CCCB Letter to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham Calling for an Inquiry into the Treatment of Mr. Maher Arar

Wednesday, December 17 2003

The Honourable Bill Graham
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0G2

Dear Mr. Graham:

Congratulations on your re-appointment to the important post of Minister of Foreign Affairs. In this responsibility you continue to express to the world the values of Canadians and of the Government of Canada. Please be assured of my prayerful best wishes as you continue to respond to the challenges of this office.

Mr. Minister, perhaps the most important element of Canadian foreign policy is to uphold the human rights of Canadians and all others, in accordance with the international instruments to which Canada has been a signatory over these many years. In the current context of campaigns and even “wars” being waged on terrorism, human rights have assumed increased importance.

I write to you today to encourage you to establish an independent and public inquiry into the treatment of Mr. Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen who was held and tortured in a Syrian prison for over a year. The Human Rights Committee of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops joins Mr. Arar’s courageous family and many other organizations, such as Amnesty International and KAIROS – Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, in asking that such an inquiry uncover the truth about the role of Canadian authorities, especially and including Canadian intelligence and security services, in Mr. Arar’s deportation from the United States to Jordan and then Syria, and his subsequent internment there. Canadian and international human rights would be well served if specific recommendations were proposed and implemented to ensure that all Canadians, but perhaps especially those of Arab ancestry, are never again mistreated in such a way.

Recently at a church-sponsored event in Ottawa, Mr. Arar’s wife, Ms. Monia Mazigh, stated, “I didn’t accept, and won’t accept, injustice. Violations of human rights are not acceptable for any reason.” These simple words are worthy of guiding us all in our common pursuit of a better future. In this same spirit, we urge you to establish an independent public inquiry into the Arar case without delay.

Sincerely yours,

Most Reverend Blaise Morand
Bishop of Prince Albert
Human Rights Committee
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

c.c.: The Honourable Anne McLellan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

The Honourable Irwin Cotler, Minister of Justice