A reader from the other week’s post on Why Your Canadian Citizenship Means Nothing linked to this story in the Toronto Star.
Apparently another Canadian, Suaad Mohamud Haj, who is of Somali descent has been trapped in a foreign land. However, this time around it was Canadian officials who stripped her of her passport effectively stranding her in Kenya and leaving her at risk of being deported to Somalia (not, as you can imagine, the safest country in the world).
Is she a Canadian citizen? I don’t know. However, she does have numerous other documents attesting to her citizenship as well as an ex-husband, a 12-year old son in Toronto, and former Federal Minister willing to state that she is indeed Canadian. Still more striking, she has offered to be fingerprinted so that her prints can be matched against those she provided to the government back in 1999 when she first immigrated to Canada.
None of these facts however have prompted the Canadian government to act either swiftly or compassionately. After preventing Suaad from retuning home on May 17th, Ottawa released a statement in the last week of June stating: “Following an extensive investigation, officials at the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi have determined that the individual arrested by Kenyan authorities is not Ms. Suaad Mohamud Hagi.”
No evidence is cited, no reason is given. Apparently, if you end up in front of a Canadian official abroad and they don’t believe you are Canadian, not only should you expect to wait months before hearing why your passport was stripped from you but when you finally do get an explanation, don’t expect to hear any reasoning. To be fair, why should they have to explain themselves to you… you aren’t Canadian.
So in summary, after marooning someone who very much appears to be Canadian in a foreign country (on May 17th) our government took weeks to find confirm they hadn’t made a mistake (last week of June), then took another two weeks to accept a two month old offer the accused themselves made to submit their fingerprints to prove their identity. This is the treatment Canadians can expect from their own government. Again, if this is how our government will treat some citizens, this is how they could treat any citizen. That includes you.
Sadly, this is treatment you can expect if you are still alive. I don’t even want to begin to talk about what happens if you happen to be tortured and killed for political reasons in a foreign jail. Even if our government says it wants those responsible actively brought to justice it will do pretty much everything it can to ignore the issue, even when it has access to witnesses. Indeed, it will become more concerned about the negative press its inaction might generate then about ensuring justice and safety for Canadians abroad.
The more I read about these cases the angrier I become. One of the most basic roles of government is to protect its citizens and here we have two recent cases (I’m not even counting Arar) where our government has actually put its own citizens in grave danger, in one case tacitly encouraging their torture. And what message does this send? Why should other governments care about how they treat Canadians when our own government doesn’t seem to care. These are dark times.
It isn’t easy to say and I despise typing the words, but it is hard to draw any other conclusion: if you travel abroad your Canadian Citizenship means nothing.