Still No Passport for Abousfian Abdelrazik, Despite the Government’s Promises
Having successfully protected Canadians from George Galloway, the Harper government has decided to give Abousfian Abdelrazik another kick in the teeth as a kind of encore. Abdelrazik is the Canadian citizen who has been stranded in Sudan since 2003, when he arrived there to visit his sick mother and found himself arrested on suspicion of having links to al-Qaeda. The Sudanese released him in 2004, but various legal impediments have prevented him from returning to Canada. For one thing, he is on international “no-fly lists” of suspected terrorists. For another, Canadian officials have reached Kafkaesque heights of unhelpfulness.
When I first blogged about Abdelrazik’s case, Etihad Airlines was offering to transport him to Canada, but the government wouldn’t issue emergency travel papers. By February the government was insisting that he could have the papers, but only if he first presented a fully paid airline ticket – and anyone who helped him buy one, of course, might find themselves in trouble for helping a suspected terrorist.
However, many people were courageous and generous enough to defy this threat, and by the middle of March enough money had been raised to buy Abdelrazik a ticket to Canada on a flight leaving Sudan on April 3. The government had plenty of time to fulfill its promise of an emergency passport – and in the end, of course, chose not to. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon simply said that Abdelrazik had been denied a passport “on the basis of national security”, and announced that the decision would stand as long as Abdelrazik remained on the UN’s no-fly list.
This takes Cannon onto pretty thin ice, since a UN resolution apparently states that the list is not supposed to prevent individuals from returning to their own countries. More importantly, Her Majesty’s Government should not make promises to individuals and then snatch them away without the slightest attempt at an explanation. I would have thought that fidelity to one’s sworn word would be one of those old-fashioned virtues that only Tories (if you believe their propaganda) are supposed to possess. But this particular Tory government seems to feel justified in moving the goalposts whenever Abdelrazik’s supporters get close to the net.
Meanwhile, NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar has been making widely reported accusations that only racism is keeping a passport out of Abdelrazik’s hands. This is a remarkably ineffectual line of attack, if only because the Harper government’s paranoid reaction to the slightest whiff of terrorism or radical Islam is a far more plausible explanation for their shameful behaviour.
Lawrence Martin, in the Globe, recently considered an interesting question: why aren’t the NDP getting more traction, now that the capitalist excesses they’ve always condemned have become the target of so much outrage? Martin blames a lack of media support, and there’s probably some truth to this. However, Dewar’s comments illustrate a second problem – that the NDP often seem more interested in hurling dubious accusations of various kinds of discrimination than in engaging constructively with Canada’s real problems.