After Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon backed out on several promises to return the Canadian citizen Abousfian Abdelrazik to Canada, citing national security concerns without any offer of proof, representatives of the Canadian government are calling upon Mr. Abdelrazik to admit that he is “a senior al-Qaeda operative”.
I cannot understand the government’s actions in this case. It has every appearance of a petulant set of ministers stamping their feet and making excuses for not doing the right thing. Don’t they realize how bad this makes them look? Don’t they care? This and this alone is enough for me to want an election so we can throw these bastards out.
Let us count the way this recent move reflects badly on Lawrence Cannon and the government he represents. First of all, the recent accusations that Mr. Abdelrazik has links to Al Queda comes sixteen months after the RCMP and CSIS, in writing, formally announced that there was no reason to believe that Mr. Abdelrazik was a terrorist or otherwise a threat to national security. So, Mr. Cannon is impugning the investigative abilities of this country’s premier security forces. If, as Mr. Cannon suggests, the RCMP and CSIS are wrong to say that Mr. Abdelrazik is not a national security risk — essentially missing this terrorist that we’ve had in our midst — why should we believe that the RCMP and CSIS have any ability to protect us from other terrorist threats? Hasn’t our national security been shown to have been compromised now that we have to defer to the supposed intelligence of American security forces? Shouldn’t we then be having a royal commission on the integrity of our security forces and the value that we as taxpayers are gaining from them?
Secondly, it appears that the basis of this accusation against Mr. Abdelrazik comes from information extracted by American security agents from Abu Zubaydah, an al-Qaeda leader who was waterboarded over eighty times, whose testimony the FBI say is entirely tainted. Waterboarding is torture, plain and simple, and the information extracted from torture cannot be trusted. Only weeks ago, Public Safety minister Peter van Loan was quoted as saying that his government does “not condone the use of torture in any circumstances… …If there’s any indication, any evidence that torture may have been used, that information is discounted.”
So, why has this government now turned around and relied on an accusation acquired through torture to raise national security concerns that the RCMP and CSIS both say is not there?
And, finally, why raise the issue now, of all times? How long has this accusation been known by this government? Why then has the government spent the last two years promising Mr. Abdelrazik the papers he needs to fly home, if only he’d fulfill certain conditions that they’ve consistently reneged on? Why lead him on with false hopes if they had this information and, presumably from the actions now taken, never intended to let him come home in the first place? Indeed, why is Mr. Abdelrazik being allowed to stay in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum if he is such a security risk?
It’s important to point out that, since being released from a Sudanese prison, Mr. Abdelrazik has spent his time under constant surveillance by the Canadian embassy. The RCMP and CSIS say he has no terrorist connections. The Sudanese government, who may have tortured him, believe they have no reason to hold him (and have even offered to fly him home on one of their planes — an offer that our government vetoed). If Mr. Abdelrazik wasn’t a terrorist before he returned to his native Sudan to visit his ailing mother, he certainly hasn’t had an opportunity to become one.
The government’s story just does not hold up, and it looks more and more like Lawrence Cannon and his ilk are holding firm and making excuse after excuse out of spite. But even if there was some merit to this government’s accusation, leaving this Canadian citizen in exile in the Sudan is not an example of our government following the rule of law. If the government honestly believes that Mr. Abdelrazik is a member of a terrorist organization sworn to destroy western civilization, then it is our obligation as a nation to bring him home and put him on trial. The rule of law and due process is, after all, one of those key items that separates us from and makes us better than the terrorists. Or, at least, it’s supposed to be.
There are few judgements too harsh for what the Conservative government has done here. It is either incompetent with our national security, or it is mean-spirited enough to deny a Canadian citizen abroad the right to return home to his wife and children. It has either sought to duck due process and this country’s responsibility to prosecute accused Canadian terrorists in a Canadian court, or it has put an innocent Canadian citizen through one of the worst hells imaginable. Either way, it has failed us miserably. It has failed to uphold the law, it has failed to deal competently with the affairs of government, and it has failed to stand up and defend the rights of a Canadian citizen.
Such a government can only be deemed markedly worse than any other government which has preceded it, regardless of any scandal you’d like to wave in my face. The time has come to punish this prime minister at the polls, and to send the Conservative Party back to the political wilderness where it currently belongs.
Update: 2:51 p.m.
The Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente, who often writes columns I strongly disagree with, pens a remarkable column on the folly of intelligence extracted through torture. It is, in my opinion, well written and well reasoned. That our government would rely on information extracted through torture to work against the rights of a Canadian citizen stranded abroad, is nothing short of shameful. If this is the sum total of the intelligence they have on Mr. Abdelrazik, this government is condoning torture, at great cost to its moral authority to govern.