Maher Arar is the unfortunate man arrested and deported to Syria as a suspected terrorist a while back. If like me, you're thinking, boy... that seems like it happened way before Stephen Harper was elected, you'd be right.
It actually happened three and a half years before Stephen Harper was elected Prime Minister, but apparently there are people who think that's not all that important.
Not too surprisingly, some of these people are former members of the Liberal government of the day, in particular, the people formerly in charge of, well... will you look at that; National Security and Foreign Affairs.
Ann McLellan, former minister in charge of the RCMP, said she is surprised and disappointed that Zaccardelli hasn't made any public statements and says she can't imagine that he's chosen to muzzle himself.Apparently "Landslide Annie" is not surprised and disappointed enough, though... as Zaccardelli's former boss, to offer any explanations herself. She's just disappointed enough to demand explanations from the Conservative government four years after Mr. Arar was deported to his native Syria, where incidentally, he also holds citizenship.
So in September 2002, Mr. Arar was arrested by the FBI in New York. The RCMP stands accused of breaking their own rules by supplying unproven information, linking Arar to terrorist groups. No doubt they will be called to account for this.
After spending nearly a year in jail, Mr. Arar was finally freed by the Syrians.
By July 2003, Chrétien's office sent a letter to Syria demanding Arar's release. But that was 10 months after his arrest and 3 1/2 months after officials first proposed a letter. That was a long delay for a man facing torture.In October 2003, former Foreign Affairs Minister and present Liberal Party Leader Bill Graham didn't seem too perturbed about the time it took to get Mr. Arar released.
The foreign ministry also bungled. In 2002, ministry officials passed a statement the Syrians had extracted from Arar on to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP which "heightened suspicion" that he was linked to terror. The ministry did not warn that the statement was likely obtained by torture, and hence unreliable.
And before and after Arar's return to Canada in 2003, unidentified officials leaked information to smear Arar and protect their own interests.
Talking to reporters in Ottawa that Sunday, Graham brushed off criticism that the federal government failed to put enough pressure on Syria. "I don't think it would have been done any more quickly by screaming and yelling," he said.There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Arar suffered as a result of all this.
My reputation has been tarnished, I've suffered tremendously, my family has suffered tremendously over the last couple of years, I expected him to apologize without delay. I'm still waiting. And every day I wait I'm suffering more and more."Of course, an apology is not all Mr. Arar is looking for.
There is speculation the Tories want to hold off while they try to settle a lawsuit Arar has filed claiming millions in damages against Ottawa.Despite all of this, I'm hard pressed to see any reason why Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, who were not in power when Mr. Arar was arrested (hell, they weren't even in power when he was released almost a year later) should be made to apologise for this matter.
This is all about Liberals.
Liberals like former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, former Security Minister Anne McLellan and former Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham. They should be the ones falling to their knees and asking Maher Arar for forgiveness.
UPDATE: 28 Sep 2006 - Zaccardelli takes one for the team
RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli publicly apologized Thursday to Maher Arar, calling his deportation by U.S. authorities and subsequent torture a "terrible injustice" and vowing to do everything in his power to ensure such an event never happens again.So when will the Liberals "man up" and take their share of the blame?