If a passport, driver’s licence, OHIP card and citizenship certificate are not enough, Suaad Hagi Mohamud is ready to give fingerprints to prove who she is.
The Toronto woman jailed in Kenya after being told she no longer looks like her four-year-old passport photo says proving her identity is easy.
"When I applied for Canadian citizenship, they took my fingerprints," the Somali-born woman said yesterday by phone from Nairobi, where she is out on bail pending trial.
"They can match them."
She has already tried to prove her identity using all her other photo ID, plus credit and bank cards as well as a Humber River Regional Hospital user card.
Her ex-husband, 12-year-old son, dozens of neighbours and her local MP – former immigration minister Joe Volpe – have all vouched for her in Toronto.
But the Canadian government does not believe her.
Last week, Ottawa issued a single terse sentence: "Following an extensive investigation, officials at the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi have determined that the individual arrested by Kenyan authorities is not Ms. Suaad Mohamud Hagi."
For reasons stubbornly not explained, a doubt raised by a Kenyan airport official as the woman prepared to fly home after a visit has somehow escalated into Canada’s rejection of her identity.
Canadian officials have refused to answer questions central to the mystery: Is the real Suaad Mohamud missing? Who is the arrested woman? Why does Canada disbelieve her story? Why can’t fingerprints be taken?
In the sole departure from the official line, Canadian High Commission first secretary Liliane Khadour last night requested a meeting tomorrow, Mohamud phoned yesterday to report, though the purpose of the meeting was not explained.
The stranded woman was preparing to leave Kenya on May 17 after a two-week visit with her mother.
Airport officials stopped her, jailed her and after eight days released her when a friend posted $2,500 (U.S.) bail.
African-born travellers commonly offer airport officials money to avoid hassles, a practice that might explain her problems, Mohamud said in one of several phone interviews this week.
"I am Canadian and I refused."
But Nairobi police also stop people on the street to inspect identification papers, expecting a bribe, she said.
"Since I got out of jail, I have been stopped seven times and I have paid every time."
Frustration among Toronto Somali immigrants over the case is mounting, said Kawnayn Hussein, host of the popular Somali-language weekly radio show Midnimo (Unity) on AM530.
"I told my listeners, `This could happen to you.’"
Toronto friends recognize the phone voice from Nairobi as genuine and fear either jail in Kenya or deportation to Somalia, said Shukri Abdi, a neighbour who agreed to look after Mohamud’s son for two weeks and is still caring for him after nine weeks.
"I can bring together 50 people to identify her," Abdi said. "She is outgoing. She has a job (at an ATS courier warehouse). Everybody knows her."
Kenyan high commission officials in Ottawa did not return repeated calls over two days.