Friday, January 19, 2007

My new hero

It is an insult and an irritant to every Canadian citizen that not only did the United States deport one of our citizens to a foreign country to be tortured, but that the gentleman in question now having been cleared by Canadian authorities of terrorist ties, that same United States refuses to take him off their no-fly and terrorist watch lists, much less apologize for destroying his life.

Yesterday, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who noted that he lives near Canada and knows something of its ways and its people, finally took his government to task for their actions publically. In a public flaying of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, he demanded some answers on the case.

The blame for the appalling incident lays partly with Canada; a public inquiry into the affair found out that the RCMP had given the US erroneous information about Arar that contributed to his deportation to Syria. (The then-Commissioner of the RCMP resigned in disgrace after the Commission's report was released.) However, even after being told that the Canadian evidence was bogus, the US stubbornly insists it has other information that makes him worthy of suspicion. (The same information, presumably, that Antonio Gonzalez promised to have available for Patrick Leahy "next week".)

Well, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said outright yesterday that "[Arar] should not be on a watch list", adding that Canadian counter-terrorism officials had been shown the U.S. dossier and found "nothing new" in it.

It will be extremely interesting to see what, if any, public reaction Leahy has to the information Gonzales has promised to show him next week.

Of course, for Maher Arar, a victim of torture, a man whose career was destroyed (he is still unemployed), a man branded with the blackest label that exists in the 21st century, a man whose family suffer the ripples of this nightmare, it's all academic now, really.

There's no window where you go to get your life back.

But for making me feel, for just a few minutes, like someone down there gave a goddamn, really gave a goddamn about what happened to him, Senator Patrick Leahy is my newest hero.


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