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Great idea for Parliament to take up.

This is an idea that the Toronto Star’s editorial board today put forth today to try and prevent the Canadian government from arbitrarily picking and choosing which Canadian citizen it wishes to help, by mandating they must help all Canadian citizens with equal vigor:

The Harper government has just a few weeks before Parliament resumes in mid-September to explain how a Canadian traveler could be treated so shabbily after seeking consular help. Absent a credible explanation, the Liberals and other opposition parties should use their majority in Parliament to force an inquiry. As well, they should press for legislation requiring Ottawa to go to bat for citizens who get into trouble abroad. At present, Ottawa isn’t bound to help. Ministers and bureaucrats can pick and choose…The Federal Court in several cases has sharply criticized Ottawa for neglecting citizens. This is not the Canadian way. If the government won’t assume its responsibility to stand up for every citizen, Parliament should take up the cause.

At present, only the courts can force Ottawa to change its mind. Making it the law to help everyone will preemptively prevent this government and future governments and those with current decision making power (cabinet ministers, bureaucrats and diplomats, who have the potential to be misguided, wrong in their judgment, or even malicious) from unilaterally deciding whether a Canadian citizen receives their aid or not.

It can’t come too soon, because we see in new media reports today (h/t Dawg), that there is another Canadian citizen who has been stranded in Kenya in very similar circumstances, but this time he’s been stuck there for 3 years, not 3 months. Ironically, this young man may finally get his case resolved because of the bad publicity the government and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon received over Suaad Hagi Mohamud’s ordeal:

…Abdihakim Mohammed, an autistic 25-year-old Somali-Canadian, was taken to Somalia five years ago by his mother because doctors thought being near extended family could help him. The network says when she tried to bring Mohammed back to Canada through Kenya three years ago, she was told the person with her was not her son because he didn’t look like his passport photo. The case remains unresolved despite offers from Mohammed’s mother to undergo DNA testing.

Our foreign affairs minister Lawrence “loose” Cannon (great nickname, courtesy of Impolitical) tells us his department is looking into it. It’s actually rather simple; take up the young man’s mothers offer to do DNA testing, and confirm one way or the other that Abdihakim is her son.

This isn’t brain surgery, Minister Cannon, nor that difficult to do.

7 comments to Great idea for Parliament to take up.

  • Al

    Junior,the sequence of events as I see it leading to the imprisonment of Mahmoud is as follows. A KLM official suspected Mahmouds passport as a fake alerted the Kenyan border official. As a result the passport was forwarded to the Canadian Embassy in Nairobi who in turn declared it a fake. The passport was then returned to the Kenyan court as evidence for trial. So as you can see the charges against her were completely due to the Canadian Consulate declaring the passport fake. There would be no charges of course had it been certified legitimate As this story has been very prominent in the media for months it certainly is the fault of the Government in power (the CONs)Maybe the Canadian consular officials should be investigated for collusion with corrupt Kenyan Officials?

    • junior

      Al: At best we can accuse the sitting government of disinterest (not uncommon of governements of any political stripe). As the Vancouver Sun reports below, it would seem that the actions were intiated first by the Kenyans – possibly / probably related to their ongoing harrassment of somalis. Secondly the actions are prolonged because a Canadian consular offical writes a letter declaring Mohamud to be an imposter – but curiously there are now allegations of racisim directed to Ms Khadour herself, however these can hardly be laid at the feet of the current government. Ms Khadour was likely hired and trained under previous governments – are they equally to blame for having hired her?

      http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Foreign+Affairs+defends+diplomat+Kenya+debacle/1910076/story.html

      ……”Sources say the ongoing probe, by the Foreign Affairs and Public Safety departments, will be wide-ranging and cover more than the controversial May 28 letter Ms. Khadour wrote that opened the door to Kenyan authorities to prosecute Ms. Mohamud, 31, before she was able to prove her identity with a DNA test.

      A Kenyan immigration official prevented Ms. Mohamud from boarding a flight back to Canada on May 21 because he didn’t think she resembled her passport photo. Ms. Mohamud has said that the bone of contention was the size of her lips.

      In her letter one week later, Ms. Khadour wrote to Kenyan immigration officials that Ms. Mohamud was essentially an impostor.

      “Please be advised that we have carried out conclusive investigations including an interview and have confirmed that the person brought to the Canadian High Commission on suspicion of being an impostor is not the rightful holder of the aforementioned passport,” the letter stated.

      Ms. Mohamud spent eight days in jail before being released on bail, as authorities rejected multiple pieces of identification. It took a DNA test to prove her identity before Ms. Mohamud was allowed to return to Canada last week.

      Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called for a full accounting from Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, who oversees the Canada Border Services Agency.

      Multiple government sources were unable to put a time frame on when that review might yield results. Meanwhile, the possibility of legal action from Ms. Mohamud’s lawyer looms large.

      Last week, the Muslim Canadian Congress demanded that Ms. Khadour be suspended. The group accused the diplomat of having a “racist mindset” and raised innuendo about her own supposed Middle Eastern background.

      Government officials said on Wednesday that news release, as well subsequent commentary in online articles, crossed the line.

      “It certainly seems to have been the beginning of a bit of a ripple effect, which I don’t think has been constructive,” one Foreign Affairs official said on Wednesday.

      “Talking about someone’s religious and ethnic background and origin and making broad statements is really unhelpful.”

      Ms. Khadour had checked into a downtown Ottawa hotel, and asked her Foreign Affairs employer to run defence against inquisitive reporters.

      “Ms. Khadour has actually asked that the media respect their privacy,” the Foreign Affairs official said.

      “Ms. Khadour and her family will not be making statements and respectfully decline any request for interviews.”

  • junior

    Mr Tribe: notwithstanding the appalling lack of interest shown by our consular officials in Kenya you have ignored another angle in this story. It appears that in the first instance (Mahmoud) it was Kenyan border officials who imprisoned Mohamud – apparently in keeping with a longstanding habit of harrassment of Somalis. (http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/cbc/090817/canada/canada_toronto_toronto_kenya_somalis_7)

    To blame all of this mess on Canada is a bit much. Do our bureaucrats go to bat for their citizens? No. But then as noted above, this marks no change under governments of any political stripe. You know the saying: the difference between Canadians and Americans is that Americans hate their Government, while in Canada the Goverment hates Canadians.

    cheers, Junior

  • S

    “This is not the Canadian way.” Yes, but it’s the Harper way. Same for shovelling money into Christian schools, refusing to request clemency for death penalty cases abroad, pulling supporting gay festivals, treating international neighbours like Mexico as enemies, refusing to support our crown corporations that are vital to nation-building, like the CBC and Atomic Energy. “The Canadian Way”, you know, tolerance, mutual respect, Peace, Order, Good Government has been absent for some time. I hope we all remember what it looks like so we can get it back soon.

  • Someone in our embassy in Kenya is playing far too irresponsibly trigger-happy with their “passport photos don’t match” paperwork.

    “Why now under the Conservatives do the old cases from Liberal days even become their fault somehow?”

    I’m not Scott, obviously, but a couple of points:

    1.) Plenty of people were saying these cases were wrong under the Liberals as well. Witness the Arar controversy, for starters. You even bring that one up. Perhaps you’ve forgotten but his case became controversial under the Libs, not the Cons.

    2.) It doesn’t matter who originated these practices. If the Conservatives continue them, and even go so far as to defend them in court (e.g. Abdelrazik), then they are assuming part of the responsibility.

    3.) To the extent that the Liberal Party isn’t being much of a defender for many of these Canadians either, well, Canadians can decide whether or not the Liberals deserve any of their votes either.

    The bureaucrats are breaking the law and neither government seems much interested in reeling them in.

  • Lorraine

    What policies were in place under the Liberals under which Mahar, Khadr, Amou xxx (spelling), Brenda Martin, and numerous others that became national issues were held?
    We never heard about these cases when the Liberals were in government . Why now under the Conservatives do the old cases from Liberal days even become their fault somehow?

    And, if the system was not working well then I would suggest it is a long term problem that, yes, requires fixing, but, no, not just the fault of one political party.
    The same beaurocrats running the same flawed programs in governments where change is as slow as mollasis no matter which party is in charge.

    Just keeping it real, Scott.

    • @Lorraine, whatever the Liberals did or didn’t do is no excuse for the Conservatives to act the same way – or in some instances worse. The argument from Conservative apologists like yourself whining about “the Liberals didn’t do anything either” became old and tired a year ago. The Conservatives are the government – it’s their responsibility to fix things.. or to take responsibility for acting abominably.

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