Former fugitive Douglas Gary Freeman back in Canada after years of legal
After years of legal turmoil, Douglas Gary Freeman
is finally back in the arms of his family in Mississauga.
Douglas Gary Freeman is moved to tears after being reunited with his family
as he arrives at Pearson International Airport on Wednesday night.
After years of legal turmoil, Douglas Gary Freeman is finally back in the
arms of his family in Mississauga.
Freeman returned home from the United States Wednesday night, more than a
year after a judge ruled he was wrongly labeled a terrorist and unfairly
linked to the now-defunct Black Panther Party.
His homecoming marks another chapter in a 45-year saga that began when he
was a teenager. Now a grandfather, his ordeal includes living decades as a
fugitive, almost four years behind bars in Toronto’s Don Jail as he fought
extradition to the U.S., and nearly seven years of fighting to return to
The former Toronto librarian’s assistant arrived at Pearson International
Airport, hours after he received word that he was granted a temporary
resident permit after several unsuccessful attempts.
"Daddy!" shouted one of his daughters when she spotted her dad walking out
Freeman, 65, embraced his adult children as they ran toward him and held
them in a tight, quiet hug. He kissed his wife, pulled at his son's beard
and stroked his daughter's face.
"This is perhaps the most surreal moment in my life," he told a Star
reporter, tears brimming in his eyes, overcome with emotion.
He took deep breaths and then joked about pulling on an extra coat. "I'm in
The family each grabbed a suitcase and prepared to walk off, but Freeman
stopped and turned to his wife, Natercia Coelho.
Looking deeply into her eyes, he said, "This is so surreal. I keep waiting
for someone to pinch me."
She pinched his cheeks.
“I’ve never won a lottery,” said Coelho. “This must be what it’s like. This
is our lottery.”
“I don’t know how to express how I’m feeling right now,” Freeman said in a
telephone interview from Washington, D.C., earlier Wednesday, hours after he
got the news that he would be allowed back into Canada.
Wednesday evening marked the first time Freeman spent in Canada with his
family — three daughters and a son — since 2008, when he flew to Chicago to
face charges that he wounded an officer in 1968 in what he called an act of
Freeman had been living
with his elderly mother in Washington
, while attempting to be allowed
back into Canada.
“It has been a long time,” Freeman said. “I’ve been waiting for this for a
very, very long time. Language is good but it does have its limitations. It
fails me right now.”
He said he was stunned to receive a one-page letter on Wednesday morning
from the Consulate General of Canada which begins: “A temporary resident
permit has been approved. You may now travel to Canada.”
In October 2013, Federal Court
Justice Anne Mactavish ruled
that Ottawa unfairly labeled Freeman a
terrorist and a former member of the now-defunct Black Panther Party.
The judge’s ruling came after federal officials argued that they had
top-secret evidence that tied him to the Black Panthers.
Freeman had not been allowed to review that evidence himself.
“I have determined that Mr. Freeman was unfairly treated in this process in
several respects,” Mactavish wrote, dismissing claims he was a security
“No meaningful reasons were provided to explain the rationale for finding
Mr. Freeman to be inadmissible to Canada on security grounds,” she wrote.
For several years,
Freeman unsuccessfully applied
for a temporary permit so that he could
celebrate Christmas with his family here.
Freeman’s lawyer Barbara Jackman successfully argued that Ottawa withheld
evidence and repeatedly denied requests for disclosure to back up
claims he was a security threat
A second barrier to his re-entry to Canada has been his criminal record.
Freeman said he was defending himself in a racially charged incident.
Knox suffered permanent injuries to an arm. He died in 2011 at age 63.
After the shooting, Freeman changed his name from Joseph Pannell and fled to
Canada, living first in Montreal and then in the Toronto area.
In his new life here, he married, raised four children and worked at the
downtown Toronto Reference Library as a librarian’s assistant, avoiding any
difficulty with the law.
His story eventually leaked out and he was arrested in 2004 outside the
Yonge St. library.
held without bail in the Toronto Don Jail
as he fought extradition. In
2008, he agreed to return to Chicago, where he pleaded guilty to one count
of aggravated battery in February 2008.
A judge sentenced him to 30 days in jail and two years’ probation, and
ordered him to give $250,000 to charity.
When his time was served, he found himself barred from Canada and his wife
In her review of Ottawa’s conduct, Mactavish ruled that former immigration
minister Jason Kenney made “ill-advised” comments on the case, but also said
that she wasn’t conviced that Kenney personally involved himself in
Those comments were a reference to an exchange on May 1, 2012, in the House
of Commons between Kenney and Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair.
Mulcair accused Kenney of showing a “double standard” between the handling
of Freeman’s case and that of “the British criminal
,” who had received a Temporary Resident Permit.
Kenney wrongly called Freeman “a convicted police murderer” and said Mulcair
sought “to welcome convicted cop killers.”
Kenney later also incorrectly said Freeman was “convicted of shooting and I
believe blinding a police officer, not killing him, so I should have said
police shooter, not police killer.”
“This statement also appears to have been inaccurate, as the police officer
had not been blinded, but had been left partially paralyzed in one arm,”
In the fall of 2013, Justice Department lawyer Alexis Singer argued that
since Freeman is not a Canadian citizen, he’s not entitled to protection
under the Charter of Rights.
She also argued that Freeman’s family could move to the U.S. or travel there
At Pearson airport Wednesday night, family members were thrilled at the
“It feels like a huge birthday present,” said Jon-Maceo Freeman, who
celebrated his 40th birthday on Tuesday.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said Freeman’s daughter,
Leila, 37, said the family’s hopes have been raised and dashed so many times
over the years that she couldn’t believe her dad was finally coming home.
Over the past 10 years, Freeman has missed family weddings, milestone
birthdays, his children’s university graduations, the birth of his five
grandchildren and the funeral for his father-in-law.
“Can’t get that back,” said his wife sadly.
She talked excitedly about the menial tasks she’ll undertake with Freeman in
the coming days.
“I almost want a snowstorm so we can go out and shovel together,” Coelho
said with a laugh. “Just all the little stuff ... I could never get my
scrambled eggs like he does.”
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
When it comes to Domestic Terrorists every father in Ontario needs to be
warned about a Detective Peter Van Der Zander who personally fabricates evidence
to NOT charge the most violent of mothers who attempt to strangle to death the
full time fathers of their Children.
Rarely is there ever so much evidence but to justify a string of criminal
charges against the vile Child Abusing Evidence Fabricating, Rotten Cop.
He is not alone, In Ontario it's now normal for police to arrest and charge male
victims of Domestic violence, even if they happen to police officers from
another police force.