Abousfian Abdelrazik is a Canadian citizen. In 2003, the Sudanese-born Montreal resident went to Sudan for a short visit to see his ailing mother. He is still there.
He was arrested by Sudanese officials on suspicion of being a terrorist or having contact with terrorists, and it is alleged that some of the information used to arrest him was provided by Canadian officials. In fact, it is alleged that Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs arranged to have him arrested.
According to reports, he was jailed and tortured (and questioned by U.S. and Canadian interrogators) for some two years until the Sudanese government, not known for their respect for human rights, determined that he was innocent and released him. That was about a year ago. They even offered, it has been reported, to fly him home in a private plane.
So, why is he still in Sudan?
The Canadian government refuses to allow him to re-enter Canada. For the past year, he has been “living” in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum where he sought refuge for fear of being re-arrested by Sudanese authorities.
What is more interesting is that both the RCMP and CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, say that he is innocent. They have cleared him of suspicion. That was back in 2007.
One would think that would be sufficient for the government. But, that is not the case.
A lawyer assisting Abdelrazik in his case before the Federal Court of Canada against the government, claims that Canada had promised to allow him to return home if the Sudanese government released him. Then they reneged on the promise.
The government had also said that if he was able to acquire an airline ticket, he would be allowed to return home. Supporters in Canada, including Stephen Lewis, got him a ticket. Then, the government again changed its mind.
Now, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, says Abdelrazik would not be allowed to return to Canada until he gets his name off of a United Nations no-fly list.
“It’s up to him, it’s incumbent on him to make sure he gets off that list,” Cannon has said.
How? Cannon’s predecessor tried in 2007 and was unsuccessful. How would he, stranded as he is in the embassy, without his government’s help, make this happen?
In any case, the no-fly list does not apply to citizens returning to their own countries.
So, what is the problem? Why is this Conservative government so set on keeping this citizen out of the country?
If he was a criminal or a terrorist, he would still have had the right of return even if to be arrested and imprisoned on his arrival back in Canada.
And, what does that say to the rest of us, Canadians of colour? What is our citizenship worth to this government?
Oh, yes, that has to be part of the equation. If the government can choose to deny re-entry to this country to a citizen, what is to say that the government and its ministers can’t do the same to any of one of us it perceived as a problem?
Federal New Democrat foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, is one of many who have questioned why the same consideration extended last year by the Canadian government to Brenda Martin to win her release from jail in Mexico (she was charged with a criminal offence) has not been extended to Abdelrazik, leaving us to believe that race might have had something to do with it. Maybe this government and its ministers don’t see this Black man as a real Canadian, worthy of its assistance.
Which means that, maybe, all of us, proud Canadians of colour, might indeed be fooling ourselves. Perhaps our Canadian citizenship might not be as sound and secure as that of White Canadians, even those who have come to this country long after most of us.
We see no reason for Canada to deny this man a return to his country. Unless there is something that the government wants to hide. And we add our voice to those calling on the government to bring him home immediately.