Impostoring Good Government

Suaad Hagi Mohamud

If the struggle of Suaad Hagi Mohamud to prove her identity to sceptical Canadian consular officials had been an actual story, it should have ended with the positive results of her DNA test and her return to Canada. If our Conservative government had been at all willing to accept responsibility for their mistakes, and not attack those who make them look bad by having the temerity to defend themselves, it would have ended here. Sadly, this is not the case.

Despite all of the negative publicity the Conservative government received in stonewalling attempts by Canadian citizens like Abousfian Abdelrazik and Ms. Mohamud to return to their country of citizenship, these two individuals continue to be in the news for all the wrong reasons. In the case of Ms. Mohamud, she responded to her unnecessary three month ordeal with a lawsuit against the Conservative government and the government, in defending itself, has decided to impugn her motives for going to Kenya.

If you will recall, Ms. Mohamud visited Kenya for three weeks in May and attempted to board a return flight out of Nairobi Airport, only to be challenged by a Kenyan official, who questioned alleged small differences between Ms. Mohamud’s facial features, and those seen on her passport photograph. Where things got difficult is that the Kenyan authorites then confiscated the passport, passed it onto Canadian consular officials for verification. Canadian consular officials agreed with the Kenyan official’s initial statement, and essentially suggested that the Kenyan government should arrest Ms. Mohamud as an impostor. This despite the fact that she had an Ontario drivers license, an Ontario Health Card and a Canadian Citizenship Card, all bearing her photographs and all of of which no one has challenged.

Worse, officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs, including Minister Lawrence Cannon himself, stonewalled attempts by Ms. Mohamud’s son, various neighbours and her MP Joe Volpe, all of whom confirmed her identity and, just as in the case of Mr. Abdelrazik, brought forward arduous burdens of proof for Ms. Mohamed to pass, only to take them away, all while Ms. Mohamud faced the possibility of extradition to her country of birth, Somalia. It was only the willingness of a Kenyan court to stay proceedings in her case that this cruel extradition was avoided. Finally, thanks to a DNA test (to its credit, paid for by our government), Ms. Mohamud was able to definitely prove that she was who she said she was, and was finally allowed to return to Canada.

I have to say that I can understand why Ms. Mohamud would sue the Canadian government after all this. If I had been as badly served by my consular officials, and if the government ministers responsible for those officials just collectively shrugged their shoulders or put the onus on me to prove my innocence, I’d be hopping mad too. And while one could argue that perhaps Ms. Mohamud should have waited for a full government inquiry about the whole affair before making her move, it does seem clear that no such inquiry was in the offing — at least, not in the near future. Certainly there was no sign that one had to be cancelled when Suaad Mohamud decided to sue.

A lawsuit, by its nature, is an adversarial process, so it is no surprise that this government would seek to defend itself, saying that consular officials did things by the book. Unfortunately, the government’s tactics expose some basic indecencies. Government officials and ministers, whose job it is supposed to be to serve the truth as well as the general public, have been selective in their release of details about the case. In particular, the initial report of the Canadian Border Security Agency, which concluded that Ms. Mohamud was an impostor, has not been released to the public. Why would this be the case? If there was indeed merit to this report, why not release it for full public examination and criticism? Why instead release isolated details designed to paint Ms. Mohamud in as poor a light as possible? Possibly because they wanted to avoid a full examination and criticism of their first line of defense?

But the release of the government’s defense, taking the form of dribs and drabs of information surrounding alleged interviews that took place between Ms. Mohamud and consular officials for the media to lap up with a spoon has served its purpose in tarnishing Ms. Mohamud’s reputation, especially among those who are eager to defend the Harper government. During these interviews, the government alleges that Ms. Mohamud did not know what the initials TTC stood for, gave incorrect answers on the dates of her wedding and son’s birth.

No evidence has been offered as to the actual content of these interviews. Indeed, the consular official that makes these allegations has not been named in this case. And even if Ms. Mohamud stumbled on these answers, small-c conservative Kate Youngsam has no problem understanding why:

Frankly, the other alleged questions she failed to answer to the satisfaction of the consular official sound a bit flimsy to me. Son’s birthday, I personally can never seem to keep the years straight between the children and I don’t remember off the top of my head the dates of my previous marriages. It just never seemed important to remember what is not being celebrated.

You would think that if Suaad Hagi Mohamud was a criminal mastermind intent on tricking the Canadian government to let a single illegal alien into the country, she would have better prepped her accomplice for the various questions the consular officials would ask, especially if she knew that they were going to be asked. Remember, she was denied access to a plane by a Kenyan official. She wasn’t arrested for being an impostor until after Canadian consular officials interviewed her. What happened in the interim? Plenty of time for phone calls to be made and for a criminal mastermind to say “okay, here’s what you need to know: I was married on this date, and my son was born on this date.” Except that, clearly, this never happened.

And, as Kate notes, the person the consular official allegedly interviewed was knowledgeable about certain other details of Toronto.

In one interview with the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi, Mohamud indicated she was a student at Humber College and was studying fashion design. But in another interview, she denied it and said she was only thinking about going to school at Seneca College. The documents allege she lacked knowledge about Toronto, where she had lived for 10 years.

how would an impostor, who was attempting to sneak into the country just happen to know the names of two Canadian Toronto based colleges handy in their memory? No slur or smear meant to the colleges, but neither Humber or Seneca are high enough profile to be considered internationally renowned so that an African impostor could reel off their names without preamble.

Moreover, as Kate notes,

…the problem I with this alleged explanation is that the woman who provided supporting documentation, in addition to her passport to a consular official at the airport where she was being detained, just happens to be the same woman who showed up on numerous occasions at the High Commission office. No one to date alleges the same woman in detention didn’t show up at the High Commission’s office.

And while the unnamed consular official alleges she was 6-7 centimetres shorter in person than her driving licence photo. Six to Seven centimetres does not translate 6-7 into inches. My guess is that her driver’s license photo and height were taken when she was wearing a pair of 2 1/2 to 3 inch heels on. Although, if proof of Canadian citizenship now rests with the height on your driver’s license — I must tell my mother that her citizenship is now in jeopardy as my mother’s drivers license claims she is 5’2”, but she is a good three inches shorter than me and I stand 5’ and 3/4”.


And that’s the thing. Photographic evidence strongly suggests that the person who tried to board a plane to Canada in Nairobi was the same person who passed the DNA test proving that she was who she said she was. The accusation that Ms. Mohamud was an impostor comes from a series of interviews that occurred after this event. The defense in Mohamud’s lawsuit has yet to claim in its statement of defense that the person who showed up in Nairobi did not resemble her Ontario drivers’ license, her health card, or her citizenship card. Only the passport is questioned.

But one more thing about the government’s actions here bothers me, and leads me to view these accusations with considerable suspicion. Remember, they’re being made defensively against a lawsuit that Ms. Mohamud has brought against them, and the lawsuit was brought against them largely because the government was showing little indication of commissioning an inquiry into consular behaviour here — an inquiry that, conceivably, could have allowed these accusations to come forward, assuming they had merit. But the government didn’t do that. The government also had an opportunity, when Ms. Mohamud had returned to Canada, to arrest her and charge her for conspiring to deceive or defraud Immigration Canada. Last time I checked, that was a serious crime, but they didn’t do that either. Instead, they tried to duck their heads and avoid responsibility, hoping that this matter would just go away. It is only when Ms. Mohamud brought this suit against them, calling them to account, that these details came to light. Worse, consular officials encouraged Kenyan authorities to arrest Ms. Mohamud, to try and shift the focus of any attack on the credibility of consular officials by people incensed by the government’s behaviour here onto the government of Kenya.

So, is thisthe sort of approach to government you can expect from Stephen Harper and his cabinet: duck responsibility and, when it goes badly for you, cover your ass as much as possible? Never acknowledge your mistakes? Attack those who have been legitimately wronged my your incompetence, and generally perceive those you’re supposed to work for with disdain and derision?

Is it any wonder that the quality of Canada’s government has gotten markedly worse since these individuals came to power?

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