Abdelrazik versus Harper

Abousfian Abdelrazik on the grounds of the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum, which has been his home for the past two years.

A lose-lose situation in which a man who is guilty of nothing but having a certain kind of name, skin color and religion has seen his life shattered

Gerald Caplan

Special to The Globe and Mail,

To the very end, the Harper government maintained a consistent attitude toward Abousfian Abdelrazik: mean-spirited, callous, destructive. Instead of announcing that they were willing at long last to allow this innocent Canadian citizen to return home from Sudan, instead of a hint of remorse for his ordeal, instead of explaining how our government intends to help him restore the life they stole from him six years ago, all he and we got was a begrudging eight words from the Minister of Justice. A Federal Court Judge, in a stinging rebuke to the Harper government, had ordered that Mr. Abdelrazik be returned home to Canada within 30 days. The Minister graciously announced that "the government will comply with the court order" and sat down again.

I first wrote about Mr. Abdelrazik's awful plight in this newspaper on March 13. I explained that a growing group of Canadians were outraged by his treatment and were determined to help him come home. Although the government declared it a crime to do so, many of us had donated money to buy him a plane ticket for the long flight from Khartoum to Montréal. Now he's coming home.

How do we account for the government's belated capitulation to the Constitution, commonsense and public opinion? Who made this happen?

First must be the astonishing courage and resilience of Mr. Abdelrazik himself. Imagine going to visit your family abroad one day and not returning for six terrible years. Imagine living in the lobby of the Canadian embassy in Khartoum for more than a year, barely tolerated by its staff, and being toyed with by his own government, repeatedly being promised his freedom and then having it stolen away at the last second. From hope to despair, depression, frustration, time after time after time. Dreaming of seeing his family in Montréal, then having the dream shattered every time. Yet the man seems never to have succumbed to hopelessness, and seems always to have acted with dignity.


Christinne Muschi

Wafa Sahnine, stepdaughter of exiled Canadian Abousfian Abdelrazik, holds a picture of her stepfather in her Montreal home on June 18, 2009, after hearing the news that he will be allowed to return to Canada.

Still, he returns home to what? No money, no work, a family he needs to get to know again, and post-traumatic stresses that are hardly imaginable. I hope he sues the government for millions, though nothing can ever repair the damage so gratuitously and deliberately caused him.

Second is the wonderful, mainly anonymous grassroots activist movement that has pushed his cause for so many months. These are the kind of people, often young, who get behind the hardest causes, these days often meaning the victimization of Arab- or Muslim-Canadians. They raised the money, they worked the media, they ratcheted up the pressure on politicians and all they got back was the satisfaction of fighting the good fight. Who says there are no Canadian heroes?

Third are the legal counterparts of the activists, a handful of lawyers who worked on the case for almost two years - all pro bono. The activists and lawyers worked hand in hand, reinforcing each other's determination and strategies. At a time when greed seems to be the driving motive for much of what happens in our society, these lawyers give us hope.

Fourth is Paul Dewar, an NDP Member of Parliament, and Paul Koring, a Globe and Mail reporter.

The Liberals were deeply compromised on the Abdelrazik file. He was first arrested by the Sudanese secret police at the request of the Canadian government when that government was headed by Jean Chrétien. He was imprisoned twice in Sudan for long periods and brutally tortured when Paul Martin was prime minister. So the Liberals ducked this issue until relatively recently. Luckily, Paul Dewar carried the ball, repeatedly embarrassing though not shaking an intransigent Harper government. At this low moment in our political life, Dewar reminds us what public affairs should be all about.

As for Paul Koring, he gave the story serious coverage long before most other media thought it remotely newsworthy. Just as the Liberals eventually jumped on the growing bandwagon, so did other media in the last several months. But Koring was first. Mr. Abdelrazik owes much to the two Pauls.


Instead of a hint of remorse for his ordeal, instead of explaining how our government intends to help him restore the life they stole from him six years ago, all he and we got was a begrudging eight words from the Minister of Justice. — Gerald Caplan

If the good guys are clear in this case, so are the bad ones. Nothing negative enough can be said of the roles of the Chrétien, Martin and Harper governments. Although the evidence against Abdelrazik was flimsy at best, the Liberal government shamefully determined that he would never be allowed to return to Canada.

Once Harper took over in 2006, and it was already obvious that there was no evidence at all against Abdelrazik, active sadism characterized our government's position. It was as if a decision was consciously made to make his life as intolerable as possible, to break his will, to destroy his humanity. Which is what they tried to do.

Why? For what conceivable reason? Until the American election, maybe to appease the fanatics in the Bush administration. But since? Why should our government continue to torment this man? There seems only one answer, however unpalatable: Because they could. They had not a shred of evidence against the man, but they believed they could operate with impunity. For that, Mr. Abdelrazik's life has been shattered. Yet he is guilty of nothing but having a certain kind of name, skin color and religion.

Gerald Caplan, a former NDP national campaign director, is author of The Betrayal of Africa.



Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre


6/24/2009 8:22:54 PM
We should not believe that "Mr. Abdelrazik is finally coming home" until he actually arrives in Canada and not immediately arrested or immediately deported or extradited.

Mr. Harper's repeated contempt for judges decisions begs the question as to why the opposition does not demand he resign or be replaced, without of course, that dreaded high risk summer election.



6/24/2009 8:34:31 PM
The Abdelrazik story is just ONE very public example of ONE Canadian who is denied his fundamental Charter rights for no other reason than Political Correctness.

In Canada, Political Correctness is also called Legal correctness, and its determined NOT by the charter, in fact contrary to the Charter, men are routinely stripped of all legal rights by judges who like Mr. Harper, have a contempt for the law that is "justified" by their own perverted corrupt twisted version of "political correctness".

Mr. Harper instead of worrying about "the home coming of Mr. Abdelrazik" should turn his attention to the horrible abuses , the flagrant abuses of Judicial power committed by the underbelly of the Ontario Superior court Judiciary and they are very close to Mr. Harper. Mr. Harper should go down to 161 Elgin Street and watch the very corrupt , the dishonourable Mr. Justice Allan Sheffield , Denis Power or ChUcKy Hackland in action routinely depriving litigants of all their rights, such as the right to a trial, the right to make a full answer and defense, the right of children to have a relationship with their father.

These particular judges make decisions that border on that of psychopaths and the very worst child abusers, in fact, "parental alienation" is well known as often being more harmful to children than child-hood se.xual abuse yet, these underbelly judges routinely, terminate children's relationships with their father with "draconian decisions" that like Mr. Harper, show contempt for the Rule of Law and the principles of fundamental justice.

While we have such corrupt examples of humanity destroying the Rule of Law, Canada is destroying its own reputation thanks to that very small underbelly of Canadian society who have "absolute power" and who are corrupted "absolutely'.

Our next Prime Minister needs to replace the Canadian Judicial Council with a real police for the judiciary and introduce psychological screening for Judges.