The Maher Arar case came to a close yesterday when the Canadian government agreed to a $10.5 million dollar settlement. The Prime Minister apologized for Canada's role in the sorry saga [`I wish I could buy my life back'].
In case you don't know, Arar is a Canadian citizen. He was arrested by the FBI in New York in 2002 on suspicion of terrorism and send to Syria to be tortured. He was released after almost a year and returned to Canada. Since then he has been cleared of all charges by a judicial inquiry.
The American government refuses to admit they made a mistake (a lawsuit is pending). Even more extraordinary, they refuse to remove Arar from their "no-fly" list in spite of the fact that the Canadian system has found him innocent. The FBI file has been reviewed by the Canadian government and there's nothing in there to warrant further suspicion.
All this is well known in Canada and Canadians are angry. Here's an excerpt from an article by Thomas Walkom on the font page of today's Toronto Star [U.S. security trumps freedom].
Ottawa's decision to compensate Canadian Maher Arar for its role in his unlawful imprisonment and torture contains a warning and a lesson.Yes, it's heartbreaking and I feel sorry for my American friends who know what's going on (e.g., Ed Brayton). But enough is enough. The refusal to admit that they, like we, were wrong about Maher Arar does not deserve our pity. It's just plain stupid and wrong.
The warning is that Canada and the U.S. are on fundamentally different paths when it comes to matters of terrorism and human rights. The lesson is that until Ottawa gets more aggressive with our friends in the war on terror, a Canadian passport won't mean much.
First the warning. The U.S. has chosen to subordinate the principles of individual freedom to what it sees as its security needs. It jails people indefinitely without charge, utilizes interrogation methods that the United Nations describes as torture, wages illegal wars and commits the very crimes against humanity it once helped to prosecute.
For America's friends, this is heartbreaking to watch.
America seems to have lost its way after 9/11. Its leaders are willing to sacrifice basic human rights in order to imprison and torture people who they suspect of terrorist activities. Most of them are innocent but that doesn't seem to matter.
Furthermore, America has no respect for its friends. Canada's system of justice is just as good as America's—probably better. If we find Arar innocent then America should have the decency to respect our decision and remove him from their list of suspect terrorists.