[Pnews] Secret case keeps Gary Freeman from coming home - accused of membership in the BPP
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 16 12:42:07 EDT 2013
Supporters are urged to attend the court hearing reviewing the decision
to deny Mr. Freeman reunification with his family. It takes place on
Thursday, October 17 at 9:30 am at the Federal Court in Toronto, 180
Queen Street West (just west of University Avenue).
Secret case keeps Freeman from coming home
By Matthew Behrens
September 24, 2013
Anytime a government wants to hide its errors and illegality, it pulls
down the shades of national security confidentiality and refuses to
disclose any information. Time and again, the Canadian government's own
cries for secrecy have been found to be without substance. Federal court
decisions, judicial inquiries into complicity in torture, and various
freedom of access to information requests have revealed the extent to
which secrecy becomes the convenient way out from having to explain and
be held accountable for lousy policy, inhumane actions and sheer
Yet the secrecy train rolls on, whether through security certificates (a
challenge to which will be heard at the Supreme Court of Canada on
October 10) or in regular immigration proceedings. In the long-running
case of Gary Freeman, the federal government has now invoked national
security secrecy on what appears to be a foundation so slim that the
slightest breeze will blow it away. Based on unsubstantiated newspaper
articles and a secret file neither he nor his lawyer is allowed to see,
the Canadian government alleges Freeman should not be allowed to live
with his Mississauga family based on "reasonable grounds to believe"
that it's possible that he may have been, could be, or will be a member
of an organization that may have in the past, could at present, or may
in future engage in terrorism.
The organization in question, which Freeman has repeatedly denied
belonging to, is the now defunct U.S. Black Panther Party (BPP), a
self-defence organization that worked towards empowerment of the
African-American community and which was subject to vicious and violent
attacks by U.S. government forces under the COINTELPRO program of
disruption, deception and, in many cases, assassination. The Black
Panther Party is not listed anywhere in the world as a terrorist entity,
either by the U.S., Canada or the United Nations, and former
high-profile members and associates of the group continue to travel
freely to Canada for speaking engagements. Former members of the BPP can
be found in the U.S. Congress and in tenured university positions.
Nonetheless, Canada is now using this allegation to prevent Freeman from
reuniting with his family. Freeman is a 64-year-old married father of
four, a mild-mannered library worker, poet and photographer who narrowly
avoided becoming a statistic in the deadly summer of 1969, when so many
young African-American men were being gunned down by police that Chicago
residents formed a Committee to End the Murder of Black People.
*Life changed forever*
One March 1969 morning changed Freeman's life forever, a classic example
of police racial profiling as standard operating procedure, and the
targeted harassment of black men that continues to warp communities
across North America. Freeman, then 19, was stopped by a white
21-year-old officer who, angered that Freeman refused to be frisked
because he had been stopped without probable cause, proceeded to grab
Freeman, throw him onto the police car, and scream, "I'm gonna blow your
head off, nigger."
As Freeman recalled in an interview last year with the U.S.-based
/Truthout/, "I was waiting to be killed. I turned my head around and
closed my eyes. And then I heard a voice. We were in front of a school.
Some of the black kids were hanging out at the window asking, 'Hey
brother, what's wrong, what's happening?' That paused him [Officer Knox]
for just a second. Things were very fast, but in slow motion. So, I drew
my own, I swung around and he started firing and I started firing and I
happened to be more accurate. My purpose was to disarm him."
The officer in question was wounded in the arm, and Freeman was
arrested. Fearing he would not receive a fair trial and that his life
was in danger -- especially following a number of threats and an
incident where someone shot at him while he was out on bail -- he
eventually came to Canada, where he began a new life and for 30 years
lived a normal, peaceable life as a well-loved community member.
According to /The Boston Review/, "In the late 1960s, Chicago police led
the nation in the slaying of private citizens, who were euphemistically
characterized as "fleeing felons" to mask the routine use of excessive
force by police against racial minorities. The police also exploited
seemingly benign offence categories, such as disorderly conduct,
vagrancy, and loitering to bully minority youths and adults who had the
audacity to challenge police authority." The revelations of police
torture over the past four decades in Chicago, among other U.S. cities,
certainly provide additional context for why Freeman would head north.
Indeed, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a public apology two weeks ago
for what he called a "dark chapter" in his city's history that saw
hundreds of African-American detainees subjected to torture to elicit
Court documents proved that Mr. Freeman's presence and location in
Canada was known to authorities since 1974, yet U.S. authorities waited
30 years to seek his return. The officer who was wounded in 1969 had
remained obsessed with Freeman (born Joseph Pannell), and in 2004, as a
result of the officer's relentless lobbying of the Chicago cold case
squad, Mr. Freeman was arrested in an armed takedown outside of his
downtown Toronto workplace. After three years and seven months of
pre-extradition custody in Canada, Freeman voluntarily returned to
Chicago in February 2008, where he accepted a prosecution proffered plea
bargain agreement of a guilty plea to a single count of aggravated
battery for a sentence of 30 days in the Cook County Jail, two years of
probation, and a major contribution to a Chicago police charity. It was
a plea that was satisfactory to the officer, who told /The National
Post/, "If he [Freeman] were to have served 15 years in prison he'd be
75 when he got out: he wouldn't survive that. I couldn't tolerate that.
I'm not out for blood."
*An **inhumane approach*
While the officer obsessed with Freeman said he was not out for blood,
the Canadian government's approach has been quite different. Freeman was
released from custody in March 2008 and began the process of applying to
return to Canada while on probation, during which his family was struck
by the death of his father-in-law in Montreal on Oct. 31, 2009. Freeman
sought and received permission from U.S. authorities to attend the
funeral but the Canadian government refused him entry for reasons of
"serious criminality." At this time, Freeman was also told he was
inadmissible on national security grounds as well.
Interestingly, immigration documents indicate that Canadian government
officials knew that the allegations about BPP membership were flimsy. As
Mr. Freeman's legal submissions indicate, Canadian consular officials on
November 4, 2009 not only recognized strong humanitarian and
compassionate grounds for allowing Mr. Freeman to be with his family in
Canada, they also acknowledged there was insufficient evidence to make
the link with the BPP. Yet an about-face occurred the following day
when, without explaining why, Mr. Freeman was deemed inadmissible to
Canada based on an unexplained belief that he was connected to the BPP.
Court documents verify Freeman's assertion that he was not a BPP member,
and former Conservative Minister of Justice Vic Toews wrote in 2006 that
the U.S. would have to prove the BPP allegation, conceding that the
government of Canada had no proof. The issue was not brought up during
the Chicago hearing that sentenced Freeman to 30 days in Cook County
Jail, and former Party members, including an historian of the party,
have repeatedly maintained over the past decade that Freeman was never a
member. (Freeman, like many others, disputes the Canadian government
position that the BPP was a terrorist organization. He has said he was
sympathetic to the party's social programs, such as free breakfast and
education for ghetto youth, but so were millions of Americans who were
not members either. Canadians such as actor and activist Shirley
Douglas, who founded Friends of the Black Panthers, and American actor
Jane Fonda, a vocal supporter of the Black Panthers who frequently
visits Canada, do not appear to face the same conundrum as Mr. Freeman.)
Before Superior Court of Ontario Justice Ian Nordheimer in 2004,
Canadian government prosecutors essentially conceded that Freeman was
NOT a threat to society. Freeman holds a U.S. passport and his name does
not appear on the no-fly list, this in a country that has no qualms
about labelling someone a terrorist or national security threat.
*Predetermined decision to keep Freeman out*
It has been five years since Mr. Freeman began his efforts to return
home to his family in Mississauga, and it appears that at every step of
the way, a predetermined decision to keep him out of Canada by any means
necessary has been the government's response. He has faced everything
from extensive delays to cruel decisions that have refused even
short-term permits to attend his father-in-law's funeral or to celebrate
the birth of his Canadian grandchildren. Elsewhere in his case file,
immigration authorities acknowledge that his "sole grounds for
inadmissibility are his conviction" but that "there are considerable
humanitarian and compassionate considerations in this case." If the
conviction were the only ground keeping him out of Canada, Freeman would
still be allowed to take his case to the Immigration Appeal Division.
However, that avenue suddenly becomes barred to him because of the
national security finding.
Freeman's case received national attention in the House of Commons when
convicted criminal Conrad Black was allowed to return to Canada, a
decision made while the former press baron was still behind bars. While
Freeman did not begrudge Black's return to his family, he did wonder if
there were perhaps a double standard at play. At that time, Freeman was
publicly slandered by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who falsely
called him a "cop killer."
A week after the Supreme Court of Canada hears the challenge to secret
trials, Mr. Freeman's lawyer, Barb Jackman, will be in Federal Court in
Ottawa arguing that the government of Canada has acted in bad faith and
made a "perverse and unreasonable decision" in denying Mr. Freeman a
temporary resident permit that would allow him to live with his family
in Mississauga while awaiting the outcome of his wife's sponsorship of
him. Part of the case being reviewed by the Court will be heard in
secret, absent Mr. Freeman, his lawyer, the press and the public.
Jackman notes in her written argument that Mr. Freeman has not been
treated fairly, as Canadian officials "had made up their minds that Mr.
Freeman was a terrorist, and that he should not be permitted to return
to Canada. Rather than just use the admitted ground of inadmissibility
[i.e., Mr. Freeman's conviction] they searched for evidence to ensure
that he was refused admission on a far more serious ground and when they
realized they did not have evidence to that effect, they refused his
landing application on the security ground anyways. This is bad faith.
Officials failed to keep an open mind and acted perversely and
arbitrarily against Mr. Freeman."
When Freeman's case comes before the Federal Court on October 17, it is
hoped that the judge will similarly find the Canadian government's
position is sloppy, biased and prejudicial against Mr. Freeman, and take
the necessary steps to reunite his long-suffering family.
/Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who
co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He
has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. 'national
security' profiling for many years./
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