Second class citizens – Part 2

May 26th, 2009

Around this time last year most Canadians were relieved to learn that Ms Brenda Martin, a Canadian Citizen, had been brought back to Canada after having languished for more than two years in a Mexican Prison.

Ms Martin had been incarcerated in Guadalajara in 2006 and charged with receiving illicit funds from a massive investment scam involving her former boss. The ordeal was difficult for Ms Martin as Mexico’s prison accommodations leave a lot to be desired. This we gathered from Ms Martin’s regular heartfelt pleas for repatriation via Canadian media outlets.

Over time, public pressure mounted and in the spring of 2008, in response to parliamentary opposition members’ accusations of abandoning a Canadian abroad, our then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was quoted as follows:

“We have worked very hard [for her release] and we will continue because she is a very important Canadian to us.”

Resolution came in May 2008, when Ms Martin was finally found guilty by a Mexican judge and sentenced to a term of five years’ imprisonment. Within days, the Canadian government did what was necessary to have her returned to Canada under an international prison transfer treaty. She was then housed in a Canadian detention facility just long enough to complete the paperwork for her release into the community.

A rather sad story, but at least a happy ending.

Compare Ms Martin’s fate to the plight of Mr Abousfian Abdelrazik, who also happens to be a citizen of Canada. In 2003, while visiting his mother in Sudan, Mr Abdelrazik was picked up by local authorities and tossed into prison, where he remained for the better part of two grueling years. According to Canadian newspapers, it was actually the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that requested Mr Abdelrazik’s detention for his suspected involvement with terrorist elements. After what we can assume was some serious questioning by American, Canadian and local investigators, Mr Abdelrazik was released. This Canadian man was never charged with an offense, let alone convicted of anything. He has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Sudanese authorities and thereafter both the RCMP and CSIS declared that he is not a threat.

If you are thinking that was the end of Mr Abdelrazik’s troubles, you are wrong. There’s no happy ending to this saga… at least not yet.

Mr Abdelrazik is currently confined to the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum. You see, the Canadian government is blocking Mr Abdelrazik’s return to Canada by refusing to renew his expired Canadian passport, without which he cannot travel aboard a commercial airline. For good measure, it has been reported that Canada has refused to allow Sudan to transport him to Canada at their own expense on a Sudanese government aircraft. Meanwhile, Canadian diplomats traveling to Sudan have declared that they were unable to bring him back to Canada on their own private aircraft because his name appears on a UN “no-fly” list, despite the fact that this list only applies to commercial airlines. Thus Canada has effectively barred Mr Abdelrazik from exercising his constitutional right, as a Canadian citizen, to enter and remain in Canada.

Earlier this month, Mr Abdelrazik’s lawyers were in Federal Court arguing for an order that would force the Canadian government to facilitate their client’s return to Canada. Imagine having to do that on behalf of a Canadian.

Some Canadians are suggesting that Mr Abdelrazik’s case sets a dangerous precedent and that what has happened to him can happen to any Canadian. This is based on the reasoning that in its treatment of Mr Abdelrazik, our government has diminished the value of Canadian citizenship for us all and as a result we are all vulnerable.

I disagree that we are all equally at risk. As my first story implies, if your name happens to be Martin, Tremblay or Cohen for that matter, you can count on the Canadian government for assistance and protection. If the government does not act, you can be sure that the Canadian public will prod them into action.

That’s certainly not the case if your name is Abdelrazik or Arar and that is sad for them and shameful of us.

Please note: A ruling has since been made by the Federal Court of Canada. Please see this Canadian immigration news article for details.

Previous Blog : Second class citizens – Part 1
Next Blog : A Tale of Two Cities

One Response to “Second class citizens – Part 2”

  • On July 30th, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    I think you are right on. Racism still exists. I myself am a Chinese Canadian who grew up in Dartmouth, NS I don't think I was accepted completely by the people there. I do have friends still there, but your point is right on, I live in the US now and feel that the US despite its problems with race is more willing to tackle them head on compared to Canada.

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