From the Toronto Star
Aug 26, 2009 03:22 PM
OTTAWA – Opposition parties are proposing legislation that will force the government to provide better protection for Canadians in trouble abroad following the case of Suaad Hagi Mohamud.
Ahead of a parliamentary hearing this afternoon, NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said he is drafting a bill that would hold the government and responsible cabinet ministers to account when citizens find themselves in difficulties in a foreign land.
The proposed bill would also force consular officials at Canadian embassies and high commissions to report allegations of torture and mistreatment to the foreign affairs minister and create an ombudsman to ensure the new law is upheld.
The government’s treatment of Canadians abroad has fuelled much of the political debate this summer with a number of high-profile cases, the most recent of which is that of Mohamud.
The 31-year-old Somali-Canadian was stranded in Nairobi, Kenya, for three months after she was branded an imposter for not resembling the person pictured in her Canadian passport. Consular officials in the country seized her passport and handed it to Kenyan authorities for criminal prosecution.
It finally took a DNA test that matched to her 12-year-old son to prove her identity and complete her return trip to Toronto. Earlier this month, Mohamud and her family launched a $2.5-million against the federal government for defamation, negligence and violations of her Charter rights.
"Suaad Hagi Mohamud brings this action against the government defendants flowing from their callous and reckless treatment of her while she was abroad," says a legal notice of the suit.
The government has also faced criticism for its handling in the cases of Abousfian Abdelrazik and Omar Khadr.
Abdelrazik spent six years in Sudan as a suspected member of al-Qaeda. Despite being cleared of any wrongdoing the government prevented his return to Montreal by denying him a passport until he could clear his name off a UN no-fly list for terrorists. The Federal Court of Canada ultimately ordered the government to bring him home.
The court has also ordered Ottawa to bring Khadr home from the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. The former al-Qaeda child recruit has been held by the Americans since the age of 15 after a firefight that killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan. This week the government said it would appeal repeated court orders to repatriate Khadr and ask the Supreme Court of Canada for a final judgement.
Mohamud, along with senior Foreign Affairs officials and the head of the Canada Border Services Agency are set to appear before a committee of MPs to speak about her case Wednesday.