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The Harper government needs to respect the rights of citizens

by admin October 7, 2009

The Harper government needs to respect the rights of citizens

by Archives October 6, 2009

Abousfian Abdelrazik, the Montrealer who was arrested in Sudan on terrorism charges and marooned there for several years, is embarking on a speaking tour to share his story. Sadly, stories like his are becoming the norm under Canada’s current government. Since Stephen Harper took power, there have been at least five high profile cases in which the government has refused to repatriate a citizen trapped in another country.
During his on-again off-again incarceration in Sudan, Abdelrazik underwent a schedule of torture punctuated by visits from FBI and Canadian Security Intelligence Service agents. After finally being released for the second time in July 2005 and being cleared of all terrorist allegations, Abdelrazik found himself in legal limbo. Canadian officials told him that he was free to return home, but that they would not issue him the necessary documents.
He eventually was allowed access to one-time emergency documentation to facilitate his return to Canada, but was unable to travel because the United Nations had his name on a list of suspected terrorists. The list freezes a suspect’s assets, imposes an arms embargo and restricts them from flying.
It took until April of 2008 for the Harper government to request that Abdelrazik’s name be removed from the list, nearly three years after he was cleared of his suspected terrorist ties. Abdelrazik’s case is just one of many examples of the Canadian government’s increasing complicity with torture and human rights violations.
Section Six of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that “every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.” The Harper government however seems less concerned with respecting Abdelrazik’s rights than protecting their own interests.
In late 2005 Odette Gaudet-Fee, a senior Foreign Affairs official in Ottawa, wrote that in relation to Abdelrazik: “Should this case break wide open in the media, we may have a lot to explaining to do.”
The Canadian government knowingly used questionable intelligence to facilitate Abdelrazik’s detention in a country known to torture prisoners, a roundabout method of engaging in extraordinary rendition. What’s more, Abdelrazik’s case is not even the most heinous. The Harper government’s persistent unwillingness to let Canadian citizens come home is deeply concerning.
No case is more concerning than that of Omar Khadr. Khadr was arrested by the American military when he was 14-years-old &- a child by definition &- and has been held at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay ever since. The government is not only refusing to honour Khadr’s rights as a Canadian citizen, they are defying the courts as well. Though judges have told them again and again that Khadr must be repatriated, the government had continually appealed. The case will now be reviewed by the Supreme Court, and taxpayers will be footing the bill. Khadr was a child at the time he committed his “crime,” he is a citizen born in Canada, and he has the right to return home.
Perhaps equally heinous is the case of Maher Arar. An otherwise upstanding dual citizen of Canada and Syria, Arar was arrested while crossing the American border and deported to Syria where he was imprisoned and tortured for a year. He was given no trial, no chance do defend himself, and he had done nothing wrong. But the Canadian government left him to suffer in a Syrian prison.
Then there’s Suaad Haji Mohamud, who was visiting family in Kenya when border authorities accused her of passport fraud and arrested her. It took almost three months for the government to bring her home.
And what about Ronald Allen Smith, the Canadian citizen waiting on death row in Montana? Canada does not have capital punishment, and there is a process for bringing him back and letting him serve his time in Canada, but Harper’s government has explicitly refused to bring him home. In Canada, our government doesn’t get to choose who lives and dies, but Harper has decided to ignore that principle.
I hesitate to even mention the fact that for the most part these people tend to be visible minorities and have Arabic-sounding names. Would Johnny Canuck have been left to suffer in a rogue state?
The government hasn’t even feigned ignorance in any of these cases. They’ve known full well what has been happening and where, who’s being detained and who’s not. They are intentionally leaving these people to be tortured or otherwise abused in foreign countries. The Canadian government should stand up for and protect its citizens, not abandon them.

Abousfian Abdelrazik, the Montrealer who was arrested in Sudan on terrorism charges and marooned there for several years, is embarking on a speaking tour to share his story. Sadly, stories like his are becoming the norm under Canada’s current government. Since Stephen Harper took power, there have been at least five high profile cases in which the government has refused to repatriate a citizen trapped in another country.
During his on-again off-again incarceration in Sudan, Abdelrazik underwent a schedule of torture punctuated by visits from FBI and Canadian Security Intelligence Service agents. After finally being released for the second time in July 2005 and being cleared of all terrorist allegations, Abdelrazik found himself in legal limbo. Canadian officials told him that he was free to return home, but that they would not issue him the necessary documents.
He eventually was allowed access to one-time emergency documentation to facilitate his return to Canada, but was unable to travel because the United Nations had his name on a list of suspected terrorists. The list freezes a suspect’s assets, imposes an arms embargo and restricts them from flying.
It took until April of 2008 for the Harper government to request that Abdelrazik’s name be removed from the list, nearly three years after he was cleared of his suspected terrorist ties. Abdelrazik’s case is just one of many examples of the Canadian government’s increasing complicity with torture and human rights violations.
Section Six of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that “every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.” The Harper government however seems less concerned with respecting Abdelrazik’s rights than protecting their own interests.
In late 2005 Odette Gaudet-Fee, a senior Foreign Affairs official in Ottawa, wrote that in relation to Abdelrazik: “Should this case break wide open in the media, we may have a lot to explaining to do.”
The Canadian government knowingly used questionable intelligence to facilitate Abdelrazik’s detention in a country known to torture prisoners, a roundabout method of engaging in extraordinary rendition. What’s more, Abdelrazik’s case is not even the most heinous. The Harper government’s persistent unwillingness to let Canadian citizens come home is deeply concerning.
No case is more concerning than that of Omar Khadr. Khadr was arrested by the American military when he was 14-years-old – a child by definition – and has been held at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay ever since. The government is not only refusing to honour Khadr’s rights as a Canadian citizen, they are defying the courts as well. Though judges have told them again and again that Khadr must be repatriated, the government had continually appealed. The case will now be reviewed by the Supreme Court, and taxpayers will be footing the bill. Khadr was a child at the time he committed his “crime,” he is a citizen born in Canada, and he has the right to return home.
Perhaps equally heinous is the case of Maher Arar. An otherwise upstanding dual citizen of Canada and Syria, Arar was arrested while crossing the American border and deported to Syria where he was imprisoned and tortured for a year. He was given no trial, no chance do defend himself, and he had done nothing wrong. But the Canadian government left him to suffer in a Syrian prison.
Then there’s Suaad Haji Mohamud, who was visiting family in Kenya when border authorities accused her of passport fraud and arrested her. It took almost three months for the government to bring her home.
And what about Ronald Allen Smith, the Canadian citizen waiting on death row in Montana? Canada does not have capital punishment, and there is a process for bringing him back and letting him serve his time in Canada, but Harper’s government has explicitly refused to bring him home. In Canada, our government doesn’t get to choose who lives and dies, but Harper has decided to ignore that principle.
I hesitate to even mention the fact that for the most part these people tend to be visible minorities and have Arabic-sounding names. Would Johnny Canuck have been left to suffer in a rogue state?
The government hasn’t even feigned ignorance in any of these cases. They’ve known full well what has been happening and where, who’s being detained and who’s not. They are intentionally leaving these people to be tortured or otherwise abused in foreign countries. The Canadian government should stand up for and protect its citizens, not abandon them.

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