Canadians 'from all walks of life' come to aid of Abdelrazik
Former UN envoy joins lawyers,
former government officials and ordinary citizens in denouncing treatment of
by Paul Koring
Stephen Lewis, a former UN special envoy, has joined
more than 160 Canadians to purchase a flight home for
Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen stuck in Sudan
because the Harper government won't give him a passport.
Mr. Lewis, who was also Canada's ambassador to the
United Nations in the 1980s, joins former
solicitor-general Warren Allmand and more than a dozen
lawyers and law professors effectively challenging the
government's claim that the United Nations is to blame
for the Kafkaesque predicament ensnaring Mr. Abdelrazik.
Although he has been cleared by the RCMP, CSIS and
the Sudanese police, who imprisoned him apparently at
Canada's request for nearly two years, Mr. Abdelrazik
remains on the UN Security Council's blacklist of
suspected al-Qaeda operatives.
"I'm really surprised and pleased with the variety of
people who have wanted to contribute in some way," said
Jo Wood, an organizer of Project Fly Home, the group
that has purchased a ticket for Mr. Abdelrazik. "They
come from all walks of life, from students to labourers
to university professors and artists," said Ms. Wood,
70, a member of the Ottawa branch of the Raging
Grannies, an activist group of older women.
Unions, peace organizations and rights groups have
also contributed. Contributions have come from across
Canada and from Canadians living abroad. Most of the
donations are small, $10 or $20.
Claudia Schibler, 53, a disabled Canadian veteran who
served in Bosnia, said she was infuriated by the
government's treatment of Mr. Abdelrazik.
"Some of us put on the uniform and risked life and
limb for values that we [Canadians] are privileged to
have," Ms. Schibler said.
"I thought that people who came to our country and
who hadn't known the freedoms that we have should be
treated just like any other citizen," the former army
sergeant said from her home in Halifax.
Mr. Abdelrazik, whose children live in Montreal, was
arrested in Khartoum while visiting his mother in 2003.
Foreign Affairs documents marked "secret" say his
arrest and imprisonment was at Canada's request. Mr.
Abdelrazik, a Muslim, says he was beaten and tortured in
prison although Canadian Justice Department lawyers have
tried to discredit those claims by suggesting he
"Just like the Germans zeroed in on the Jews, we are
zeroing in on Muslims ... this is so wrong," Ms.
After refusing him a passport for years, the Harper
government promised in writing that it would give Mr.
Abdelrazik a temporary emergency travel document if he
could get a confirmed reservation for a flight home.
Most airlines, including Air Canada, have refused to
carry him because the Bush administration also put him
on the U.S. no-fly list. However, when Etihad Airways,
based in Abu Dhabi, agreed to fly him home last
September, the government imposed a new condition: that
he have a fully paid- for ticket.
Mr. Abdelrazik, destitute and living in the Canadian
embassy in Khartoum for the past 10 months, is subject
to an assets freeze because of the UN blacklist. The
government also made clear that anyone giving him money
or help might be breaking Canadian law.
"If they want to send us to jail, let them, but we
cannot sit passively by while this government does
nothing," said Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, a retired
hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America and a
contributor to the ticket purchase.
Audrey Macklin, an associate law professor at the
University of Toronto, said Mr. Abdelrazik's case is
only one of a series where the Canadian government has
failed to protect its citizens abroad. "The fact that
[in Mr. Abdelrazik's case] there are no charges makes
Canada's obstruction [to his return home] all the more
egregious," she said.
The government claims it must abide by the travel ban
imposed by UN Resolution 1267 on those blacklisted,
although a specific exemption allows for them to return
to their country of citizenship.
Prof. Macklin scoffed at the government's implied
threat to charge those buying the ticket.
"This is absolutely not an act of civil disobedience.
There is nothing about our actions that violates any law
... [there would] simply be no basis for a conviction,"
Boyce Richardson, an author and filmmaker, said it
was "bloody awful" the way Mr. Abdelrazik is being
treated by the Harper government. There seems, he said,
to be "at least two classes of Canadian citizen," adding
Mr. Abdelrazik is not the only case of a Muslim Canadian
not being treated as a full citizen.
David Orchard, a Saskatchewan farmer who has dabbled
in Conservative and Liberal politics, added his view. "I
don't like torture and I don't like Canadian citizens
being tortured and I don't like our government asking
foreign governments to do the torturing." He said he was
appalled at the "the hypocrisy of our government
condemning Sudan for human-rights abuses and then
approaching them and asking them to pick up a Canadian
Many of the contributors voiced dismay that more
Canadians aren't angered by the government's lack of
effort on Mr. Abdelrazik's behalf.
"Too many comfortable members of society ignore those
people being picked on and abused," said Daniel Saykaly,
58, vice-president of the human-rights group Palestinian
and Jewish Unity. "The government is trying to block a
citizen from coming home, yet they are giving him asylum
in the embassy."