The Toronto Star's Haroon Siddiqui has it exactly right, Stephen Harper is an embarrassment. Part of the problem in the case of Suaad Hagi Mohamud lies with the Canada Border Services Agency, who have done stupid and embarassing things before, but for Harper to say that it is now his top priority to bring this poor woman home after she's been stranded for three months, coming as it does on the heels of all the other cases of Canadians the government has abandoned abroad, is a bit rich. Obviously, the consular services section of the Foreign Affairs Ministry needs a shake up too, but the problem starts at the top.
It used to be that if one fell afoul of the law overseas (which is not the same thing as committing a crime) and could contact the embassy, consular affairs and the Canadian government would be there for you - finding lawyers, making sure you were not mistreated, protecting you. Now, the government seems to be saying that when you leave the country, the country leaves you - you're on your own and they don't really want you back.
As one of the 9% of Canadians who is outside Canada at the moment, this is a worrisome thing. Especially since I live in a country with a history of xenophobia and a legal system with no presumption of innocence or even right to a lawyer while in police custody.
And it isn't just the unwillingness of the Canadian government to stand up for its citizens like accused child soldier Omar Khadr who are unlawfully being held prisoner by a foreign governerment or the withdrawl of consular services - there are other changes indicative of this distaste for Canadians the Conservative don't feel are Canadian enough.
Both my children and my brother's kids were born in foriegn countries, but can claim Canadian
citizenship is they wish by virtue of the citizenship of their parents. But unless my grandchildren are born in Canada, they will no have that same option. A recent change in the law means that my children are not Canadian enough to pass on citizenship to their own kids should they be born outside the country.
Another comparitively recent change in law means that since I have been out of the country for five years, I can no longer vote in any election in Canada.
I suppose its a matter of self preservation for the Conservatives. After all, anyone who has been exposed to the world outside their provincial little town or who has a stake in multiculturalism isn't likely to vote for Stephen Harper and his gang of isolationist ignoramuses.
Update: Haroon Siddiqui flays another strip off the Conservative carcass and brings up another example of the abandonment of Canadians who aren't in Canada at the moment. So much for Stephen Harper's boast of Canada "returning" to the world stage.
The government also forced a court battle over Ron Smith, the Canadian on death row in Montana, whom it didn't want to help. The Federal Court ordered it to.
Since we abolished the death penalty, governments routinely used to urge
clemency. Not the Tories.
They have also quietly put the brakes on the transfer of Canadian prisoners from abroad to serve out their terms in Canada. Stockwell Day and now Peter Van Loan, as public safety ministers, have been rejecting official recommendations for such transfers. They've done so in about 50 cases, invoking national security or claiming that the person in question "poses a danger to Canada."
Gar Pardy, the retired head of the consular section of the foreign ministry, says that "previous governments used to treat everyone the same. Once all the legal procedures were complete with a Canadian case abroad, we'd ask for transfer and I do not remember a single case of ministerial rejection. Now it's routinely rejected."
Why? "There's no rationality. You can't put a finger on it. With Stockwell Day, it may be a case of ideology or Old Testament righteousness."
"Ideology or Old Testament righteous" you say? To-may-to, to-mah-to. And neither one has anything to do with helping Canadians.