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Evidence of meeting #30 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was consular.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Leonard Edwards  Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Luc Portelance  Executive Vice-President, Canada Border Services Agency
Gerald Cossette  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Julian Falconer  Falconer Charney LLP, As an Individual
Suaad Hagi Mohamud  As an Individual
Johanne Durocher  As an Individual

4:30 p.m.

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Thank you.

I think that's an important point, because I think you have laid out some of the challenges for Canadians abroad and the need for consular services. I think most Canadians would want to know that the $25 they put down on the table when they get their passport goes directly to consular affairs. That's not your issue; I'm bringing it up because I think it's an important point of fact that people should know.

I would like to finish by noting the fact that other jurisdictions, when it comes to the rights and responsibilities and obligations of governments to protect their citizens, have actually codified that.

As you mentioned, Mr. Edwards, I have put forward a proposal that we do just that. I would simply note that both Germany and the United States have done that in the past, and I would hope we could look to do that and have someone who would actually oversee that, such as an ombudsperson. I look forward to working with my colleagues on that, and I think it would help you do your job. I'm not one who believes you're the problem. I think it's because this has become politicized that we have a problem, and I think we can sort it out.

I think my time is up. I thank you for being here today.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Dewar.

I guess, folks, our hour is up for the first round. If we were to go for the full hour, we'd go for another five minutes approximately. Are you wanting to proceed for another five minutes?

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

All right.

Mr. Goldring, a very quick question, please.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Understandably, the discussion of the specifics of the particular cases cannot be held at this time, but my understanding is that there has been a call by ministers Van Loan and Cannon for a full accounting--a request that a full accounting be prepared by officials regarding the Mohamud case. Of course, the public is understandably very interested in this case and we're all interested in the maximum amount of transparency possible.

What difficulty will there be in making public this full accounting once it is completed, and are there concerns, once again, under the Privacy Act about that? What can be done to make this accounting fully public?

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Go ahead, Mr. Portelance.

4:30 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Canada Border Services Agency

Luc Portelance

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CBSA is leading the accounting that Minister Van Loan and Minister Cannon asked for. We've been asked to do it in an expeditious fashion; so we are proceeding.

In the accounting, there will be personal information about Ms. Mohamud, certainly. There will be limits under the Privacy Act on releasing all of that information. Certainly we want to be transparent, but Ms. Mohamud would have the opportunity to consent to the release of that information. Were she to do so, it would certainly make the release of the report more feasible.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

So her specific consent will be required for any possible release of any of the information from that accounting?

4:35 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Canada Border Services Agency

Luc Portelance

Certainly with respect to her personal information, it will.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

And when might that be forthcoming?

4:35 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Canada Border Services Agency

Luc Portelance

I don't have a precise date. We've been asked to do this quickly and we are moving very quickly. There is some pressure on us to deliver that to the ministers very soon.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

Thank you.

Can I share my time?

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

You have one minute left.

Madam Brown.

August 26th, 2009 / 4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

My concern here, first of all, is that we are being accused of not providing services, and I take that with great consideration.

I know that in my office when people come in to see me, regardless of whether it is a municipal or provincial issue, we always try to connect people with whoever can solve the problem for them. I have one specific case that came into my office from a neighbouring riding; the member for Markham refused service to these individuals. They came looking for assistance, and our office did solve the problem. It was a consular issue. We did get the problem resolved. So we never turn people away.

My question to you as the consular services is whether someone who is looking for assistance overseas is ever turned away.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Ms. Brown. That has to be the last question.

Mr. Edwards.

4:35 p.m.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Leonard Edwards

Our normal practice is that if a Canadian comes looking for assistance we do not turn them away.

And to go back to a couple of the earlier questions, indeed, I would say that the strong default of the consular service is to assist. I have seen it on very many occasions personally. I'm aware of many occasions where we have helped people. All they need to do is identify themselves as Canadians, and we have the services we provide and we provide them.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much.

Our time is used up in the first hour. We thank the department for coming.

We will suspend for one moment and invite our witnesses for the second hour to take their places, please.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

All right, committee, we'll call this meeting back to order.

In our second hour of our study of the treatment of Canadians abroad, we will hear from two individuals, Ms. Suaad Hagi Mohamud, who is accompanied by her legal counsel today; and also appearing as a witness, Ms. Johanne Durocher.

I sincerely welcome each of you to our committee and would invite you to make a statement before our committee. Then we would, hopefully, proceed into one, or perhaps even two, rounds of questioning this afternoon.

I would like to proceed with Ms. Mohamud, if she would give her opening statement.

4:40 p.m.

Julian Falconer Falconer Charney LLP, As an Individual

Mr. Chair, you've already introduced me as counsel. My name is Julian Falconer, and I have no intention of making submissions or a presentation. I appreciate my role in this proceeding, and you want to hear from Ms. Mohamud.

I simply wanted to indicate to you that Ms. Mohamud will be reading from an opening statement that will include, as appendices, a document, being a letter from the first secretary dated May 28, and a second document, being a list entitled, “High Commission/High-Handed Conduct”. Those two documents, which are appendices, she will not be reading from, but they are included in her opening statement. I simply wish to clarify that for the committee.

I thank you for your indulgence in allowing me to do that.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Falconer.

Ms. Mohamud.

4:40 p.m.

Suaad Hagi Mohamud As an Individual

Mr. Chair and honourable members of the committee, thank you for having me and my adviser, Julian Falconer, speak to you.

I have had a simple life. All I have is my son, my family, and my friends. I work hard to support my son. I try to keep him on the right path.

As politicians, you are responsible for making sure that Canadians are safe. You are responsible for Canadian citizens. You have to stand up for Canadians wherever they are. But your officials took away my rights and my freedom.

I'm telling you my story because I want to make sure that what happened to me does not happen to any other Canadian.

On April 30, I crossed into Nairobi to visit my family. I showed them my passport to get on the plane in Toronto, and I showed it again at a stopover in Amsterdam. I showed it to Kenyan authorities when I landed in Nairobi. No one stopped me or questioned me as to whether my passport really belonged to me.

Three weeks later, I started my trip home. I was looking forward to seeing my son again. I arrived at the airport on May 21. I had no idea that it would be three months before I came home again. Two KLM workers stopped me. They said I did not look like my passport picture, that my lips were not the same. I had been told by many people that they had been forced to pay a bribe to airport employees, to put money in their passports. I refused to do it, so they kept me there.

They held me at the airport overnight. I was allowed to call the Canadian High Commission and I spoke with someone there. I told them who I was, where I worked, and where I lived. I thought they would help me. The next morning, two officials from the Canadian High Commission came to see me at the airport. They put a picture of my son on the table. I picked it up right away. I told them that it was my son's photo, but they did not believe me. I begged them to call my family in Canada to tell them, but they did not begin to call my family in Canada. I told them to call my workplace, but they did not. They just told me, “You are not Suaad.”

They left me there at the airport, where I was kept for four days. Instead of helping me, they told the Kenyans that I was an impostor. They gave the Kenyans my passport to help them to charge me as a criminal.

On May 25, the Kenyans let me go, on a bond. They told me I had two weeks to prove who I was. They took me to the High Commission, where I showed the Canadians everything in my wallet, all my ID, everything in my bag. I showed them my travel documents, my driver's licence, my Canadian citizenship, my social insurance card, my insurance card, even a dry cleaning receipt, my Bell Canada calling card, my OHIP card, my son's social insurance card, my Visa card, and my health card. I also showed them Canadian Tire money. They did not believe me. Again, they told me that I was not Suaad. I asked them to call people who knew me in Canada, but they didn't.

After two weeks, when the Canadian High Commission still did not accept my identity, I had to go to jail. The commission told the Kenyans that I was not a Canadian. I was charged for possessing and using a passport issued to another person and being unlawfully present in Kenya. I was in that jail from June 3 to June 11 before my mother could get me out on bail. I went through a horrible time, and I never want another Canadian to go through such a troubling thing.

I was locked in a prison with murderers, and one lady had blood on her hand. They told me that she killed her boyfriend. I was so afraid that I could not sleep. There were too many people in there, and we slept on the floor. There were even small children with their mothers who were locked up.

I have never been in a jail, I've never been in trouble, and I've never been guilty of anything. I got sick and I thought I was going to die. All I could think of was that I promised my son I would come back soon, but I could never see him again. Even when I got out of the prison, the Canadian government fought against me. It was only because of the pressure from people in Canada that they finally started to look at my case.

On July 9, I gave them my fingerprints. Later they told me that they did not keep my fingerprints from when I became a Canadian citizen in 2003. I don't know if that's true.

On July 15, my employer at ATS, Andromeier Transportation Services Inc., confirmed in writing with the second secretary of the High Commission in Nairobi, Mr. Huard, that I was employed with the company and that I was on approved vacation.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Ms. Mohamud, you're doing a very good job. Don't be frustrated by that. Just take your time and listen to your counsel on that. We appreciate your testimony.

4:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Suaad Hagi Mohamud

On July 22 Mr. Andrew Jenkins, intelligence officer with the Canada Border Services Agency, physically attended at the ATS office in Canada. My workers identified the photo of me. Even though a federal investigator had already confirmed who I was, Minister Lawrence Cannon told the country on July 24 that there was no proof; he made the country believe I was an imposter.

Even with the photo identification, they wanted more. My lawyer had to go to court to force them to check my DNA. Even then they fought me. They had promised to take my DNA sample by July 25. They did not do it until July 27. Then they waited two days to send the DNA to the lab in Canada. They did not send the package with the DNA by a quick route. It did not arrive in Canada until August 4. Finally, on August 10, my son's DNA proved that I was me, Suaad.

I told my son I was just going away for a short time. I was gone for three and a half months. Now he is afraid when I leave him.

What would have happened if my son had come with me to Kenya? How could I have proved who I was? What would have happened if I did not have a child?

When they called those people and the Kenyan immigration people said I did not look like my passport photo, I did not give up. I told them I was a Canadian. So I called my government. I thought my government would back me up. But I was alone when my government let me down.

I ended up in jail in Kenya because of the Canadian officials. They took away my rights. They took away my identity and my freedom. And they told the Kenyans that I was a criminal. They thought I was an imposter. I was separated from my son because of the Canadian government. From the beginning, they presumed I was guilty.

I'm very happy to be back in Canada. I'm back with my son. I've always believed that being a Canadian meant I had rights and freedom, and I still believe that.

I want to thank so many people who supported me and got my story out: my family, my friends, all the journalists, and my lawyer, Raoul Boulakia. They are the people who brought me back to Canada. They stood up for me when the Canadian officials turned their backs on me. Not everyone would have been lucky enough to have so much help. How many people are out there standing like I was? I would never have believed that I would go to jail for saying I'm a Canadian citizen.

You are the ones who are responsible for protecting Canadian citizens and making sure that we have our rights and freedom. You must stand up for us wherever we are.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Ms. Mohamud.

We'll go now to Ms. Durocher.