A hearing to determine whether “one of the best-known whistleblowers in modern history” should be admitted to Canada is a test of this country’s moral compass, argues one observer, as the case progresses.

Chelsea Manning appeared by videoconference on Friday for the second day of a court hearing that will decide whether the Canadian Border Services Agency’s decision to bar the former US soldier from entering this country should be upheld.

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 by a court martial under the US Espionage Act for revealing thousands of US government documents, including an infamous video showing US military brutality against Iraqi civilians.

Her disclosure of the documents to WikiLeaks led some to label her a traitor. Others praised her for an act of conscience that exposed the conduct of US forces on the ground, helping to change public discourse on US-led wars and counterterrorism measures.

The then president of the United States, Barack Obama, commuted his sentence “in the interests of justice.” She was released in 2017.

In September of that same year, Manning, now a network security consultant and advocate, attempted to enter Canada through the St-Bernard-de-Lacolle port of entry to visit friends in Montreal and host a series of talks here. . She was rejected for her “serious crime” record.

By declaring it inadmissible, the Canada Border Services Agency argued that the crime for which Manning was convicted, if committed in Canada, would amount to treason under the Canadian penal code, for which a sentence of 14 years in prison would be imposed.

Toronto attorney Hadayt Nazami says the stakes are high in the ongoing appeal.

“It’s not about whether she can come to Canada or not. It’s about the moral standards that Canada stands by, ”said Nazami, who practices national security, constitutional and human rights law, but is not involved in Manning’s admissibility case.

“It is very possible that this could happen to our own Canadian army and police. Depending on the consequences, if people see horrible things and events that are morally reprehensible and shock our conscience, they would be afraid to say something about it. “

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After pressuring border officials for four years to complete their inadmissibility report and refer the case to the independent court, Manning’s attorneys, Joshua Blum and Lex Gill, argued that those crimes were not equivalent and that Canadian statues have provisions for the whistleblower protection to which your client is entitled. . Furthermore, his attorneys said, Manning’s release of US government documents was justified in the public interest.

On Friday, Osgoode Hall law professor Heidi Matthews testified in court as an expert witness on the role Manning’s revelation played in the military activity of the United States and its allies from the perspective of international law and public discourse. .

In a report he presented to the court, Matthews said that the information Manning revealed details evidence of violations of international human rights law, as well as national civil and military law, that “put the truth to the lie about the humanitarian commitments of counterinsurgency doctrine. “

“Millisecond. The Manning leaks reveal the fundamental inhumanity of the War on Terrorism. By revealing the true extent of the civilian cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Ms Manning leaks changed the humanitarian story told,” said Matthews .

Among the documentation Manning revealed was a video dubbed “Collateral Murder” by WikiLeaks, showing an Apache attack helicopter firing at a group of men in Baghdad, killing 11, including two Reuters journalists, Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed. Chmagh.

This incident, according to Matthews, occurred during the “surge” of troops that was supposed to give effect to the large demands on resources from the “kinder and gentler” counterinsurgency approach to the Iraq war.

For years, according to the report, Reuters had tried to obtain video footage of the incident through Freedom of Information Act requests, which the US government had denied in an effort to ensure secrecy about the specific operational details of the incident. Iraq war.

“The Collateral Murder video was a key moment in unmasking the ‘brutal reality'” of the counterinsurgent doctrine deployed in Iraq, Matthews said in his report.

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Calling their client “one of the best-known whistleblowers in modern history,” Manning’s attorneys did not question the act of his disclosure, but argued that the records released by the former US intelligence analyst were key to transforming it. public understanding of the so-called “War on Terror.”

Their actions, they argued in their presentation, are part of a long tradition of whistleblowing in the public interest, without which many crimes and abuses carried out by states and other authorities would never see the light of day.

Looking at the Manning case from the side, Nazami said the admissibility provision of Canadian immigration law allows for waiver if the inadmissible person can show that the conviction was the result of “impeachment.”

“Someone convicted in Turkey of insulting the president can argue that the conviction outside of Canada was not a real crime in this country,” Nazami explained. “In other words, they persecuted her for politics, for her freedom of expression.”

The Canadian border agency, he said, is required to prove Manning’s intent to commit a crime.

“He intended to do something that in his conscience he thought was noble,” Nazami added. “She didn’t think it was a crime. According to her, the US military was committing crimes and she objected to that for reasons of conscience. “

Nazami believes that the action taken by Ottawa against Manning is to send a signal that Canada would take the same tough position that the United States took with anyone who does what Manning did.

“So the message is even in our own country, we would not allow it,” he said.

The court hearing was postponed. Government attorneys have until November 8 to submit their final written presentation. Manning’s attorney will have 30 days to respond.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto reporter covering immigration for The Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung


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