What if it was you? More importantly, what if it was me? Locked up overseas, away from everything that mattered, unaware who was working to find answers for you, or if you would ever know freedom again. It was not myself, and it was not you, either. Maybe that is why Maher Arar flew relatively under the radar for much of his nightmare.
Arar has been splattered all over Canadian media since being released from a Syrian jail. Born in Syria, Arar came to Canada in 1988 at age 17 and live with his wife and children in Ottawa, and works in the technology sector. On Sept. 26, 2002, on his way home from a family vacation to Tunisia, Arar was detained at JFK Airport in New York, sent to Jordan days layer, then Syria, where he remained in prison until Oct. 4. United States Immigration laws state that illegal aliens who enter the country, are deported to their country of birth.
Arar was considered an illegal because of various reasons. He had visited Afghanistan in the past, he 'knew of people involved in terrorist activities,' the Syrian government had recruited him to spy on the United States. Take your pick.
This isn't shocking, I suppose. National security comes first in the United States, and that's their choice. What is mind-numbingly frustrating in this Canadian's opinion is that we (our elected officials) are going to pussyfoot around this, call for an inquiry, listen to back and forth banter in the House of Commons, and end up not knowing why we let another country take a Canadian, send him to Syria, and pressure them to lock that person up.
When Arar's wife, Monia Mazigh, held a candlelight vigil on Parliament Hill, your MPs did not accept her invitation. Now that Arar is home, you have your elected officials lining up to put in their two cents about how they, nay, Canada, needs an inquiry into this breach of civil liberties.
Come off it.
Does anyone really believe that Ambassador Celucci or Col. Powell or immigration officials are going to say a word about this? Is it any coincidence it is a lot easier to interrogate a man in Jordan than in the United States, where the Constitution still loosely applies? And if Canada thought that Arar needed to be arrested in connection to a crime, would they have requested the Americans send him to our authorities? This whole story has a bitter flavour to it.
I cannot understand why we let ourselves get kicked around by the United States, especially over the last two years, to the point where we are willing to abandon our own citizens. As a nation, we need to decide whether American fear and knee-jerk reactions are going to be the primary contributors to what happens in Canada.
I grew up in as close proximity to anyone. I often visit extended family that live throughout the country. I have an upstate New York accent. I know September 11 freaked everyone out, but I cannot stress this enough, it did not happen in Canada.
Are we still feeling the effects? You bet, and I support our efforts to make sure Canada does not harbour terrorists. Now, more than ever, we're able to see the distinctions between Canada and the United States. Their interests are not necessarily our interests. They are not afraid to bully us. It's a cliche, but I think we all know you have to stand up to bullies. We don't need to create any more stress than already exists, but our citizens deserve to be protected. It does not take military power to protect Canada, it takes courage. Battleships and helicopters may not win respect, but strong leadership will.
There is currently 39-year-old Ahmad Abou-Elmaatiold, a Canadian being held in a jail in Cairo, Egypt. The conditions around his detainment are similar to those of Maher Arar. Almost two years of his life have wasted away. Will he be the last citizen Canada allows to be detained? Doubtful. Never know, you may be next, or worse, it could be me.