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[[Reposting of Project Fly Home update & call for action]]
Bring Abousfian Abdelrazik Home!
Cross-Canada Campaign 7 April to 7 May
Update and Call for Action
On Friday, 3 April, Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon refused to give a passport to Abousfian Abdelrazik. The flight Abousfian was due to board left without him, and he remains in the same situation of forced exile that he has been in for six years - living for almost a year in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum.
On Tuesday, 7 May, his lawyers will go to the courts to ask for a mandatory order to compel the government to bring Abousfian back by "any safe means at its disposal". This is being argued on the basis of section 6 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states, "Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada."
If they wanted to, government officials could, literally, send a plane today to bring him home tomorrow. But the government's actions have flown in the face of the law and public opinion, and officials have refused to do what is both within their means and within their legal obligation - to bring Abousfian home. Without public pressure, there is no guarantee that they
will even respect a court order.
Project Fly Home is thus calling for a public campaign leading up to 7 May to push the government to act NOW to bring Abousfian home.
It is imperative that the level of pressure and public scrutiny remain very high. The government has clearly proven its capacity for duplicity and its strong resistance to upholding Abousfian's rights. This is a case which is important not only for Abousfian but for all of us who are concerned about preserving the rights and freedoms - and most importantly, the dignity and equality - of all.
Abousfian's case has exposed a broad public to a much deeper problem that concerns every single one of us: from the most vulnerable non-citizens (dozens of whom were rounded up in mass factory raids last week and are now facing cruel deportation with no concern for their lives and well-being), to refugee claimants and permanent residents (who, under the draconian secret trial system, can be stripped of the most basic legal rights and forced to live a life of constant state surveillance -- either incarcerated or in their own homes -- under the perpetual threat of deportation), to the more privileged in our society. It is imperative that we act now.
1. 28 APRIL: We are calling on all cities to organize creative public information or fundraising events on or around 28 April, to mark the first anniversary of Abousfian's entering the embassy in Khartoum. If you are organizing an event, please email details to email@example.com. To connect with an event near you, check the list of contacts for various cities on our webpage.
2. 5 MAY: We are calling on all cities to organize protests on or around 5 May to demand that the government act now to bring him home OR to mobilize people to travel to Ottawa for the protest there. If you are organizing an event or mobilizing to go to Ottawa, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can get in touch with others in your city who could help organize this by checking the webpage or emailing email@example.com.
3. Please encourage five of your friends, colleagues or neighbours to make calls and write to LAWRENCE CANNON, copying Stephen Harper. Also ask them to write to their own MP. Details as well as a model letter, post card and petition can be found at www.peoplescommission.org/abdelrazik.php.
4. Importantly, PLEASE continue to send in notes of solidarity to Abousfian via firstname.lastname@example.org. These don't have to be long. They have been extremely important to keep up his morale and courage. People are also invited to send letters and gifts directly to the embassy in Khartoum.
There are other suggestions for action, including obtaining organizational endorsements (still welcome!) and donating to the Abousfian Abdelarazik Solidarity Fund, detailed on the webpage.
On Friday, 3 April, Abousfian Abdelrazik's lawyers received a fax from a government lawyer. In one sentence it stated that Lawrence Cannon, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, had decided to refuse their client an emergency passport. No explanation was provided. At the same time, Cannon, at a NATO summit in France, told reporters that Abousfian was being refused a passport on grounds of "national security".
The message came just hours before the flight which was supposed to bring Abousfian back to Canada after six years of illegal exile was due to leave Khartoum. The airplane ticket had been bought by people from across Canada who had risked being charged under the "Al Qaeda and Taliban regulations" to contribute money to repatriate Abousfian. They did so in order to fulfill conditions imposed by Passport Canada, which told Abousfian's lawyers in December 2008 that a passport for Abousfian would be issued if he presented a payed for ticket. After years of imprisonment without charge, brutality, torture, and frustrated attempts to return home, Abousfian was destitute and in no position to pay for the ticket. The government's position was that anyone who "provided or collected by any means, directly or indirectly, funds with the intention that the funds be used" by the UN-black listed Abousfian could face criminal charges. In a groundswell of public support for the stranded Abousfian, people from across Canada stepped forward to offer their help - their numbers have now grown to over 200.
The ticket was bought, it was presented; and the passport was refused. Once again the goal posts were moved.
It is widely known that the RCMP and CSIS have cleared Abousfian, and that the government's standing position is that it wants Abousfian removed from the UN list. In the face of this, Cannon's cry of "national security" sounds even more arbitrary than usual; in fact, it seems downright silly. The government's refusal to issue this Canadian citizen the travel document that he needs in order to come home; that he has been
promised, and that he is legally entitled to, is inexplicable.
A few facts nevertheless stand out as highly relevant. It is clear from documents released under the Privacy Act that Canadian authorities were involved in the arrest of Abousfian in Sudan. It is, by all appearances, a clear-cut case of "extraordinary rendition" - or in less sanitized language, outsourcing torture. For anyone familiar with the stories of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, the pattern is disturbingly familiar. Abousfian's story - which started under the Liberal government but continues under the Conservatives - would certainly create embarassment for some powerful people, particularly at a time when Canada and its allies are intent on bringing Sudanese President Bachir before the international court for his many crimes.
This situation has everything to do with Abousfian's religion and the colour of his skin. It has everything to do with a strong tide of racism and the increasing exercise of arbitrary power on the part of the government that must be seriously and strongly resisted to defend the rights and dignity of all.
**Why Lawrence Cannon is wrong, 28 March 2009
**Statement by Abousfian Abdelarazik, 2 April 2009:
**List of contributors to the Abousfian Abdelrazik Solidarity Fund, 3 April 2009
Project Fly Home
Project Fly Home is an initiative of the People's Commission Network.
Dominion Weblogs compiles the weblogs of Dominion editors and writers. The topics discussed are wide-ranging, but Canadian Foreign Policy, grassroots politics, and independent media are chief among them.