Tuesday, September 11, 2007




Globeand Mail Update

September4, 2007 at 3:46 PM EDT

"OTTAWA— Mahar Arar, the poster-boy for what can go wrong at an airport whensecurity lists are involved, says Canada should re-think its new “no-fly”program that currently bans as many as 2,000 people from boarding an airplane.

Mr.Arar linked the debate over Canada's no-fly list to last month's release of previously redacted sections of the public inquiry report into his 2002 deportation to a Syrian jail, where he was held for more than a year.

The newly-released sections revealed some people inside Canada's spy agencybelieved early on that Mr. Arar was deported because the United States wantedto “have their way” with him.

The release led some to accuse Canadian officials of misusing its power to exempt material on national security grounds, arguing the material was likely withheldto avoid political embarrassment.

In commenting on the no-fly list on Tuesday, Mr. Arar added his voice to that criticism.

The security agencies are telling us we should trust them,” Mr. Arar told a gathering of Universityof Ottawa law students when asked for his views on the no-fly list.

“My answer to that would be, we've seen good examples where we trusted them and then at the end of the day, those redacted portions had nothing to do withnational security.”

Launched in June under the name “Passenger Protect,” the government has said there are between 500 and 2,000 names on the no-fly list. The individuals must be considered an immediate threat to air security.

It has been sharply criticized by privacy and civil liberty advocates, but Ottawa insists the plan has adequate safeguards.

Mr.Arar said it is hard to imagine that the new list will be problem free and said it is now a fact of life that the Muslim community is targeted following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

“It's safe to assume that most of those names [on the no-fly list] are names of people who have Muslim background. What criteria they use to place a person onthis watch list is unknown to us,” said Mr. Arar.

“Idon't think, frankly, that the Canadian government has consulted the public enough about this issue and I think we need to go back to the table and think about whether the no-fly list is the best way to do it or not.”

Mr.Arar and his wife, Monia Mazigh, addressed a standing-room only lecture hall of law students starting their first day of studies.

Ms. Mazigh said Canadians must keep the pressure on Ottawa to ensure the public inquiry's recommendations for reform among the national security agencies are implemented.

The couple urged the students not to abandon their principles when they become lawyers. Mr. Arar stressed the importance of doing pro bono work and fighting for justice, rather than simply working to earn the most money.

The inability of many to afford legal services is the biggest problem facing thelegal profession in Canada, said Mr. Arar, because it is very difficult for low-income people to find lawyers willing to work for free.

Mr.Arar left the students with a question to ponder in their professional lives:“Who will you include and who will you exclude?”

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