Sunday, June 28, 2009

Help Bring Home Another Canadian Abandoned by Ottawa

Help Bring Home Another Canadian Abandoned by Ottawa

Abdihakim Mohamed, Aged 25, Autistic, Without His Primary Caregiver, Denied Passport, Stuck in Kenya Over 3 Years



Although Canadian Abousfian Abdelrazik will finally be coming home after six long years of Canadian-government enforced exile in Sudan, there remain numerous other Canadians who have been abandoned by their country while overseas.

One of them is an autistic 25-year-old Canadian citizen, Abdihakim Mohamed, who is at grave risk both in Kenya and, should he be deported to his birth country, Somalia, unless Ottawa acts immediately to repatriate him. For over three years, efforts to have him brought home have been met by a bureaucratic brick wall. (See Backgrounder below for why Mr. Mohamed is without a passport).

In Kenya, Mr. Mohamed faces a life where he is without adequate supervision and care, as well as the stigma against individuals with disabilities, and the risk of being caught in the rash of extra-judicial killings by Kenyan police. He is also at risk, as someone identifiable by his Somali heritage, of deportation to an even more dangerous conflict zone because Mr. Mohamed does not have Canadian ID with him.

Note that with respect to Somalia, the federal government has issued an "OFFICIAL WARNING: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel in Somalia. Canadians in this country should leave. There is no resident Canadian government office in Somalia, and the Government of Canada cannot provide consular assistance to Canadian citizens in distress in Somalia."

To save Mr. Mohamed from the fate that the Canadian government warns against, all that would be required to bring him home is a one-way travel document or replacement passport.

But the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) is refusing to issue him one, coming up with one excuse after another. With each day that goes by, Mr. Mohamed, both as a Canadian of Somali heritage as well as someone who is unstable at the best of times and requires constant care, is in danger of arrest, imprisonment, and worse. (In fact, he has already been arrested twice and poorly treated by Kenyan authorities who, discovering he was Canadian, figured they could rely on a bribe to have him released. This pattern might escalate to further arrests and requests for bribe money).

Canadian officials have alleged that Mr. Abdihakim is an "imposter" whom his mother is trying to "smuggle" into Canada (relying on the fact that there are very few family photos -- some Muslims do not take photos of one another unless for official reasons -- and that Mr. Mohamed had a good command of certain details, which they concluded was a sign that he does NOT have autism. Anyone who knows anything about autism would conclude otherwise! Many affidavits from people who can attest to Mr. Mohamed's identity have been filed with the Canadian government.)

Just as popular pressure helped bring home Abousfian Abdelrazik, we are calling on people across this country to once again write and call the Minister responsible, Lawrence Cannon, and ask that he do the right thing. Below is an extended backgrounder on the case, as well as a section on steps you can take to Bring. Mr. Mohamed home.


(Thanks to Ottawa writer Kate Heartfield for the following summary)

In 2004, Anab Mohamed Issa, who works two jobs as a cleaner in Ottawa, travelled with her 20-year-old son, Abdihakim Mohamed, to Bosaso, Somalia. She liked Canada, had been here since 1990, but her son wasn't doing well here.

Abdihakim Mohamed is a big man, with disruptive behavioural problems. It was more than Ms. Issa could handle on her own. A psychiatrist in Scarborough thought a change in cultural context might improve his communication and social skills. So Ms. Issa and her son went to stay with relatives in Somalia. After about nine months, Ms. Issa returned to Canada.

That's when she made a mistake.

She described it, later, in an affidavit: "He was happy staying with my family and they were happy to look after him. However, I did not want to leave his Canadian passport with him because I was afraid it would be stolen. Canadian passports are very valuable in this part of the world and I wanted to keep it safely. I thought this was the best course of action because I have Power of Attorney for Property and I am responsible for his passport. I could not trust him to look after it and there was nowhere safe where it could be kept under lock and key."

It was the wrong decision, but understandable.

At Pearson Airport, in April 2005, Canadian officials seized her son's passport from her, because it was being carried by someone other than the holder. Fair enough.

In 2006, Ms. Issa's mother-in-law in Somalia got sick and was having trouble looking after Mr. Mohamed. Ms. Issa decided to bring her son home. She took him to Nairobi, to apply for a passport at the Canadian High Commission there, which serves Somalia. The immigration officer in Nairobi didn't believe Mr. Mohamed was who his mother said he was; one of the issues seems to be that he didn't seem autistic enough. The photo on his citizenship card was taken when he was younger, although to my eye, it bears a strong resemblance to a more recent photo.

Ms. Issa returned to Canada, leaving her son under the imperfect care of relatives in Nairobi. She kept trying to get him a passport. Mr. Mohamed is unhappy in Kenya; his autism and his Somali ethnicity make him vulnerable to thuggery and harassment from the authorities.

In April 2008, Ms. Issa got a letter from Passport Canada informing her she was under investigation for her "involvement in attempting to obtain a passport for an imposter in the name of [her] son Abdihakim." But she hasn't been charged with anything.

Then, in July, the same agency said she couldn't apply for a regular passport on her son's behalf anyway, because Mr. Mohamed's mental incapacity preceded the granting of Power of Attorney. Passport Canada told her she needs a court order giving her guardianship.

Ms. Issa would be happy to oblige -- but that process requires Abdihakim to be in Canada. Her other option, Passport Canada said, was to apply for a passport of limited validity on compassionate grounds.

But then, in November, Passport Canada told her that "there remains the issue surrounding the true identity of this individual, which must be resolved before a travel document will be issued."

In a particularly pig-headed coda, Passport Canada asked for her help in determining who the man applying for a passport in the name of her son might be.

Jean Lash of South Ottawa Community Legal Services has been gathering a pile of affidavits from Canadian citizens who know Mr. Mohamed and can vouch for his identity. Mr. Mohamed has offered to submit to DNA testing, Ms. Lash says, but Passport Canada hasn't taken him up on the offer.

"He had a valid passport, which was seized by the government," says Toronto lawyer David Yerzy, who knows Mr. Mohamed and signed an affidavit attached to his recent photo. "It's not lost. All he needs is a passport renewal."



1. Please write a polite, simple letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, copying Stephen Harper and your MP, calling on him to stand up for the right of Mr. Abdihakim Mohamed to come home, and to issue him a a passport or other appropriate travel document to ensure he can be brought back to Canada. Phone calls are helpful too.

Lawrence Cannon
Telephone: (613) 992-5516
Fax: (613) 992-6802

Stephen Harper
Telephone: (613) 992-4211
Fax: (613) 941-6900

Contact details of MPs via (click on "Members of Parliament (Current)").

2. Please share this email with your networks.


Toronto Action for Social Change, PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0,

No More Impunity!

Demand an Apology, Accountability, and Compensation for Three Canadians Targetted for Torture

As Canada Marks the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture June 26, Contact Prime Minister Stephen Harper, "Public Safety" Minister Peter Van Loan to Demand Canada End its Involvement in Torture (contact details below)


Three Canadians -- Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati, and Muayyed Nureddin -- were tortured overseas with the complicity of their own government. We are calling on the Government of Canada to issue an apology, provide compensation, ensure that all officials responsible are held accountable, take steps to eliminate false information about these men and their families from Canadian and international databases, and demand that the federal government issue a clear ministerial directive against torture and the use of information obtained from torture.

Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati, and Muayyed Nureddin are Canadian citizens who were targetted for torture by agencies of their own government.

All were falsely labelled as alleged threats to Canada's "national security," and all wound up in Syrian torture chambers (and, in one case, Egyptian torture chambers as well) where they were interrogated and tortured based on questions that came from Canada. A problematic secret federal review of their cases (The Iacobucci Inquiry, which unfortunately excluded the men, their lawyers, the press, and public from participating) nonetheless found that Canadian agencies were complicit in the men's overseas detention, interrogation, and torture.

Last week the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security of the House of Commons called for an immediate apology for all thee men, along with compensation "for the suffering they endured and the difficulties they encountered." The committee released a report that also called on the federal government to "do everything necessary to correct misinformation that may exist in records administered by national security agencies in Canada or abroad with respect to" the three men and their family members.
(full report: )

Importantly, the Committee called on "the Government of Canada issue a clear ministerial directive against torture and the use of information obtained from torture for all departments and agencies responsible for national security. The ministerial directive must clearly state that the exchange of information with countries is prohibited when there is a credible risk that it could lead, or contribute, to the use of torture."

Unfortunately, the committee did not go far enough in demanding actions that could end the culture of impunity that continues to thrive with respect to torture in the highest levels of the Canadian government, from CSIS and the RCMP to the Justice Dept. and Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Indeed, names were named in both the O'Connor Inquiry (which examined the case of Maher Arar) and the Iacobucci inquiry, and it is clear in both reports that the actions of Canadian officials led to the torture of Canadian citizens abroad.

Yet there has been a disturbing silence on the issue of holding officials accountable. In fact, with one exception, it appears that all officials who appear to have been complicit either directly or indirectly in that overseas detention, interrogation, and torture, have received promotions.

Perhaps the most high-profile of those Canadian officials is Michel Cabana, who ran Project AO-Canada (the investigation that was found to have been based on false information that led to the overseas detention, interrogation, and torture of Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, and Ahmad El Maati). Remarkably, Cabana is now the Assistant Commissioner of the RCMP, one heartbeat away from the top job in a national police force that has been implicated in torture.

We have serious questions about the suitability of Mr. Cabana to hold such a high position in an organization that is supposed to be cleaning up its act and ending its complicity in torture.

With the recent court orders to repatriate yet two other Canadians tortured with the complicity of their own government (Omar Khadr and Abousfian Abdelrazik), we need to ask: how many more cases of torture-by-proxy exist, and how many more will continue to occur unless there are major systemic changes in the way things are run in Ottawa?

While we work towards those systemic changes, we join the call from the Parliamentary committee "to immediately implement all the recommendations from these inquiries, as the failure to do so could result in further serious violations of the rights of Canadians."

While the committee calls for an oversight committee of all agencies involved in "national security" investigations, we remain concerned that such a committee can only review human rights disasters AFTER they have occurred. Rather, we need pre-emptive action to stop torture-complicit spies from doing further damage to folks in this country and abroad.

The Federal government will state that such recommendations cannot be agreed to because civil suits are in progress, yet Maher Arar received an apology before his case was heard in court. The Committee also disagrees with this position, declaring "The majority of the Committee does not agree with the government’s position that issuing apologies can influence the course of civil actions. The majority is of the opinion that the government must officially recognize the harm caused to these Canadians." Indeed, the government could end the civil suit process immediately by fairly addressing the damage that has been inflicted on the men and their families.

While there remain many other tangled webs of Canadian involvement in torture (the case of rendition survivor Benamar Benatta, who still seeks a public review of his case, the ongoing secret rendition-to-torture hearings taking place in the Federal Courts under the name of "security certificates," Canada's involvement in the U.S.-based School of the Assassins, complicity in the torture of people in Afghanistan, among many others), we have an opportunity to take immediate steps to ensure a small measure of justice for Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin.

1. Please write a polite, simple letter to Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, copying Stephen Harper and your MP, calling on them to immediately apologize for and provide compensation for Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, as recommended by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Please add in as well that you feel officials involved in facilitating their torture need to be held accountable, and that systemic changes are required to permanently end further Canadian involvement in torture. Remind them that the committee also calls on " the Government of Canada issue a clear ministerial directive against torture and the use of information obtained from torture." Please remind them as well that false information about these three men and their families exists in government databases around the world and here in Canada, and every effort must be made to erase those lies.

Personalize the letter if you can.

Peter Van Loan
Telephone: (613) 996-7752
Fax: (613) 992-8351

Stephen Harper
Telephone: (613) 992-4211
Fax: (613) 941-6900

Contact details of MPs via (click on "Members of Parliament (Current)")


More information:
Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture:
PO Box 73620, 509 St. CXlair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0,

More details on the men and their cases, plus video interviews:

Committee report: