Monia Mazigh. Hope & Despair. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2008
When Canadian citizen Maher Arar was shipped off by the United States to Syria to be tortured, Monia Mazig was left as a single mother with two small children. Fortunately, she had support. Her mother was staying with her and was considerable help in managing the household and caring for the children.
Assistance came from others, too. Family members, Amnesty International, the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), and the Canadian Labour Congress were some who lent their weight, knowledge, and expertise. Kerry Pither was an important strategist. She authored a book about Arar and other Canadian Muslim men tortured in Syria and Egypt.
Finally, there were public servants who played an important role. Gar Pardy was a diplomat who undiplomatically tipped Monia off to the fact that there were people in government who wanted to keep her husband in Syria. His brave report helped to focus the fight for Arar’s return.
Mazigh and her team concentrated on pushing for a clear and unequivocal Canadian demand for Arar’s return. Eventually, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien sent a letter in those terms to Syria’s Bashir Assad, and that did the trick.
Nevertheless, elements in the Canadian government continued to leak false and defamatory information to the media. The Arar team was finally able to get a Commission of Inquiry established, and its findings were electric.
The Commission said that there was not a shred of evidence linking Arar to terrorism. It did find that false information from Canadian intelligence sources played a role in the United States intercepting Arar at the airport en route to Montreal, imprisoning him, and forwarding him to Syria by way of Jordan, where Syria imprisoned him and tortured him. As well, the Commission found that Canada supplied Syria with information to assist in his interrogation. Finally, it reported that the smears from unnamed government sources continued in the form of media tips, even after Arar’s return.
As a result of the report, the Arar family went from welfare to receipt of a $10 million settlement. Yet, the Canadian government does not appear to have absorbed this expensive lesson. It still refuses to let Canadian citizen Abousfian Abdelrazik return from Sudan.
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