Why Abdelrazik can’t come home

Chris Selley speculates:

The lobby of the Canadian embassy in one of the world’s leading basketcase nations is an odd place for our government to house a man posing a serious threat to national security, wouldn’t you say? And yet, this is what Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon would have us believe he and his predecessor have been doing with Abousfian Abdelrazik for over a year. …
What the hell is going on here? The idea that Foreign Affairs is digging in its heels simply to avoid being seen to back down implies a lack of foresight and a level of sociopathy that I’m not willing to ascribe to Cannon, or to most cabinet ministers for that matter. Besides which, the Conservatives have the same, time-tested (if skeevy) political out they’ve been using to keep Omar Khadr at Guantanamo—namely, that this whole mess started out on the Liberals’ watch. Heck, Paul Martin was in Khartoum in November 2004, along with a cavernous government Airbus, and neglected to offer Abdelrazik a lift home. At least we’re letting him crash in the lobby, the Tories might say.
I believe it’s possible that the government knows or suspects something about Abdelrazik that Canadian intelligence doesn’t know or suspect, or more likely won’t admit to knowing or suspecting. CSIS’s call for an investigation into its own conduct in this matter suggests its manoeuvring, too, has a certain political, self-preservationist angle. But ultimately, the “why” just doesn’t matter. In case it actually needs to be said, the government knowing or suspecting something about a Canadian citizen isn’t enough to essentially exile him. Ottawa’s incredibly churlish behaviour on this file—endlessly setting conditions, then arbitrarily changing them when they’re met—brings the very foundations of government and citizenship into disrepute. It has to stop. The least Cannon could do is offer to repatriate Abdelrazik under some kind of monitoring conditions, as has been proposed with Khadr. Abdelrazik would be well within his rights to refuse such an arrangement on principle—i.e., the principle that, for heaven’s sake, he hasn’t done anything wrong—and I’m certainly not saying I support it. I support letting him come home, full stop. But at least it would get him back to Canada, and at least it would suggest Cannon was motivated by something other than pure bloody-mindedness.

Damian P.

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