A Letter From A Friend In Toronto About The Arar Case.

At this point, whether the governments of Canada and the USA had valid reasons for what they did to Arar has become somewhat secondary.

A friend of mine in Toronto, who is often critical of my support for Conservative politics in the USA, and my defense of George W Bush’s Mid East policy, and the way George W deals with the UN sent me an e-mail wondering why I have not said anything about the seizure of notes and computer equipment of an Ottawa reporter, who broke a significant part of the story on the Maher Arar case.

For some quick background: Maher Arar is a Canadian Citizen who was born in Syria. Arar had a connecting flight through the USA On his way back to Canada from a family trip to Tunisia. Once on American soil, on September 26, 2002, he was taken by American authorities on suspicion of being a TERRORIST.

Since the Americans lacked evidence to hold him, he was deported on October 7, 2002; not to Canada, the country of his citizenship, but rather to the country of his birth, Syria.

Canada claimed ignorance. According to Canadian officials we only were informed of the deportation by the Americans only three days later, on October 10, 2003.

Once in Syria, Arar was held virtually incommunicado and tortured off and on for one year.

Canadian government officials, from then Prime Minister Jean Chretien on down, voiced their outrage that the Americans had the audacity to deport a Canadian citizen to a country other than Canada. Especially when the Americans knew how Arar would “probably” be treated once in Syria.

However outraged Chretien was though, he was not sufficiently upset to order an official inquiry. Why not?

This episode; one of just many antagonistic disputes between Canada and the USA became a huge issue. On the table, and in question, was Canada’s sovereignty. Will the USA respect Canada’s citizens and the Canadian passport? This is no small question.

What the Americans did to Canadian citizen Arar, violated every semblance of international integrity between our two countries. And whether or not I approved of how Chretien and his people treated the Americans and George W Bush no longer mattered in this circumstance. The USA violated Canadian sovereignty in a major way.

But; what if the Canadians actually knew what the Americans were doing vis a vis Arar before the incident, and in fact helped the Americans do it? Wouldn’t that be a different kettle of fish?

Juliet O’Neill of the Ottawa citizen broke a story that accused Canada’s federal police (RCMP) of aiding and abetting the US authorities in the apprehension and deportation of Arar from America to Syria. This is a huge story.

If true, Canadians must do two things. First: we have to apologize to the Americans. Second: we have to find out why our government lied to us.

Also; if true, Arar, a Canadian citizen has the right to sue both the American and Canadian governments jointly and severally for their combined complicity in taking away his civil rights, and for subjecting him to cruel and inhuman treatment.

At this point, whether the governments of Canada and the USA had valid reasons for what they did to Arar has become somewhat secondary.

On January 21, 2004, Juliet O’Neill, the Ottawa Citizen reporter had her home and office searched by the RCMP, who took with them her notes, computer and computer disks.

Her crime? It seems that Juliet O’Neill had information from an insider, most probably with the RCMP who blew the whistle. And she’s not about to give him or her up.

In addition to the original travesty of aiding and abetting the Americans in the original treatment of Arar, our government, in attacking a journalist has so far crossed the line, that what happened to Arar is now only secondary.

The ONLY DEFENSE a democratic nation has in the maintenance of its democracy and inherent freedoms; is in the FREEDOM OF THE PRESS! If our journalists are to be intimidated by our government, and their sources not protected, then our system is a lie and we have no democracy.

I didn’t like Jean Chretien. Not one bit. Chretien was not good for Canada. And seeing him go was a step forward and a breath of fresh air. But, if Paul Martin allows this police action travesty against FREEDOM OF THE PRESS to go unchallenged and unpunished, he is no better than his predecessor.

And so far, all I’m hearing from Prime Minister Paul Martin is silence.

Almost as disturbing to me as is the Arar and Juliet O’Neill episode, is the Canadian Liberal Party’s new information questionnaire.

As it stands today, if anyone wishes to campaign for the Liberal Party of Canada for a seat in the House of Commons, he or she must fill out one of the most draconian invasions of personal information one can imagine.

When I first read about the questionnaire in the National Post, I thought it was a joke. I couldn’t for the life of me believe this aberration of privacy was true. But it is!

EVERYONE has a skeleton, two or more kicking around in their closet. And I do mean EVERYONE. If the Liberal Party follows through with this disgrace, many people who can best serve Canada will not run. I wouldn’t. Why would I want to bare my soul to some Liberal Schmuck for a chance to be abused on the hustings?

The very mind-set of people who could come up with a questionnaire of this nature, is one that I would never vote for. To me, this screams volumes about the Liberals.

When Martin first became Prime Minister only a month or so ago, I held some hope that he would really be different. I’m afraid I was wrong. He hasn’t stepped in on the question of Arar. He hasn’t stepped in on the question of the search and seizure of the journalistic property of Juliet O’Neill. And he hasn’t said boo about the horrific Liberal Party questionnaire.

What Paul Martin did do however, was invite Kofi Annan to address Canada’s Parliament in our Spring session. Paul Martin wants to show the world how much we Canadians support the UN.

He could have invited George W Bush, and really helped mend fences between our two countries, but instead, he invited the Secretary of the UN who has proven to be a useless leader who is to a great extent responsible for the deaths of 800,000 Tutsis, the degradation of the Balkans until the USA stepped in, and the constant unfair international beating that is inflicted upon Israel.

Martin has also declared that he wants closer ties with Europe and Asia, which to him are almost as important as our relationship with the USA. Someone should tell Martin that the USA purchases just about EVERYTHING we in Canada produce and export, while the Europeans and Asians purchase just about nothing.

So, the question posed to me by my friend in Toronto was only one question of many that should have been asked.

After seeing how closed our way of governance is in Canada, it is remarkably refreshing to watch the Democratic Primaries in the USA where everything’s on the table and open to debate. It’s a shame that we can’t meld the best of our two worlds together.

1 Comment

  • Howard, you made the right decision and there is nothing wrong with being selfish. We have one life to live and that’s what you and Anne should continue doing in good health. Enjoy the summer !
    Judith

    Judith Rosenthal, Montreal

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