Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lawrence Cannon and the Abousfian Abdelrazik Case

"The highest duty of government is the protection of its citizens. Canada must ensure consequences when foreign governments torture or kill our people.” Stephen Harper, National Post, 2004

So what happened between 2004 and now? Is it not his government's duty to protect our citizens when they are held, tortured and killed in a foreign country?

Apparently not; as Abousfian Abdelrazik can attest to. Unless you're a white, influential Canadian, you can expect to be treated as a disposable citizen.

Lawrence Cannon's handling of foreign affairs has furthered destroyed Canada's international reputation as a fair and democratic nation. Just look at how he handled the case of Canadian citizen Suaad Hagi Mohamud.

On September 8, 2005; Michael Ignatieff spoke at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Institute for Leadership, where he was to talk about human rights and international politics, but instead chose to talk about Katrina, the storm that devastated New Orleans and the lives of so many.

He suggested that not only did the levees fail the residents, but so too did the government. And why was that? Because many of the victims were poor and black.

Katrina exposed something very ugly. First off, that poverty exists in the U.S on a very large scale, something they didn't really want the rest of the world to know; but also, that racism was still a huge problem. Mr. Ignatieff told the crowd of a story that had a profound affect on him at the time:

One of the cries that went up from the people trapped in the convention center in New Orleans was very significant and I’ll never forget seeing thewoman who said this: she said, “We are American citizens, we are American citizens, we are not refugees, we are not stateless objects of your charity, we are citizens of this republic, we have rights here and our rights have been denied.”

Ok, for that woman and for thousands of people who went through the experience of the last five or six days, the thing that was so shocking was thattheir citizenship counted so little.... But these ties of citizenship arelegitimate and accepted as binding only if citizenship confers equal rightsregardless of race and social class.

It would certainly appear that for some Canadians, their citizenship does count for very little in the eyes of Cannon and the rest of the Reformers.

The Horrifying case of Abousfian Abdelrazik

9/11 claimed many victims. Not just those in the Twin Towers or at the Pentagon, or the thousands of human beings killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Because it made us all victims of fear, and because of that fear we were willing, for awhile at least, to give up some of our civil liberties in the name of the "War on Terror". And we could also justify forfeiting the rights of individuals deemed to be enemies of the state, regardless of how little it took to earn that distinction.

That's what happened to Mr. Abdelrazik. As an activist and champion of Human rights, he had his name put on a list. And because of that list, in the spring of 2003, while visiting his sick mother in the Sudan; he was arrested. And apparently the arrest was made on behalf of the Chretien government, on behalf of the U.S. and our own CSIS.

While in custody he was severely beaten and eventually under extreme duress confessed to being a terrorist. Because of that false confession, on July 23, 2006; the United States Department of the Treasury designated him as a supporter of al-Qaeda and "for his high-level ties to and support for al-Qaeda," he was added to the UN Security Council terrorist no-fly blacklist by the U.S.

By the time the Reformers took power in 2006, the Sudanese government , which had actually cleared Abdelrazik of all charges, just wanted rid of him. Attempts to have him returned to Canada failed so they were looking at other options.

Paul Koring of the Globe wrote:
The Harper government was warned shortly after it came to office in 2006 that Sudan’s notorious military intelligence agency was ready to “disappear” Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen, unless Ottawa allowed him to go home, The Globe and Mail has learned. Sudan wanted to “deal with this case for once and for all: we judge as significant their verbal reference to a ‘permanent solution,’” Ottawa was bluntly told by Canadian diplomats in the Sudanese capital, according to documents now in possession of The Globe.

Instead of protesting the threat or warning Sudan – a regime notorious for its human rights abuses – that Ottawa would hold it responsible if harm came to a Canadian citizen held in one of its prisons, diplomats in Khartoum were ordered by a senior Canadian intelligence official to deliver a non-committal response “notwithstanding the expected displeasure of the Sudanese.”

Enter Lawrence Cannon:

Though even the United States removed his name from their list, this government had no intention of backing down. According to the Hamilton Spectator; "the Harper government spent more than $800,000 in legal fees fighting a losing battle to keep Canadian citizen Abousfian Abdelrazik from coming home." Why?

Chris Selley: "The Trial," by Lawrence Cannon
April 04, 2009,
Chris Selley

The lobby of the Canadian embassy in one of the world’s leading basketcase nations is an odd place for our government to house a man posing a serious threat to national security, wouldn’t you say? And yet, this is what Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon would have us believe he and his predecessor have been doing with Abousfian Abdelrazik for over a year.

Yesterday, the latest chapter in the Sudanese-Canadian’s mind-boggling six-year struggle to return home unfolded as many had ruefully predicted. Having booked and paid for a flight to Canada, thus fulfilling the conditions under which the government had promised, in writing, to issue an emergency passport, the apparently destitute Abdelrazik was instead told he needed somehow to get himself removed from the United Nations’ no-fly list before the papers would be issued.

Quite apart from the absurdity of the condition, Foreign Affairs itself had until recently been petitioning to have Abdelrazik’s name stricken from that list, citing all-clear verdicts from CSIS, the RCMP and Sudanese intelligence. Also, the blacklist doesn’t prevent anyone on it from returning home. Nevertheless, Mr. Cannon made it official yesterday: "I denied Mr. Abdelrazik an emergency passport on the basis of national security,” he said. No further explanation was forthcoming.

What the hell is going on here? The idea that Foreign Affairs is digging in its heels simply to avoid being seen to back down implies a lack of foresight ...

It wasn't until June 18, 2009, that the government announced that it would abide by the court's ruling. Nine days later Abdelrazik flew to Canada. In the fall of 2009 he sued the Canadian government for $24-million, and $3-million more for Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon's,“misfeasance in public office.”

Back to: The Lawrence Cannon Story: Intelligent Incompetence

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