Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Do you have a passport? Is it more than a couple of years old? Have you looked at the picture of yourself in that passport lately? Do you look the same now?
This is Suaad Mohamud Haji (also written elsewhere as Suaad Haji Mohamud). She travelled to Kenya for a two week visit with her mother who was ill and had planned to come home, to Toronto, in May. Instead, she was prevented from returning and jailed, because she didn't look like her passport photo taken over 4 years ago.
Mohamud was prepared to fly home May 17 when a Kenyan airport official challenged the photo. Nobody has suggested the passport is fake, she said, just that she doesn't look like the picture.
She showed two other pieces of photo ID, her Ontario driver's licence and OHIP card, along with her Canadian citizenship card, bank card and credit card, copies of which she also provided the Star.
But the Kenyans sent her to jail. A friend bailed her out and for five weeks, she says, she has tried to get the Canadian High Commission's help.
Now, one might be tempted to say the system in Kenya is the problem. Corruption, etc, is the issue. Fair, but in that event, what would you expect your government to do if this was you?
"I phone them (Canadian High Commission) three times again today and nobody calls me back."
She faces a court hearing July 21 and fears being jailed again if Canada doesn't vouch for her, she said.
Those quotes are taken from a story published on July 1st. Since then, things have gotten worse. They won't accept all the ID she's provided, so now she's gone a step further.
If a passport, driver's licence, OHIP card and citizenship certificate are not enough, Suaad Hagi Mohamud is ready to give fingerprints to prove who she is.
"When I applied for Canadian citizenship, they took my fingerprints," the Somali-born woman said yesterday by phone from Nairobi, where she is out on bail pending trial.
"They can match them."
Of course they could. Of course they should. Canada could actually do what any democratic country should do for it's citizens and provide this information to Kenyan authorities, while insisting that they follow up...at the very least.
But no. I keep forgetting that this is not the Canada that I know. This is not the Canada that made a name for itself defending human rights, protecting it's citizens and setting an example for the world. No, this is Harper's Canada now. A country that decides which citizens it will defend based on.....what? I'm not clear.
It's tempting to say skin colour, it's also tempting to say religion, but when you look at the list of who Canada seems to assist, no one profile fits. No, there is something more here. Ideology seems to have the most comfortable fit.
An ideology that seems to see terrorism where it is suggested, but not proved...so guilty until proven innocent...Khadr. An ideology that sees justice through 'an eye for an eye' lens...Smith. An ideology that rejects pacifism and moral conscience...Iraq war resisters.
In this case, I haven't sorted it out, but suffice it to say that Canada is once again turning it's back on a citizen without providing any rationale.
Last week, Ottawa issued a single terse sentence: "Following an extensive investigation, officials at the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi have determined that the individual arrested by Kenyan authorities is not Ms. Suaad Mohamud Hagi."
For reasons stubbornly not explained, a doubt raised by a Kenyan airport official as the woman prepared to fly home after a visit has somehow escalated into Canada's rejection of her identity.
Canadian officials have refused to answer questions central to the mystery: Is the real Suaad Mohamud missing? Who is the arrested woman? Why does Canada disbelieve her story? Why can't fingerprints be taken?
There are many in this country who will vouch for her identity, but apparently that is irrelevant. Imagine how various communities across this country are feeling? Canada, was chosen by so many as a safe haven in the best sense of the term. I suspect many are re-thinking that...including me, who was born here.
This story needs more exposure, so if you can pass it on, I think there is a 12 year old boy that would be very grateful, if it means he'll see his Mom again.