On Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper formally apologized to Maher Arar, offered him compensation for his terrible ordeal, and pledged to ensure that what happened to him will never happen again.
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is quoted as saying:
The Canadian Government now has taken several steps to accept responsibility for its role in sending Mr. Arar to Syria, where he was tortured.
The question remains why, even if there were reasons to consider him suspicious, the U.S. government shipped him to Syria, where he was tortured, instead of to Canada for investigation or prosecution. I look forward to hearing the Justice Department's answer to that question next week.
It's refreshing to see that there is at least least one US elected official who takes Arar's case seriously.
Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings (one of my all-time favorite bloggers) asks us to compare and contrast:
As I understand it, Canada's role in Arar's detention was twofold. First, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police provided information, some of it baseless and misleading, to US authorities. Among other things, it described him and another person as an "Islamic Extremist individuals suspected of being linked to the Al Qaeda terrorist movement", a claim for which the Canadian investigation into this whole affair says they had "no basis" (p. 13 (pdf).) Second, they didn't do enough to try to free him once he was in detention.
We, by contrast, actually detained him and shipped him off to Syria, where he was kept in a three foot by six foot underground cell and tortured for ten months. Unlike the Canadian government, we have not initiated an investigation of how we ended up shipping an innocent engineer off to be tortured in Syria. To my knowledge, no one has resigned. We have not apologized, nor have we made any effort at all to help Mr. Arar put his life back together after we broke it apart. Here's what Alberto Gonzales had to say after the Canadian government's report appeared:
QUESTION: Canada, as you know, released a long-awaited report yesterday on the treatment of Maher Arar. Since the Department was the agency that allowed his removal to Syria in which he was then tortured, doesn't the Department owe him an apology?
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, we were not responsible for his removal to Syria, I'm not aware that he was tortured, and I haven't read the Commission report. Mr. Arar was deported under our immigration laws. He was initially detained because his name appeared on terrorist lists, and he was deported according to our laws.
Some people have characterized his removal as a rendition. That is not what happened here. It was a deportation. And even if it were a rendition, we understand as a government what our obligations are with respect to anyone who is rendered by this government to another country, and that is that we seek to satisfy ourselves that they will not be tortured. And we do that in every case. And if in fact he had been rendered to Syria, we would have sought those same kind of assurances, as we do in every case.
QUESTION: From the report, he had no connections with any terrorist groups, and he has sought an apology from the U.S. government.
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Again, I haven't read the report.