“My priority right now is to clear my name,” said Maher Arar during his first public appearance in 2003 upon his return to Canada after being tortured for over a year in Syria. The Arar Commission findings which cleared him and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology last month – which came after months of negotiations — go a long way in helping Arar fulfill his first wish. Even though some believe the apology did not go far enough (Harper apologized “for any role Canadian officials may have played”, while the Commission squarely blamed Canadian and American officials).

Syrian-born Arar was detained by U.S. authorities on September 26, 2002, during a stopover in New York en route from Tunisia to Canada. The Canadian citizen was subsequently sent to Syria for torture under the controversial American practice of “extraordinary rendition” even though he had repeatedly requested that he be sent to Canada. He was eventually released and returned to Canada in October 2003 after Canada put pressure on Syria.

According to the inquiry called after public outcry in Canada, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service agents acted on false and misleading information supplied by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The comprehensive inquiry which lasted more than two years was headed by Ontario’s Associate Chief Justice and cost the public purse more than $16 million. The Commission findings paved the way for the Prime Minister’s formal apology to Arar on behalf of the Canadian government and settlement offer of $10.5 million plus legal fees to a settle a lawsuit launched by Arar.

Even Canada’s top cop, RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli, resigned as a result of the Maher Arar controversy.

Meanwhile, American authorities are refusing Canada’s request to purge Arar’s name from U.S. watch lists. His inclusion on U.S. lists effectively excludes Arar from at least one third of the world’s nations, according to his lawyers. (MORE)

Faisal Kutty is a Toronto lawyer and doctoral candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University. He is also vice chair and a counsel to the Canadian Council on American Islamic Relations, which was an intervener in the Maher Arar Inquiry.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.