Canadian citizen Abousfian Abdelrazik has been told that his children will not receive any state benefits as long as he remains of the UN 1267 terrorist blacklist. In a letter to the Canadian Press, the Canadian Government claimed that allowing child benefits would breach its obligations to the UN Security Council, which prohibits the supply of funds to those thought to be “associated with” Al-Qaida. The decision has attracted criticism of Canada’s willingness to comply with what many see as an unjust and illegitimate regime. The Canadian People’s Commission Network, which supports Abdelrazik’s campaign for delisting, expresses the problem succinctly: “”Here we have a regime that violates the most fundamental human rights: indefinitely stripping people of their liberty without trial, charge, evidence, based on guilt by association – and the government in Quebec is going along with it!”
This decision – to deny the provision of welfare benefits to the family members of those on the blacklist on the basis that to do otherwise would be “supporting” terrorism – is directly at odds with the approach taken by the European Courts on this issue. In the 2010 case of M and Others v HM Treasury, for example, the European Court of Justice expressly held that benefits paid to the spouses of blacklisted individuals were not to be prohibited. The purpose of the blacklist, according to the Court, was to prevent terror suspects from actually accessing financial resources that could be used for terrorism. As a result, asset-freezing only applied to “those assets that can be turned into funds, goods or services capable of being used to support terrorist activities” and so welfare benefits used to meet the essential needs of a household were allowed. This case – which adopts a sensible, purposive reading of the blacklisting provisions – in discussed in more detail in our Blacklisted report, available here . Whether the Canada adopts a more socially just or draconian approach to this issue will no doubt be determined through ongoing legal challenges and will be discussed in more detail by Professor Amir Attaran who will be speaking in Panel 2 of the conference.