A Liberal senator who took a hand in efforts to free Maher Arar says U.S. officials were willing to send him back to Canada – but only if he was sure to face criminal charges here.
Pierre De Bané told a public inquiry Wednesday that he learned of the U.S. offer from a Foreign Affairs official who briefed him on the case in the summer of 2003.
Mr. De Bane was about to leave for Syria on a mission aimed at freeing Mr. Arar from imprisonment there.
He said he understood the Americans made their offer several months earlier, when they arrested Mr. Arar in New York.
They decided to send him to Syria after the RCMP told them there was not enough evidence to charge him with anything in Canada.
Mr. Arar's lawyer, Lorne Waldman, says the U.S. offer should have set off alarm bells in Ottawa and tipped Canadian officials that Mr. Arar might be deported to Syria, where he was later tortured into false confessions of terrorist activity.
But there's something missing in this story. It's rancid enough that the U.S. officials wanted a guarantee that Arar would be charged before they gave him back. But during a CBC radio show this afternoon, the host claimed that those same U.S. officials actually wanted assurances ahead of time that Arar would be both charged and convicted before they would return him to Canada.
According to a Canadian official whose name I didn't catch during the radio broadcast, that official (correctly) made it clear that, without proper due process, Canada could make no such promise, whereupon the Americans shipped Arar to Syria.
I think I've reached my limit on outrage. Really.
RAPID-RESPONSE UPDATE: Ah, here we go: the CBC story, where we read:
[Liberal Senator Pierre] De Bané said a top Foreign Affairs official told him the Americans were only willing to hand over Arar under certain conditions.
"He said the Americans said to the Canadians, 'We are ready to give you back Mr. Arar on the condition that you bring him back to Canada, you incarcerate him, you make charges against him,'" he testified.
"And the Canadian party said, 'No, the Canadian Charter of Freedoms does not allow us to do what you're asking. We do not have proper grounds.'"
Hmmm ... that lends itself to a slightly different interpretation but De Bane is right -- it simply wouldn't be allowed here. If I'm still this pissed in the morning, I'm going to be taking it out on someone.