OTTAWA - A Commons committee heard tearful pleas Wednesday from a Canadian woman who was stranded for months in Kenya, accused of being an impostor.
Suaad Hagi Mohamud wept openly as she told the foreign affairs committee how she was thrown into a small cell, where she encountered other women, some with children.
"I would never have believed that I would go to jail for saying that I am a Canadian citizen," Mohamud told the committee.
She urged parliamentarians to find a way to prevent something similar happening to any other Canadian, and wondered aloud how many others still face a similar plight.
Mohamud also demanded an apology from Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon for her treatment and suggestions that she might have been an impostor.
On July 24, in response to a question about the case, Cannon said there was "no tangible proof of her identity," a statement made even though Mohamud had presented multiple pieces of Canadian identification and even carried Canadian Tire money in her wallet.
"Not everyone will be so lucky to have so much help (to return home)," she said.
"How many people are standing out there like I was?"
In fact, at least one other person is dealing with a similar situation.
Abdihakim Mohammed, an autistic 25-year-old Somali-Canadian has been unable to leave Kenya for three years, after officials determined that he didn't look like his passport photo.
Mohamud, 31, arrived in Toronto Aug. 15, after DNA tests finally proved her identity.
She had been barred from leaving Kenya after authorities said her lips did not look the way they did in her four-year-old passport photo.
Mohamud is suing Ottawa for $2.5 million for her ordeal. Her supporters have also called for a public inquiry and apology from the federal government.
Deepak Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary to the foreign affairs minister, said he met with the Somali-Canadian community to discuss their concerns about both cases.
He said the government is committed to making sure there is no repeat of the tragedy and that no Canadians, regardless of their skin colour, are treated like "second-class citizens."
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