Mr. Glen Pearson recently posted the following on his blog. A poignant look at the demise of Canadian citizen Suaad Hagi Mohamud.
Something’s Not Right
August 26, 2009
OTTAWA – Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee were called to Ottawa today to discuss the issue of Canadians being trapped abroad and having difficulties getting home. There’s a sense where this is surely politically driven: with no Parliament in session, opposition parties have no real opportunity to confront the government on some of the pertinent issues of the day.
And the subject of Canadian citizens trapped overseas is clearly becoming pertinent, and increasingly so. The political calculations were well known before any of the members entered the committee room. Opposition members were there to put pressure on the government to do something about what is clearly an emerging problem; the government members worked as a collective, attempting to deflect any criticism that might come their way from recent developments.
In the midst of it all walked in a quiet, demure woman, whose presence immediately sent an electric current through the committee members and especially the media. This was Ms. Suaad Mohamud, the Canadian citizen who had been trapped, and for a time imprisoned, in Narobi, Kenya under the claim that she was an imposter. Her lawyer sat with her in the appropriate spot and when the right moment came she quietly addressed the committee.
Her story was a horror tale that resulted in her being denied access to the resources of her own Canadian government while at the same time being kept from her ten year old son living in Toronto. She had gone to see family in Africa but upon her attempt to return her identity was questioned, despite the fact she produced countless pieces of evidence to prove she was who she said she was.
In truth, it was an emotional presentation, though quietly presented. I looked around at the other committee members. For a time the play acting was gone. Every eye was on her. The Conservative members, who had clearly come prepared to fight back, listened soberly. How could they not? This was one of our own citizens denied almost every right in the book and who had called on her government to intervene in her deep despair, only to have key members of cabinet question her credibility.
Of course the Conservative members were subdued, for it was a human tragedy and it had happened under their watch. I wanted to speak up but bit my tongue, not wanting to appear to playing politics with something so painful.
Clearly, something is not right. The rights of Canadians traveling overseas are a sacred trust, insured by pretty well every Conservative or Liberal government in past decades. Until now, when suddenly a rash of incidents have revealed that being a Canadian citizen might not get you the protections you had hoped for anymore.
Key people investigating the incident have determined that Ms. Mohamud did absolutely nothing wrong. It was, in fact, her government that had failed her … miserably.
There is an investigation under way, yet it is happening specifically because she was innocent. Guilt on her part is not an issue here, but even with that the Government cannot bring itself to apologize.
All three opposition parties offered heartfelt apologies. And some of the Government members expressed sorrow at what had happened to her. But clearly they had been given direction to not apologize for the incident. You could see the struggle in their own eyes and I could tell easily that a couple of them wanted to offer their apologies. But they didn’t and that is just a symbol of much that is wrong at the moment.
A lone woman, a citizen of Canada, telling her story as only she could. It was drama in every sense of the word. In the end, however, the drama was eclipsed by the sobering reality that this could happen to any of us, or our children.
There have been too many such incidents of late and people are having trouble believing us when we say we will protect their rights overseas. Something’s not right and the system needs to be fixed.
I just don’t know how we can take the next step when a government cannot bring itself to admit its own series of blunders.
Ms. Mohamud needs and deserves an apology. We in Parliament need to ask for forgiveness.
If she had been a white male Christian there would be no need for this blog entry. I hope she wins her lawsuit.