Canada complicit with torture? Really?

Following a judicial inquiry, the government of Stephen Harper apologized to Maher Arar in January of 2007, and paid him $10.5 million in compensation plus $1 million in legal fees to settle his civil lawsuit for its role in Arar’s rendition to a Syrian military prison where he was tortured in 2002/2003. While the Conservative government of the day could have been more aggressive in protecting a Canadian citizen, it was the shameful behaviour of our public servants at CSIS and the RCMP that left Mr. Arar traumatized, and cost Canadian taxpayers unnecessarily.

This infrequent mid-week post links with our March 20 “Human rights issues… Canada?”, and a February 7 Toronto Star Ottawa bureau’s Tonda MacCharles’ article, “Liberals back CSIS in torture lawsuit”.

Ahmad El Maati, Muayyed Nureddin, and Abdullah Almaiki were arrested upon arrival in Syria at about the same time Maher Arar was transferred there from the United States and all were tortured in the same prison. El Maati was later moved from Syria to Egypt where he was also tortured. A second Canadian judicial inquiry headed by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci confirmed El Maati, Nureddin, and Almaiki were tortured in Syria, and Canadian officials played a role. The three men in turn filed claims against our government.

The Liberals have picked up the Harper government’s legal fight against an apology and compensation, even though they voted in favour while in opposition. What’s more, the Liberals are going further than their predecessors to protect CSIS sources. According to the Star story, the legal team representing El Maati, Nureddin and Alaiki are “stunned” by the Trudeau government’s position.

We had written Ralph Goodale on this early in February (copy below). Considering Justin Trudeau’s recent New York trip, we sent off a note to him, too:

February 9, 2016

The Honourable Ralph Goodale,
Minister of Public Safety,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: Liberals back CSIS in torture lawsuit
Toronto Star, Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dear Minister Goodale:

To understate this, what a shame!

The last government was prepared to be unreasonable, unfair and obstinate in dealing with these three men. We would have expected that from it, but to have the government of which you are a part go even further is a disappointment. Guess this is at least one black mark on your record.

What was all this about accountability for national security agencies anyway?

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

March 23, 2016

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Prime Minister of Canada,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: Human rights in Canada

Dear Prime Minister:

Your remarks during your recent and successful New York trip included a reference to Canada as a leader in human rights.

The record says otherwise. Consider the attached postings, “Human rights issues….in Canada?” and “Canada complicit with torture? Really?”

You promised better than this.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen


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