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,

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