Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 52
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Government Assistance for Suaad Hagi Mohamud
Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, inscribed within every Canadian passport is the following message from the Government of Canada:
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada requests, in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.
On May 21 of this year, after a two-week trip spent visiting her ailing mother, Suaad Hagi Mohamud, a Canadian citizen, was stopped by immigration officials in Nairobi while she attempted to board her flight to Canada. The reason given was that she did not resemble her four-year-old passport photo.
The following day, her passport was confiscated by the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi, despite the fact that she produced her driver’s licence and fingerprints, among other documents that were asked of her. Ms. Mohamud finally returned to Canada on August 15, after DNA testing confirmed her identity. In the meantime, she had spent time in prison and had been detained by the Kenyan government, at the request of our government.
What is our government doing to assist Ms. Mohamud to recover from this ordeal?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): I believe the honourable senator is aware — it has certainly been well publicized — that Minister Van Loan has requested that the Canada Border Services Agency prepare a full account of what happened in this case. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Cannon, has also asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to conduct a full review of this case.
Suaad Hagi Mohamud appeared here before a parliamentary committee. As the Canada Border Services Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs, at the request of the government and their ministers, are conducting a full review of this case in regard to what happened, it is impossible for me to comment now or speculate further on what the end result of those investigations will be.
Senator Jaffer: I very much respect what the honourable leader says; that there is an ongoing investigation. I did not ask about the result of that investigation, because I know it is ongoing. However, in the time it is taking for this investigation, how are we helping Ms. Mohamud deal with this ordeal? What are we doing for her in the meantime?
Senator LeBreton: For the government to take any further action with regard to Ms. Mohamud, it is incumbent upon us to determine what happened and how it happened. It is only on that basis that we can decide where we go from there.
With regard to what the government is doing now, I am not aware that the government has been asked to do anything in particular. I could be wrong. When Ms. Mohamud appeared before the parliamentary committee, I did not note any specific request from her, other than her comments, and those of her lawyers, that she would seek legal action. Of course, that situation further prevents me from saying anything more on the matter.
In any event, it is important to await the reports from Canada Border Services Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs before any further action can be taken one way or the other.
Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, would the Leader of the Government in the Senate provide information as to how many Canadians have been denied entry to our country in the last three years?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Is the honourable senator talking about Canadian citizens?
Senator Jaffer: Yes, I am.
Senator LeBreton: I already mentioned that there are some 500 emergency calls per day. I would certainly attempt to take the question as notice.
Honourable senators, one of the problems for any government — that is, the previous government or this government — is that there are privacy issues regarding the individuals themselves. I cannot make a blanket commitment stating that I can, all of a sudden, snap my fingers and release the information about Canadians held in various countries for various purposes. I would be stepping beyond the bounds of anything that is doable and I am certain a lot of people involved in the cases would not want to have that happen. I can certainly make the honourable senator’s views known to departmental officials, but I would hazard a guess that question is impossible to answer.