Tag Archives: Security Certificate

The State of Exception: just or unjust?

The theorization of KIHC presented by Larsen and Piché in their Canadian Journal of Law and Society differs from Agamben’s theorization of the camp in a following manner: while Agamben notes the state of exception to be normalized, Larsen and Piché believe the state of exception to be institutionalized. That is, for Agamben, the individuals detained have the status of a bare life. In brief, the subjects are classified as bandits. Bandits are explained as “…subjects deposited (banned) in a netherworld that is neither ‘animal’ nor ‘man’…[t]hese subjects are both banned and abandoned by law as excluded entities” (Pavlich, 2011, p.158). For example, Abu Ghraib, twenty miles west of Baghdad, was one of the world’s most notorious prisons, with torture, weekly executions, and vile living conditions” (Hersh, 2004). Conversely, Larsen and Piché contend that there is “…blurring of mandates [and] the blending of authority…”(Larsen, 2012).

In addition, other theorists such as Butler and Ericson view state of exception in a different manner. On one hand, Butler views the state of exception to be governmentalized; on the other hand, Ericson perceives the state of exception to be legalized. For example, Butler notes that there is not one dictator but different government officials (also referred to as petty sovereigns) who make the decision of whom to detain. However, Ericson brings forward the concept of ‘counter law’ which gives the government the ability to use one type of law to circumvent another law. For instance, there is extensive security at the airport to prevent any unlawful activities from occurring.

Also, in the article, “Exceptional State, Pragmatic Bureaucracy, and Indefinite Detention” by Larsen and Piché, the authors make a normative argument in opposition to the KIHC and to security certificates more generally. The nature of their normative argument is as follows: the authors view security certificate to be problematic for it produces unlawful results. That is, security certificate deals with the concept of indefinite detention. Provided that the detainees are neither charged nor have the right to be brought to trial, it can be said without doubt that using the security certificate in the context of indefinite sentence is indeed problematic. For instance, in Criminology 3305 lecture, it was explained that security certificate allows the arrest to take place basis on the material that the detainee will never see the proof against him or herself. This once again clearly explains how the detainee’s rights get infringed. The question I would like to raise at this point is as such: is it correct to believe that Canadian government protects its residents once we become familiar of the cases discussed under ‘the secret trial five’ which mirrors the negative view of the government. For instance, Hassan Almrei “had been in custody since October 2001, after CSIS accused him of links to al-Qaeda. He was freed to a strict house arrest in January 2009” (CBC, 2009). From becoming familiar with the above mentioned information, I am compelled to believe that society is living in a mere illusion that government protects its resident. As a matter of fact, the truth is that “[o]rganizations are distorted by states of exception carried out under the politics of security” (Larsen, Handout). In addition, I would like to note that I agree with Larsen and Piché’s argument as they are successfully able to prove that security certificate is indeed unlawful. As noted, “[d]etention without trial in Canada is a serious matter, and KIHC warrants explanation-and problematization-on its own terms”(Larsen and Piché, 2009, p.204) .


CBC (2009).  Security certificates and secret evidence. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2009/08/21/f-security-certificates.html

Hersh, S.M. (2004).  Annals of National Security: Torture at Abu Ghraib. The New Yorker. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/05/10/040510fa_fact

Larsen, M. , & Piché, J. (2009).  Exceptional State, Pragmatic Bureaucracy, and Indefinite Detention: The Case of the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre. Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 24 (2), pp.203-229.

Larsen, M. (2012, Fall). Larsen: Exceptional State, Pragmatic Bureaucracy [CRIM 3305-Law and Society –Class Handout]. Surrey, Canada: Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Ontario: Oxford University Press. Print.


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Indefinite Detention is Un-Canadian

Canada is a nation that is renowned for promoting democracy and human rights at home and around the world. As Canadians, we hold tyranny and repression by the state profoundly repugnant to the tenets of our democracy. Therefore, in the past, it has been only under the most trying circumstances, such as war, that civil liberties and freedom have been suspended under the War Measures Act. Nonetheless, the three times the act has been enforced – during the First and Second World Wars, and during the October Crisis – the actions of the Canadian government befitted a tyrant. Perhaps most notably, during World War II, the government interned thousands of Japanese Canadians under the guise of national security. Indeed, Canada and its allies had declared war on Japan, but these loyal Canadians and their families were no different from any other Canadian, except that they happened to have been born Japanese. Although used long before World War II, the internment camp became a ___ of the war. Camps (internment, concentration, and refugee), as described by Giorgio Agamben, are places of exclusion in which the inhabitants experience the bare life, an existence characterized by having no political nor moral involvement or recognition with the outside community at large (Pavlich, p. 158). In recent years, internment camps have been replaced by refugee and illegal immigrant holding facilities – such as Kingston Immigration Holding Centre – as places where inhabitants experience the bare life.

As Mike Larsen and Justin Piché explain in their article, Exceptional State, Pragmatic Bureaucracy, and Indefinite Detention: The Case of the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre, these new holding facilities, or camps, are “the product of a series of decisions designed to functionally blur the spaces of the camp and the prison while maintaining their technical distinction.”(p. 205) While Agamben’s theorization of the camp is more akin to an internment or refugee camp, Larsen and Piché’s theorization of KIHC is more akin to a prison, where immigrants with security tickets over their heads, such as the “Secret Trial Five,” are held indefinitely.

Larsen and Piché are opposed to security certificates for their punitive nature. The government, under the direction of “the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration,” (p. 206) can issue a security certificate for any non-citizen deemed “to be ‘inadmissible’ to Canada ‘on security grounds.’” (p. 207) Those who are issued a security certificate can be detained indefinitely. Surely, indefinite detention in Canada is wrong, whether for national security concerns or not. If someone, including a non-citizen, is detained, then they should have the right to be charged and brought to trial. But to hold someone without charge and punish them like a criminal when an offence has not been committed is against their human rights and is un-Canadian.


– Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.

– Larsen, M. and Justin Piché. Exceptional State, Pragmatic Bureaucracy, and Indefinite Detention: The Case of the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre.

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