The Canadian government seems to have adopted a selective policy towards Canadian citizens in legal trouble abroad. Abousfian Abdelrazik is one of the most recent victims of this policy. Abdelrazik was stranded in Sudan for six years after the Canadian government refused to issue a new passport to him because he was on the United Nations Security Council terrorist blacklist and the United States accused him of being a member of Al-Queda.
Abdelrazik is now suing the Canadian government for $27 million. The lawsuit accuses the Canadian government of blocking Abdelrazik's repatriation to Canada and helping arrange his imprisonment. Abdelrazik was visiting his mother in Sudan in 2003 when he was arrested. He claims he was tortured during his detainment. He spent a year living in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum before a federal court ordered that he be allowed to return home.
There is a serious double standard where some, like Brenda Martin charged with money laundering in Mexico, get help and others, like Abdelrazik, are given little to no assistance or even have their efforts hampered by the Canadian government. There needs to be universality and transparency when Canadian citizens find themselves in difficult circumstances abroad and need help.
Abdelrazik's case is not an isolated incident but one in a series where Canadian citizen have found themselves left unassisted by their government. Suaad Hagi Mohamud, Abdihakim Mohamed and, most famously, Maher Arar and Omar Khadr found themselves in need of help abroad and the Canadian government failed to provide it.
It took a federal court decision for Abdelrazik to be allowed to return home and have his rights as a Canadian citizen recognized. The Canadian government should have allowed him to return and issued Abdelrazik travel documents without court involvement. It should not be so difficult for a Canadian citizen to obtain travel documents while abroad.
In cases where Canadian citizens are held without charge or trial, they should have their rights defended by the Canadian government. In the "war on terror," the argument has been made that some suspected terrorists should be detained without charge, but this has lead to innocent people like Abdelrazik being held. Canadian citizens should be given the benefit of the doubt. The Canadian government treated Abdelrazik the way they did because he was on the UN terrorist list, although there was no evidence that he was in fact a terrorist.
The Canadian government has not done enough to look out for citizens abroad lately. Hopefully this will change, because Canadians need to know that wherever they happen to be and whatever bind they may find themselves in, their government will look after them. In the meantime, if you are a Canadian traveling abroad don't get arrested, because the Canadian government may just leave you to fend for yourself.