The lesson of the Arar inquiry: keep it under wraps

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It seems the lesson our government took to heart from the Arar inquiry is to work as hard as possible to keep similar cases out of sight.

It all started in the spring of 2003 when Mr. Abdelrazik flew to Sudan to visit his ill mother. He travelled on his Canadian passport and had no difficulty getting on flights leaving Canada, despite CSIS's long-standing interest in him. His wife and their children joined him for several months that summer. In an interview, she tells of flying back to Montreal, sick and with an infant son, only to be detained at Montreal's airport, interrogated for hours and denied access to a toilet or even allowed to sit down.

Mr. Abdelrazik is still in Sudan. While Canadian government officials tell him to his face that they are trying to get him home to his wife and children, they work behind the scenes to leave him stranded in Khartoum and to keep the situation quiet (until now).

Abdelrazik is a Canadian citizen. He's been arrested and imprisoned in Sudan twice but, in the end, he's been released because Sudan has nothing to charge him with. The Sudanese government has cleared him of any wrongdoing and all Canada has against him is claims by CSIS that he's a terrorist. Of course we don't know the basis for those claims beyond guilt by association because CSIS, true to form, has redacted anything that might be relevant in the documents that the Globe and Mail got hold of to form the basis of this story. As with the case of Maher Arar, it appears they want to keep him from returning to Canada precisely because they have no proof of wrongdoing sufficient to warrant charging him.

May we have another inquiry, please? Perhaps this time they can investigate just how many cases like this there are.

Hat-tip to jrootham at babble.

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12 Comments

Good Christ, we've become a noisome place. I wonder how many other people have been marooned by Canadian officials in this manner?

Koring's article is a keeper. I've always liked the human dimension in his writing. This story deserves maximum exposure.

My first question:

This is the third instance I know of for sure (but I'm sure there have been others) where CSIS agents have gone to foreign jails where Canadian citizens were being held and have interrogated those citizens, in an apparent attempt to gain intelligence from them (and likely in order to share it with other foreign powers) rather than to offer them any kind of aid at all. We know about CSIS adventures in Syria (Arar and perhaps others), at Guantanamo (Khadr), and now in Sudan -- Egypt is also likely.

With the Khadr case, CSIS may have shot themselves in the foot because they have given Khadr's lawyers room to argue before the SCC for access to documents now held by the Canadian government. That case is ongoing.

But all these cases should be before the SCC, or even the ICC. CSIS is committing or is complicit in international criminal behaviour, has been helped in covering its tracks by successive Canadian governments, and this is being done in our names. This has to stop.

My first question:

Good comment but what was the question?

Oh. Right. Ok. Sorry. I'm just so angry -- I got a little carried away.

How do we investigate CSIS? I mean, how do we start to describe the ways that they overstep the bounds of their own mandate and of law, national and international? How do we do that?

See the question marks?

That is an interesting question, to be sure.
It seems to me that various criminal charges are appropriate. They would never be filed, because governments would have to do it and governments will not. But for instance, while CSIS did not themselves unlawfully confine/ kidnap these people, they certainly conspired to have it done. Indeed, I'd say a strong argument could be made that they did this in the course of attempts to mold public opinion in Canada, specifically by causing fear in the Canadian public. So the irony there is that CSIS would be distinctly vulnerable under the shiny new terrorism laws, as written.

OK, but none of that is going to happen. Maybe people could go to some international court.

But at first glance what strikes me as the most practical route would be suing the bastards. Sue them for lost wages, physical and mental hardship, damage to reputation, libel, loss of the money paid for airfare he never got to use, negligence. On the libel one don't forget to allege that it was malicious--that multiplies the damages, and the only way they can get away from it is to show strong evidence that there was no malice, which they cannot do if they insist on redacting all the evidence. Sue CSIS institutionally and each and every one of them who touched the matter individually. Watch 'em squirm and claim they Vas Chust Followink Orders. Serve notice to the rest of the bastards that they could end up Chust Followink Orders all the way to a bunk under a bridge with a "spare change" can.

On the libel issue: Canadian libel laws are horrible, but it seems to me they're actually tailor made for swatting spy organizations who make allegations about you, because the burden of proof is basically on the defender. If CSIS refuses to show the evidence, they're guilty.

Oh, and of course if CSIS doesn't *have* any evidence, as is more than likely, they're still guilty.

From the article:
"The trove of documents makes clear that the "highest levels" of both the past Liberal and the current Conservative governments were kept fully informed of Mr. Abdelrazik's case and concurred in its handling. More recently, Mr. Abdelrazik's lawyers sent letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper demanding his intervention."

OK, so he should sue both Stephen Harper and Paul Martin too. Or at least relevant foreign ministers--Stockboy? And whoever was the Martin gov. minister?

whoever was the Martin gov. minister?

Bill Graham was in Foreign Affairs when this started and he was succeeded by Pierre Pettigrew who had the file until the Conservatives took over. Then Peter MacKay followed by Maxime Bernier.

Martin didn't become PM until Nov 2003, so isn't Chretien in here too?

Bill Graham -- we know how effective he was in coping with all the rogues and liars domestic and foreign during Arar's kidnapping.

Och, this disgusts me so.

More 'och' from the article:

Even though "Sudan then offered a private plane to get him to Canada but Ottawa imposed conditions and that flight was aborted", "Three months later, then-prime-minister Paul Martin was in Khartoum with a mostly empty 200-passenger Canadian Forces airbus. But Mr. Abdelrazik had been bundled off to prison again after suggesting he wanted to make his case to the prime minister."

Presumably if CSIS had anything on him, anything at all, they would have applied for a Security Certificate.


The Iacobucci Inquiry is investigating precisely the sort of activity of officials you describe in the three cases of Abdul Almalki and two others. All three were imprisoned in Syria and one in Egypt and it seems probable on the basis of information provided by CSIS. They were also interrogated asking questions that no doubt came from the CSIS.
Canada in effect uses a form of 'rendition lite' as I call it in which rather than flying people to be tortured in foreign prisons, Canada takes advantage of the fact that a suspect is in a certain country such as Syria or Sudan to have them arrested, interrogated, and often tortured.
The Iacobucci Inquiry has been held almost entirely in secret so much so that one intervenor gave up in disgust and left. Iacobucci is to report and no doubt send his huge bill to the govt. in September.

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