Canadian government does not get terrorism and taxpayers foot the bill

Everyone is presumed innocent until found guilty, even alleged terrorists or those caught up in a terrorist investigation, but do we have to pay for other nations’ mistakes?

This piece appeared in The Hills Times on January 16

I AM BEGINNING to lose track of how much of my (and our) hard-earned dollars are being given to Canadian persons that were alleged terrorists or were caught up in a terrorism investigation. In case you need reminding, here is a running tally:

  • Maher Arar – $10.5 million
  • Ahmad El-Maati, Abdullah Al Malki, Muayyed Nureddin – $31.25 million
  • Omar Khadr – $10.5 million

To this list we may have to add $90 million to Hassan Diab, a University of Ottawa professor who is suing the Canadian government for its role in his incarceration… in France. Huh?

Before I get back to Mr. Diab, let me remind the reader why we the taxpayers are collectively $52.25 million poorer. In 2002 the US seized Maher Arar and sent him to Syria where he was mistreated.  Arar was not charged with an offence and a Canadian public inquiry concluded there was no evidence he had committed an offence, adding that he was not a suspect in the terrorism investigation: an American action cost the Canadian taxpayer.

Omar Khadr (left) and Maher Arar (right)

It doesn’t matter what we do ‘coz Canada will pay

El-Maati, Al Malki and Nureddin all traveled to Syria of their own accord and were mistreated.  The men denied any involvement in terrorism and were never charged.  A public inquiry found the men had been falsely accused; a Syrian action cost the Canadian taxpayer. As for Omar Khadr, well he was captured on the battlefield by the US, sent to Guantanamo by the US and mistreated there by the US; a series of US actions cost the Canadian taxpayer.

Am I the only one who has an issue with Canada – I mean Canadian taxpayers – ponying up for the alleged mistakes of other countries? Are we a roll-over international dupe? Are other countries laughing and pointing at us saying “Hey, it doesn’t matter what we do ‘coz Canada will pay!”?

Are we a rollover international dupe? Are other countries laughing and pointing at us saying, ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter what we do ’cause Canada will pay’?

But back to Mr. Diab. He was arrested in Canada in November 2008, at the request of France, which considered him a suspect in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue that killed four people and injured 40 more. After a long extradition hearing he was sent to France in November 2014 and spent three years in jail before he was released in January 2018 after the chief investigating judge ruled the evidence against him was flawed and concluded there was convincing evidence Diab was in Beirut at the time of the bombing.

A file picture taken on October 3, 1980 shows firefighters standing by the wreckage of a car and motorcycle after a bomb attack at a Paris synagogue on Rue Copernic which killed four people. (Photo credit: AFP)
Image of the 1980 Paris synagogue bombing (Photo: AFP)

Negligence and/or malicious actions

So now he is suing us for “negligence and/or malicious actions, and breaches of the Charter”. All this despite the fact that an external review of his case concluded that federal lawyers had acted ethically and lawfully in ordering his extradition.

What gives? A process was fairly handled and Canada acted in accordance with the law and, I assume, an extradition treaty it has with France. Why in heaven’s name then is Mr. Diab not suing France? Is it because he and his lawyers know Canada will cave and pay?

Why in heaven’s name is Mr. Diab not suing France? Is it because he and his lawyers know Canada will cave and pay?

Look, I know nothing about Mr. Diab or his case or why the French judge ruled that the State’s case was flawed. What I do know is states do not build terrorism cases by randomly trolling through phone books seeking a worthwhile target. At some point it is reasonable to assume that he came up in conjunction with a French investigation and that authorities judged that his connection to the 1980 terrorist attack was strong enough to apply for an extradition from Canada. It is also reasonable to assume France provided Canadian officials with evidence that they concluded established a link and we complied – legally as the review notes – with the request.

The fact that the case fell apart is not the issue: all kinds of cases fall apart for all kinds of reasons. The importance here is that Canada legally and ethically sought to help an ally carrying out a terrorism investigation. This kind of thing happens all the time, and not just in terrorism cases.

Hassan Diab

Why is Mr. Diab not suing France?

If he is upset at his treatment at the hands of French authorities and his case has merits should France not pay? Assuming his case goes through and succeeds, why should Canada pay for France’s error?

I am getting tired of all this. Canadian and allied law enforcement and security intelligence agencies are busting their butts trying to find terrorists before they strike or to punish them after they do. They work in good faith and to the best of their abilities. We in Canada have limited resources and have to rely on our allies to help us with these tasks.

If foreign parties do screw up and a Canadian is unfairly treated those parties should provide compensation. Not Canada and not Canadian taxpayers.

Phil Gurski
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