Foreign Policy Blogs

Arar and El-Attar: Who is Canadian?

Canadians Abroad Part 1: 

The question of how immigrants should be treated, or considered equally among all social and cultural groups in a country was put to its greatest test in Canada in the summer of 2006. During the conflict between Israel and Lebanon last summer there was a flood of protests and criticisms against the new Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, in delays in helping Canadian citizens trapped in Lebanon during the conflict. When thousands of Lebanese with Canadian status, either Citizens or Permanent Residents of Canada, sought assistance from the Canadian Government to extradite them as soon as possible, the realization that citizenship was held by thousands of people who actually were born and resided outside Canada sparked a debate about the nature of citizenship and the degree in which Canada should accommodate foreign nationals who had legal status in Canada yet resided in their country of birth abroad.

The debate continued with the case regarding a Mr. Mahar Arar, a Syrian born Canadian citizen who was deported to the US under evidence that he was associated with Al-Qaeda, but later was returned to Canada after being tortured in Syria. Arar, a full Canadian Citizen was given compensation this past February by the Canadian Federal Government for errors which lead to his deportation from Canada. A Commission to investigate the affair was arranged. Noted in the Report, false accusations of his affiliation with terrorism and final rights being recognized as a citizen of Canada lead to the resignation of the head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police commissioner, compensation, and a formal apology from the Prime Minister.

Recognition of the rights of Canadian citizens abroad was always veiled in the belief by many that the Government of Canada never did enough to assist its citizens abroad. A Canadian Journalism of Iranian descent and birth, Zahra Kazemi was beaten to death in Iran in 2003. Acknowledgement of the story and actions by the previous Canadian Government was virtually absent until her son, Stephan Kazemi pushed for public protests and for help from the Canadian Government. While the Government took some actions, a combination of the Kazemi affair and the fact that the same Government was later accused of the errors relating to Mr. Arar placed the status of foreign-born Canadians in a quagmire of policy, security and rights for citizens of Canada abroad.

See: Part 2 – A Canadian in Egypt, or an Egyptian from Canada? concerning the current state of affairs for Canadian Citizens Abroad and the recent case of Mohamed El-Attar, a Canadian citizen who was detained in Egypt for spying for Israel.



Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration