Woman stranded in Kenya should concern us all

There aretwo main reasons that Canadians should be greatly concerned about the case ofSuaad Mohamud Haji, the Toronto woman who has been stuck in Kenya for the pasteight weeks because Canadian officials do not believe that she looks like theperson photographed in her Canadian passport.

There are
two main reasons that Canadians should be greatly concerned about the case of
Suaad Mohamud Haji
, the Toronto woman who has been stuck in Kenya for the past
eight weeks because Canadian officials do not believe that she looks like the
person photographed in her Canadian passport.

 

Firstly,
this case demonstrates once again how little our government is willing to do to
assist Canadians -- or in this case those claiming to be Canadians -- when they get
into trouble abroad.

 

 

In 2002,
Maher Arar was shipped off to Syria by the Americans for a little questioning
and torture. Our government did little to help him until he made it back here
and sued. In the same year, a 15-year-old Canadian-born Omar Khadr was shot and
partially blinded by American forces and has been held without trial since then
without our government even asking that he be tried quickly or returned home.

 

Last month, the Federal Court had to order our government to issue a passport
to Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen who was stuck in Sudan for six
years while trying to get back to Canada but couldn’t because our government
refused to issue him a passport.

It is clear
that our government’s actions have seriously diminished the sense of security
we once had when we held a Canadian passport in our hands.

The second
reason we should be concerned is that the Haji case suggests that
notwithstanding the many advances in technology since 9/11, when you get right
down to it, our border security appears to depend on some border officer’s
conclusion, “gee, I guess that looks like you.”

Border
officials have the training and tools to determine fairly quickly if a passport
has been tampered with. If it seems genuine, but possibly fraudulently
obtained, our border officials should be able to gain access to the
photographs, fingerprints and details submitted in connection with the
application for that document. With all of the money we have spent on border
security, at a minimum, we should have these capabilities in fairly short
order.

In this
case, when doubts about Haji’s identity surfaced, our officials didn’t seem to
have the wherewithal to ask her to submit to a fingerprint comparison. On the
contrary, she had to beg to be fingerprinted. She was finally tested on July 9, and still no results have been announced.

Whether
Haji is lying or telling the truth is irrelevant. What is important is that we
should be able to tell quickly. In these modern times, this shouldn’t take anywhere
near eight weeks. Shouldn’t proof already exist in some computer somewhere that
we can check? Doesn’t our border security demand that it does?

It remains
to be seen if this delay demonstrates the limits of our government’s forensic
abilities or if it just provides yet more proof our government’s disregard for
the rights of Canadian citizens to return home.

Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at metro@migrationlaw.com.

 
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