Rights of Canadian citizens

Written by  //  August 26, 2009  //  Canada, David Kilgour, David/Terry Jones, Justice & Law, Rights & Social justice  //  Comments Off on Rights of Canadian citizens

Cannon presses Iran over detained Canadian
(CBC) Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has pressed his Iranian counterpart to release a Canadian journalist detained without charge during Tehran’s crackdown on protests over the country’s presidential election.
19 August
Tell Iran to Free Maziar Bahari
(The Tyee) A Canadian journalist is on trial in Tehran. What is Ottawa doing about it?
Last week, Bill Clinton went to North Korea to plead for the release of two American journalists who had entered the country illegally. The trip was a success and a fine example of a country insisting that its citizens be treated with due respect to their human rights. How different things are in Canada.
Diplomat’s tour of duty in Nairobi ‘is over’
(TorStar) The Canadian diplomat who officially disowned Suaad Hagi Mohamud as an “imposter” has been recalled from Kenya.
The Canada Border Services Agency has opened an internal investigation into the handling of Mohamud’s case. Canadian consular officials interviewed her at the airport on May 22 and sided against her. On May 25, Mohamud appealed to the high commission to take her fingerprints. And on May 28, Khadour sent a letter to Kenyan authorities that sealed Mohamud’s fate. But, it turns out, there was no conclusive Canadian investigation. Mohamud was no imposter.
17 August
David Kilgour and Julian Bauer : Protecting our Own
Mohamud touched ground again in Canada and was re-united with her son late on August 15. While she flew to safety, the phone at the emergency desk of the ECOTERRA in Nairobi was ringing once again; this time the caller wanted assistance to secure the safety and return of Abdihakim Mohamed, an autistic Canadian stuck in the bureaucratic maze of Canada and forgotten in Kenya.
The troubling question is raised again about whether Canadians can safely travel abroad with the assurance that their government will protect them. It is …  necessary to establish transparent rules and mechanisms to ensure that Canadians can indeed count on their government’s assistance and protection when they travel overseas.
15 August
Some will be helped, others not
Gar Pardy, retired Director General of Consular Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
It is not an exaggeration to state that when a government claims broad discretionary authority it is well down the road to discrimination. Some Canadians will be helped, others not.Many of the problems that are frequently in the news or subject to Canadian judicial action do not involve the action of foreign government. Rather it is the policy and action of the Canadian government that is disputed. It was not a foreign government that confiscated the passport of Suaad Hagi Mohamud in Kenya, nor is it the actions of the U.S. government that were adjudicated Friday by the Federal Court. It is policies and actions of the Canadian government and its officials that need to be corrected. Not to do so means that international travel for many Canadians will be even more a game of chance, with the government of Canada loading the dice.
14 August
Terry Glavin: A Canadian journalist is on trial in Tehran. What is Ottawa doing about it?
For detained Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, who was reporting completely legally from Tehran for Newsweek Magazine, there have been only some polite diplomatic manoeuvres and the odd generic denunciation from the government.
(CBC In depth) Canadians stranded far from home
In recent years, the Harper government has found itself in the centre of a handful of similar situations and has been criticized for not doing enough to help Canadian citizens abroad who find themselves in distress.
Canadian stranded in Kenya on way home
The Toronto woman who was stranded in Kenya for months after Canadian officials mistakenly voided her passport is finally on her way home. The Somalia-born woman was detained in Nairobi because officials didn’t believe her lips matched the photo in her four-year-old passport. The Canadian High Commission agreed and pulled the passport. Canadian officials initially called Mohamud an impostor — voiding her passport and turning her over to Kenya for prosecution.
Suaad Hagi Mohamud’s detention in Kenya
(CBC) The case of Suaad Hagi Mohamud, a Toronto woman who has been stranded in Kenya for almost three months after finding herself entangled in a diplomatic imbroglio, has generated widespread controversy and earned the federal government a harsh rebuke from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. The media’s focus on the story has intensified in the past two weeks, but the legal wrangling over the case has gone on much longer.
22 July
Canada ‘indifferent’ to Sudan’s threat to kill Abdelrazik, files show
(Globe & Mail) Despite a stark March 21, 2006, warning to Ottawa from Canada’s top diplomat in Khartoum that “this is, in effect, our last chance [to] keep military intelligence from taking expedient measures to deal with this case … and there is strong evidence that most of Sudan’s ‘disappeared’ did so at the hands of military intelligence,” Ottawa’s response was ambivalent. More on this story
21 July
When Abdelrazik finally did arrive at Toronto’s Pearson airport, Canadian officials refused to let him fly into Montreal, so he was forced to make the six-hour trip by car. Now there’s word the federal government was warned by Sudan’s military intelligence agency that it was ready to make Abdelrazik “disappear” unless Ottawa allowed him to go home. The Globe and Mail is reporting that instead of protesting the threat, diplomats in Khartoum were ordered by a senior Canadian intelligence official to deliver a non-commital response. (CTV) ; Canada’s human rights failure: Abousfian Abdelrazik’s detention as a suspected terrorist was Kafkaesque. Michael Ignatieff’s failure to help him is shameful (The Guardian)
Jailed ex-pats told feds may not be able to help
Step-by-step guide for arrested travellers published online
The federal government said Tuesday any Canadian facing the death penalty in a foreign land should not rely solely on Ottawa for help.
A step-by-step guide for Canadians in trouble abroad was placed on a Foreign Affairs website Tuesday. It said Ottawa would intervene to seek clemency only if asked in writing to do so — and stressed it could not guarantee a successful outcome. The posting also warns that even if a foreign government agrees to grant clemency, the verdict may stick, and an alternative sentence, such as imprisonment, may be imposed.
9 July
(RCI) The case of a detained Canadian-Iranian journalist in Iran was discussed Thursday between Canada’s foreign affairs minister, Lawrence Cannon, and Iran’s top diplomat in Canada, Bahram Ghasemi. Mr. Cannon demanded the release of journalist Maziar Bahari and he also warned Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to Iran. Mr. Bahari, a journalist with the U.S. magazine Newsweek, was arrested last month during post-election protests in Teheran and has not been officially formally charged by Iranian officials. However, he has been accused of having acted against national security. Canada’s foreign affairs department notes that Iran does not recognize the Canadian citizenship of Iranians who hold dual nationality, which limits Canada’s ability to intervene in such cases.
9 July
Maziar Bahari Canadian scapegoat in Iran
(Globe & Mail editorial) His situation is serious. Iranian authorities do not appear to have formally charged him, but they allege that he has colluded with foreign powers to foment an uprising. … Canada has had no ambassador in Iran since 2007, so whatever diplomatic voice it has is easily ignored. Because Mr. Bahari is an Iranian citizen, Iran considers him one of its own; it does not even have to grant consular access, and it hasn’t. Mr. Harper should let Iran know the seriousness with which Canada views Mr. Bahari’s plight. See our comments below. Much as we agree with the G&M, we have little hope that the Harper government will do – let alone achieve – anything.
5 July
In light of the disturbing analysis of what rights Canadian citizens do not have, we wonder what steps the Canadian government will take  – if any – to protest the arrest and proposed trial of Maziar Bahari who holds a Canadian [he moved to Canada in 1988 to study film and political science and graduated with a degree in Communications from Concordia University, before returning to Iran to work as a journalist. His first films were made in Canada and he has a home in Toronto.] and an Iranian passport. Obviously the latter is no help to him in his current circumstances [Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari and a number of reformist leaders in Iran are to face trial accused of “acting against national security,” their lawyer Saleh Nikbakht told AFP on Saturday.] and we are not convinced that his Canadian one will prove any better. We are not hearing anything from the Canadian government.

21 June
(Newsweek) Among the dozens of people arrested overnight in Tehran was NEWSWEEK reporter Maziar Bahari, who has covered Iran for the magazine for over a decade. Bahari was home asleep at 7 a.m. when several security officers showed up at his Tehran apartment. According to his mother, who lives with the 41-year-old reporter and documentary filmmaker, the men did not identify themselves. They seized Bahari’s laptop and several videotapes. Assuring her that he would be their guest, they then left with Bahari. He has not been heard from since.

2 July
David T. Jones: The Abousfian Abdelrazik Puzzle
(The MetropolitaIn) What was I missing?  What was it that I didn‘t understand?
The continuing saga of Abousfian Abdelrazik, marooned in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum for over a year, had a “Kafkaesque Catch 22” quality to it that sounds more like the opening scene of some comedy/suspense thriller than a “we’re telling you this with a straight face” diplomatic explanation.  Even with his return it leaves an outside observer head shaking.
For perspective, let’s suppose some hyphenated-U.S. male citizen was picked up by the gendarmes of a country with a generally unsavory reputation for pristine respect of the civil rights of any citizen—foreign or domestic (think Midnight Express).  Thus, we appreciate the reality that even if the arrested individual is in a semi-privileged category and thus given special treatment, e.g., being chained next to the latrine bucket rather than some distance away, circumstances are not world class.
As a consular officer, you are aware of his incarceration and visit him officially, attempting to obtain his release, or if that is not possible, to assure that he is not treated worse than the citizens of the country.  In the fullness of time, the individual is released; high tails it to the U.S. embassy; and demands “assistance”, that is, a “get me out of here” plea, claiming that he has been physically disrespected while jailed.
The process is straight-forward.  No personal or family funds available?  Extend a short-term, limited loan with interest to purchase a one-way return to U.S. ticket.  No passport?  Even easier;  issue a time-limited, destination-limited passport on the spot.  Individual is a psychiatric case?  Individual can be accompanied by a qualified attendant.  And if we really want him back (reverse rendition?), he can be shipped on official USG aircraft.
In short, if we want him home, we get him home.
28 June
Canadian government says no to repatriation of Omar Khadr
(Digital Journal) Lawyers representing the Harper government testified last week at Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal. At issue is Federal Court-ordered repatriation of Canadian Omar Khadr. Harper is fighting the order. Khadr is being held in Guantanamo Bay.
Held at the U.S. detention center Guantanamo Bay for six years without a trial, Khadr’s case has stirred controversy and passion on every side of the issue. The Canadian government was in court last week to fight a Federal Court order to bring Khadr back to Canada. The order was made on April 23rd order by Federal Court judge Justice James O’Reilly. Khadr has been held since he was 15 years old. The Canadian government, in it’s appeal of the decision, says that it has already “gone well beyond its duty” in helping Khadr.
17 June
Amir Attaran and Gar Pardy:  At the mercy of the government
Ottawa is not required to help out Canadians in trouble overseas. A law should be passed to protect us
(Globe & Mail) Canada’s legal system is said to respect peace, order and good government. Not always. Buried within the law books is an atavistic power unfamiliar to most Canadians, the Royal (or Crown) Prerogative, or the residue of power untouched by Parliament. Most Canadian governments have used the prerogative sensitively, so that it attracts little attention. But since 2006, the government is using it arbitrarily, even discriminatorily, to deny some Canadians the usual protections when travelling. The prerogative’s dark side appeared most recently in the Abousfian Abdelrazik case. The government argued in the Federal Court of Canada that it could lawfully refuse Mr. Abdelrazik, a Canadian who went to Sudan to visit his mother, a passport to return home to his children in Montreal.
Passports are a “matter of discretion falling within Crown prerogative,” and the government argued that it has no “legal obligation in international law to even provide consular protection.”
To translate: If you are in trouble overseas and go to a Canadian embassy, Canada’s government believes that it has the option, but not the obligation, to help. If the government is fond of you, like Brenda Martin, it may help with papers or a private jet home, but if it scorns you, like Mr. Abdelrazik, it may revoke your passport and exile you. The choice is the government’s alone.
No laws govern this relationship, the government says. As then-Mr. Justice Konrad von Finckenstein of the Federal Court wrote in an earlier case, “Canadians abroad would be surprised, if not shocked, to learn that the provision of consular services in an individual case is left to the complete and unreviewable discretion of the minister.” Except for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the minister’s exercise of the prerogative is absolute.
What this means is that Canadian citizenship is less than it appears.
Other governments long ago passed laws that bind their discretion and make it mandatory to help their citizens abroad. For example, the German Constitutional Court has written that the German state has “a constitutional duty to provide protection for German nationals and their interests in relation to foreign states.” In the United States, a similar obligation is included in statutes requiring the government to provide consular services.
But in Canada, Parliament has never passed such a law, and consular officers have long been instructed that consular services are discretionary. That posed no problem when the prerogative was exercised sparingly, but today a litany of unresolved cases – not just that of Mr. Abdelrazik, but of Omar Khadr, Amanda Lindhout, Beverly Giesbrecht, Ronald Smith and others – shows that the current government is taking arbitrary and capricious licence with the prerogative.
Currently, the only remedy these Canadians have is an expensive, slow appeal to the courts to assert their Charter rights. In Mr. Khadr’s case, Mr. Justice James O’Reilly of the Federal Court ordered the Prime Minister to request Mr. Khadr’s return from Guantanamo Bay. In Mr. Abdelrazik’s case, Mr. Justice Russel Zinn of the Federal Court ordered the government to issue an emergency passport and bring him home. The turn is revolutionary: Until a few weeks ago, Canadian courts had never overridden the Crown’s Prerogative.
Rather than proceed with a haphazard judicial erosion of the prerogative, Parliament should pass a Protection of Canadians Act with rules to guarantee consular services for all Canadians, irrespective of background or circumstance. The statute should require consular services to be non-discriminatory; should place a clear, positive duty on consular officers to assist Canadians in distress; should give Canadians denied consular services access to a lawyer and a highly expedited appeal to court; and should permit them in a closed courtroom to see all personal information, including intelligence reports or diplomatic démarches that the government now hides as secret.
If a Protection of Canadians Act were already law, many of the most recent spectacles would have been avoided. The government could not hide behind secret evidence to justify its neglect of Mr. Abdelrazik or Mr. Khadr – evidence that, when finally revealed, demonstrated that the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service was knowingly complicit in their detention and torture.
The government also could not play favourites, and when it negotiated with al-Qaeda to release elite Canadians such as Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, it also would have to negotiate with other hostage-takers to release ordinary Canadians such as Beverly Giesbrecht or Amanda Lindhout.
Perhaps it is not surprising for a government that attacks the Leader of the Opposition for having spent too much time outside Canada to be indifferent or hostile to the millions of Canadians who travel internationally for work or pleasure. But the freedom to travel is every Canadian’s right, and when Canadians abroad land in trouble for whatever reason, they should not be subject to the whims of the government of the day.
For Parliament to extend statutory protection to the millions of Canadians who venture internationally would be a major milestone, and it would mean that Canadians are finally protected as Americans or Germans already are. To do otherwise leaves Canadians not only to the vagaries of foreign governments, but to the sometimes tyrannical vagaries of the Canadian government as well.
Gar Pardy retired from the Canadian foreign service in 2003 and for more than a decade headed Canadian consular services. Amir Attaran is a Canada Research Chair and associate professor of law and medicine at the University of Ottawa.
30 March
Omar Khadr: A most peculiar young offender
He should be dealt with here in Canada, as a juvenile who was involved in terrorism
(Globe & Mail) The civilized world condemns the recruitment of child soldiers. Yet Canada sits quietly by as one of its citizens, Omar Khadr, is prosecuted by the United States for war crimes he allegedly committed at age 15 as a member of al-Qaeda. …
And what has Canada done to help Mr. Khadr? It sent intelligence officers to interrogate him without counsel, and passed summaries of the interrogations to the Americans. Some help. (The Supreme Court of Canada is hearing Mr. Khadr’s request next week for access to Canada’s files from those visits.) “The recruitment and use of child soldiers is one of the most flagrant violations of international norms,” says Mr. Singer. Why? Because children are not to be made a mere instrument of the state or terror group. Because children are manipulable. Because children cannot assess risk as adults can. To prosecute children as if they were fully responsible for war crimes is to legitimize their recruitment. As other Western countries have repatriated adult suspected terrorists — several, in Britain’s case — it seems strange that Canada would not bring a lone 21-year-old home to face fair processes that would take into account his age and background, and his long incarceration at Guantanamo. Omar Khadr, child soldier, has been dehumanized enough. Bring him home.

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