Madam Speaker, I have the pleasure to stand in the House and raise the Maher Arar file. If this file is not cleaned up, it will certainly be a bleak mark on Canadian civil rights.
Maher Arar is a Canadian citizen who was born in Syria in 1970. He came to Canada in 1987. After earning bachelor's and master's degrees in computer engineering, Arar worked in Ottawa as a telecommunications engineer. His wife, Monia Mazigh, has a Ph.D. in mathematics and they have two young children.
I wish to praise at this time the Minister of Foreign Affairs for his personal interest and involvement with the Arar family.
As Canadians, we know that civil rights are the pillar of this democracy that we live in and believe in. We all know there are many bleak moments in Canadian history.
Let me review a few of them: the internment of Japanese Canadians during the second world war and the internment of Ukrainian Canadians during the first world war. Between 1914 and 1920 over 5,000 Ukrainians were interned in 24 work camps across the country. There was also the Chinese Exclusion Act from 1923 to 1947. Hopefully, we can learn from history.
This week, I had the pleasure of meeting Jean-Louis Roy, the president of Rights and Democracy which is an arm's length organization created by Parliament in 1988. Rights and Democracy is an independent non-partisan organization that works with civil society organizations and governments in Canada and abroad for the benefit of developing nations. Its main focus is civil rights.
Here we are going around the world doing a great job, I must say, promoting civil rights and democracy, and at the same time we probably do not do all that we should do in this country.
That is why I believe this file is very important in the history of this country. There is no doubt that Mr. Arar was apprehended, not because he was a Canadian but because he was a Canadian of Arab descent. There is no doubt that racial profiling took place. The man was detained by U.S. immigration and naturalization officers at New York's Kennedy airport while returning alone to Montreal from a family vacation in Tunisia. He is a citizen of this country. If this can happen to Maher Arar, it can certainly happen to many other Canadians, whether they are Arab or of other ethnic descent.
I hope the government will pay attention and ensure that there is a transparent process to get to the bottom of this.