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Canadian churches take up cause of five Guantánamo detainees

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Several Toronto congregations of the United Church of Canada, a Protestant denomination, hope to help Hassan build a new life. "Our commitment is to support him practically and financially for at least a year," says Moira Mancer, a member of the churches' refugee committee.

Last week, CCR called on Canadian immigration to expedite all five cases. "We're hoping the developing political landscape will favor the government giving positive consideration to them," says Janet Dench, CCR's executive director.

CCR worked with the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, which has lawyers representing Guantánamo prisoners, to identify men who meet Canadian criteria: The men must not have charges against them, and they must not be inadmissable because of criminality or posing a security risk.

"They'll be assessed against a fairly stringent criteria," says Alykhan Velshi, spokesman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, adding, "Under no circumstances will we be taking steps to expedite the applications."

Not all Canadians are happy about the idea. "Some have heard the Bush administration say these are 'the worst of the worst,'" Ms. Dench says. "There have been hostile comments and hate mail, but also people who are supportive and pleased to see Canadians playing this role."

While some European governments have recently seemed willing to accept Guantánamo detainees, Canada has not yet done so.

Votes of confidence

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