Why is it so hard for Canada to say sorry? Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin want to know why.
The three Muslim Canadian men were considered terrorist threats and were detained by Syrian authorities in a anxiety-filled post-9/11 world. They were tortured for periods ranging from under a year to over two years. They lived in “grave-like” cells and were whipped with electric cables.
Canadian authorities were complicit in their detention.
Ghosts tracks the progress of the men and their loyal supporters to raise awareness over what they went through, and to demand an explanation and an apology for the wrongs committed against them by the government of Canada. It examines closely the Caravan to End Canadian Involvement in Torture, a roadtrip taken by their supporters from Toronto to Ottawa to officially demand an explanation from Stephen Harper’s office.
Key to the story is the hasty October 2008 release of a report by former Supreme Court Judge Frank Iacobucci, who found that Canadian authorities had an “indirect” hand in sending the men to be tortured. But no apology was issued. “It’s not a complete happiness, even though it was a very positive report,” says Abou-Elmaati in the film.
There were concerns over the reasoning to withhold information for reasons of national security. As recently as last month, Justice Iacobucci made public further information that shows that agents from the Canadian Security Intellegence Service travelled to Egypt to provide questions to Abou-Elmaati’s captors. Iacobucci fought to have the information released, after the federal government attempted to withhold it on “national security” grounds.
Directed and produced by Iranian-born and Montreal-based Morvary SamarÃ©, Ghosts takes a while to build a relationship between the viewer and Almalki, Abou-Elmaati and Nureddin. It takes more than half the film before we learn of the difficulties they’ve encountered as a result of their detention and torture. Alkmaki went missing when his youngest child was a few weeks old; now, the boy is a toddler and doesn’t interact with his father very well. “Psychologically, I feel like I’m still in prison,” says Alkmalki.
Abou-Elmaati, who once studied at Concordia, saw his marriage fall apart, and is unable to work. Nureddin will forever be paranoid of people following him.
While some sequences and shots are awkward, the frustration these men, their lawyers and their supporters feel is palpable.
Last June, a parliamentary committee strongly suggested that the three men be compensated and receive an apology.
But no matter what compensation or apology may eventually arise, during 53 minutes Ghosts drives home the fact that the spectres of their experiences will haunt these Canadians forever.
The world premiere of Ghosts takes place atCinema du ParcMarch 18 at at 7 p.m. It will be shown with the animated short 1000 Voices.Ghosts will also be shown atCinema Politicaon March 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Concordia’s Hall Building, room H-110.