOM tells the story of a fight for justice in a country known for its human rights, a country whose citizens believe such abuses happen anywhere but at home.

Booker Sim
Booker Sim

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