It has all the twists and turns, promises and betrayals of a Hollywood blockbuster, but the case of Abousfian Abdelrazik is real.
Mr. Abdelrazik is a naturalized Canadian citizen. On a trip to visit his mother in 2003, Mr. Abdelrazik was detained in the Sudan as a person “of interest” to Canadian authorities. As a consequence, Mr. Abdelrazik spent many months in prison, was reportedly tortured, and in the end was simply released.
Both CSIS and the RCMP have since cleared Mr. Abdelrazik of any wrongdoing.
But now, Mr. Abdelrazik is on the UN Consolidated List. Commercial airlines cannot carry him. His passport has expired and our government refuses to issue him another. After six years of exile, Mr. Abdelrazik still cannot return home to his young family, and has taken refuge in the lobby of the Canadian embassy in Khartoum where he is reported to sleep on a cot in the lobby, surviving on a small subsistence provided by Canada.
He cannot earn a living because, being a “listed entity,” no-one can provide support to him beyond mere subsistence without risk of being listed themselves. And, again, all due merely to being a “person of interest” to the wrong officials.
No problem! you might say — he is a Canadian citizen, after all; the Canadian government, which doesn’t dispute his citizenship, can simply bring him home! There are Canadian military and government aircraft and ships passing by, from Afghanistan, Somalia, and elsewhere, so even if a commercial carrier can’t take him, we could still arrange transport.
But even while Mr. Abdelrazik remains a listed entity, the UN process provides mechanisms to allow countries to repatriate their citizens, to allow them commercial carriage to do so, and in doing so, to transit the territory of other nations. And, since Mr. Abdelrazik’s citizenship is not in question, he can still cross our border even without a passport — he has a constitutional right, after all, as a citizen, to be not denied entry.
But the present government steadfastly obstructs this, even declining an offer by the Sudanese government to fly him home. Then, they said they’d issue him a temporary passport but he has to have a fully-paid airline ticket. (How many of the millions of Canadians to whom have been issued passports had to have an airline ticket in-hand before they could get a passport?) But Mr. Abdelrazik had no money for a ticket, and no means to earn money, and since Mr. Abdelrazik is a “listed entity,” anyone giving him money (or a job) could very well find themselves in turn being listed as well for giving aid and support to a listed entity.
And when, despite this personal risk, a number of prominent Canadians stepped-up anyway and provided the money, this same government then refused a passport on unspecified “national security” grounds.
Remember that RCMP and CSIS have both cleared Mr. Abdelrazik. He has been neither convicted of nor even charged with any offence, whether in Canada or in the Sudan, nor have we heard any allegation against him except the mysterious and unsupported “national security” catch-all from our own government.
And, of course, all of this is entirely irrelevant to whether Mr. Abdelrazik should be allowed to come home in any case; there is no dispute whatever that Mr. Abdelrazik is a citizen, and, as such, he has a constitutional right to not be denied entry, even on such grounds as these — even if they existed.
All told, this shabby treatment of Mr. Abdelrazik is an embarrassment, an insult, and an outrage. It is also a warning. We should all be deeply aware, as citizens also not guilty of nor charged of any crime, nor having ourselves any link to terrorism, that this could just as easily be any of us. It requires only ‘suspicion’, at best, and at worst, innuendo or gossip, or to have offended or ‘interested’ the wrong official, or to have some fleeting suspected connection to people who are suspected of possibly knowing the wrong people, to put any of us on this list, and thus to be denied the ability to travel, to be stripped of the ability to earn a living, to pay the rent, or to put food on the table, and to be denied our constitutional right to enter our own country — to come home.
But that’s not very likely, you might say — but that’s exactly Mr. Abdelrazik’s situation. And then, in classic Catch-22 style, just being on the list becomes justification in itself to keep you there.
Must we now avoid foreign travel in fear of abandonment and neglect by our own government? We clearly cannot count on this government to respect our most basic constitutional rights. If this government will obstruct the return of any citizen on any such pretext, we are all vulnerable; we are all at risk. Think about that the next time you get on a plane.
I call upon the Government of Canada, if they would have any claim to any care or concern for our most basic rights:
- to immediately issue whatever travel documents Mr. Abdelrazik may require,
- to proactively ensure that Mr. Abdelrazik is removed from the UN Consolidated list (and all other no-fly lists, particularly the Canadian and US no-fly lists),
- to issue an unqualified apology and compensation to Mr. Abdelrazik for this sorry treatment,
- to intercede to prevent any further erosion or abrogation of Mr Abdelrazik’s rights and freedoms as a Canadian citizen, and in any case,
- without any further delay or obstruction, to safely repatriate Mr. Abdelrazik by any means and expense.
Mr. Abdelrazik deserves no less. We deserve no less.