Tag Archives: due process

Two More Examples of Why Your Canadian Citizenship Means Nothing

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.

Your Canadian citizenship means nothing

There have, in the past few years, been some very disturbing trends around the state of Canadians rights.

The first assault was very direct. The current conservative government has made it law that children to Canadians who were themselves were born outside the country will not be Canadian. So, if you happen to be on vacation, or visiting family, studying or working abroad when you (or your partner) give birth to a child, you’d better hope they are not also caught in the same situation when that happy moment arrives. If so, your grandchild will not be Canadian. Canadians, being an international lot due to immigration and our propensity to travel, study and work abroad, are apparently only really considered Canadians if they are born in the right place.

This assault of the notion of Canadian citizenship – that you may not be able to pass it on to your children if you happen to be out of the country – is however, relatively minor. If you happen to be a Canadian that the government of the day does not like – don’t expect to be rescued from torture and false imprisonment. Indeed, don’t even expect to be allowed to return home.

The treatment of Abousfian Abdelrazik is a national scandal. In short a Canadian citizen was abandoned by his own government – the institution that is supposed to protect his rights and ensure that he receive due process if accused of a crime. It is appalling that a Federal judge had to order the Canadian government to repatriate a Canadian citizen. All this tells me is that if I do something Foreign Minister Cannon does not like and my passport is removed from my person, he can essentially prevent me from returning home. Even if the RCMP and CSIS clears me of any charges.

And the complicity of the Canadian government in ensuring that Abderlrazik remained imprisoned is still more shocking:

In a wide-ranging and sometimes chilling account of six years of imprisonment and forced exile abroad, Mr. Abdelrazik recounted stories of interrogation and alleged torture. He told of Canadian Security and Intelligence Service agents laughingly saying “Sudan will be your Guantanamo” when he begged to be allowed to return home.

Apparently, being a Canadian citizen abroad means that you are on your own. If you have the wrong colour skin, the wrong beliefs, if you do something that the Canadian government decides it doesn’t approve of, or if you are simply caught in the wrong place at the wrong time… you are on your own. Again, this is a shocking state of affairs. Citizenship is supposed to come with certain rights. Our physical security and right to due process are core among them. When these disappear for some citizens they disappear for ALL citizens. Every Canadian is vulnerable.

If you are not outraged, you should be. Your government has decided that certain Canadian citizens are expendable. They can be forgotten, ignored and even tortured by a foreign government with our explicit knowledge. Maybe you think it will never happen to you – maybe it won’t. But if we are willing to treat some Canadians this way, what does it say about our definition of Canadian citizenship and, more importantly, what it means to be a citizen of this country?

As I said once before, never before have Canadians cared so little about foreign policy, but perhaps it is because foreign policy has never cared so little for them. To be a Canadian abroad is to be without support, without rights, and, in some cases, without even the acknowledgement that you are Canadian.

Canada's Foreign Policy: Canadians'… you are on your own

Numerous commentator have asked why Canadians don’t seem to care about Foreign Policy. Well, maybe it is because our foreign policy so rarely cares about them.

Consider the plight of Abousfian Abdelrazi, the Sudanese-born Canadian whose name is stuck on the 1267 UN no-flight list. And let’s be clear, both Canadian and Sudanese authorities have cleared Abdelrazik of any association with a terrorist organization.

So what happens when your own government determines you should be presumed innocent? Do they help you get home? Do they advocate on your behalf? Do they help in any meaningful way?

The answer is simple: no.

As Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said to the Globe and Mail.

“It’s up to him, its incumbent on him to make sure he gets off that list”

And how, exactly, is a lone citizen like Abousfian Abdelrazi supposed to lobby the UN security council to change his status? It is bad enough that he is functionally exiled with no access to appeal or any due process. What is appalling is that his own government has effectively abandoned him.

Remember this could be you, if in some Brazilesque bureaucratic hic-cup you could end up on a no-fly list.

Sadly, if you end up on a no-fly list (as Senator Ted Kennedy once famously did) the Canadian government will write a letter on your behalf (they the UN Security Council in December 2007 to ask to have Abdelrazik removed). However, what we now know is that doesn’t work out – too bad, you are on your own.