Canadian citizen Maher Arar has lived in this country for more than 25 years. He has an undergraduate degree from McGill and a graduate degree in telecommunications, is married and father of two children. Until the infamous ordeal of 2002, he had never been charged with any offence or been principal target of any investigation. RCMP officers had been interested in interviewing Arar as a witness in a security case but they did not consider him a suspect or a target of their investigation.
Report of the Events Relating to Maher Arar by Justice Dennis O’Connor
“On September 26, 2002, Maher Arar arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on a flight from Zurich, Switzerland. He had started his trip in Tunisia and was connecting through New York on his way to Montreal. Upon his arrival at the airport in New York he was detained by American authorities.
“On October 7, the Regional Director of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) issued an order finding Mr. Arar to be a member of al-Qaeda and directing his removal from the United States. On October 8, 2002, Mr. Arar, still in American custody, was flown to Jordan. A short time later he was driven to Syria, where he was imprisoned for almost a year.
“…I do conclude that it is very likely that American officials relied on information the RCMP had provided to American agencies in making the decision to detain Mr. Arar on his arrival in New York. I refer here to information about Mr. Arar, some of which was inaccurate, that was given to the American agencies at different times in the months preceding his detention in New York… It indicated that Mr. Arar had been in the vicinity of Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001, which was false…
“American authorities very likely relied on that same information in deciding to remove him to Syria… American officials have consistently said that American agencies were interested in Mr. Arar because of information provided by Canadian officials…”
Maher Arar was a victim of America’s program of extraordinary rendition. Contrary to international law, he was removed to Syria, where he was detained and abused for almost a year before Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship allowed his return to Canada.
A Canadian commission publicly cleared Arar of any links to terrorism, and the government of Canada paid a multi-million dollar settlement because the RCMP had facilitated, perhaps initiated, Arar’s arrest and torture. In addition, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a formal apology to Arar for Canada’s role in his “terrible ordeal”.