Maher Arar, Canada is sorry …

I’ve been trying to blog on this for a couple of days now, unable to find the words I needed to express the outrage within me today.  Much has been made of the the ‘new realities of the world’ and about how those realities mean that we need to change the way we do things to improve safety for the citizens of freed0m-loving countries like Canada.  And on paper, some of what is said even sounds good

But if anyone needed an example of why its necessary to work under the rule of law, of why checks and balances in the halls of power are necessary, of the truth of the sentiment that anyone who gives up a little freedom for security loses both, you need only look into the Maher Arar case from Canada.

In short form, Arar is a Syrian-Canadian who was ‘deported’ to Syria in 2002 by US officials at JFK airport in New York.  Once in Syria, he was detained by Syrian officials, and questioned repeatedly, and at length (10 months worth of length) about possible terrorist connections.  Arar himself alleges torture during his time in Syria, and that is backed up by several other reports, and its been clear for several years that one of the main reasons Arar came to the attention of US authorities was because of information passed from the RCMP to US authorities, ostensibly in furtherance of post-9/11 sharing of information.

One MIGHT look at it all as a successful mission if not for a small, but glaring fact … according to Justice Conner’s report on the affair (PDF), released Sept 18th, “I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada.”  That’s pretty unequivocal … it wasn’t a case of not finding enough info to be sure, or of finding info that circumstantially linked Arar to terrorist activities.  Its a case of finding NO evidence at ALL that he committed ANY offence or is in any way a danger to Canada.  The report goes on …

“The public can be confident that Canadian investigators have thoroughly and exhaustively followed all information leads available to them in connection with Mr. Arar’s activities and associations. This was not a case where investigators were unable to effectively pursue their investigative goals because of a lack or time constraints. On the contrary, Canadian investigators made extensive efforts to find any information that could implicate Mr. Arar in terrorist activities. They did so over a lengthy period of time, even after Mr. Arar’s case became a cause célèbre. The results speak for themselves: they found none.”

Re-read that again if you have to … its an astonishing statement.  Usually, in cases like this, there is some evidence, some doubt, some question about what is there, and what isn’t there … very rarely do we have a situation where someone was so clearly targeted for activities for which there is so little actual evidence.

It would be bad enough if the RCMP had simply forwarded false (or misleading) information to the US authorities, and then washed their hands of the affair.  At least in that case, it could be argued that a simple case of negligence is responsible for the problems … release of info when no info should have been released.  But as the Commission points out, after the initial gaff, not only did the RCMP continue to feed bad information to American and Syrian authorities (sometimes at the same time as public efforts to release Arar were being undertaken by Minister Graham), when information started coming out that the whole affair had been badly mishandled, the RCMP actively worked to thwart the investigation, to further sully Arar’s name through erroneous press releases, and even harass an Ottawa Citizen reporter trying to write a story about the affair by searching her house and attempting to have her arrested.

The RCMP and its political masters have much to answer for today.  A case of negligence would be one thing.  But when the national police force of a country actively works to thwart an investigation, and contributes to a Canadian citizen being detained and tortured by foreign officials, there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.  Several levels of RCMP officers were involved, both in the initial incident, and the attempted cover-up of it, and its necessary to see some discipline of those involved, including the RCMP commissioner and his political masters.

Its not good enough to say that sometimes, mistakes happen when we work hard to protect the world from terror.  Even if we do live in a new reality, one that requires us to accept new moralities, Maher Arar is one of the people the RCMP is supposed to be protecting from terrorists.

Mr. Arar, I can’t speak for PM Harper; I can’t speak for the RCMP; I can’t speak for the Legislature.  I am but one Canadian, appalled at the way you were treated by the very people who’s job it is to protect you from what you were accused of being.  I can speak for no one but myself, but fo myself, I am appalled that my tax dollars were used in such an endeavour.  I wish I could say, or do more, but all I can do, as a single Canadian, is to say “Mr. Arar, I am truly sorry.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: