Ottawa's decision to compensate Canadian Maher Arar for its role in his unlawful imprisonment and torture contains a warning and a lesson.While I agree wholeheartedly with Walkom's criticism of the U.S.'s actions, I think he gives Canada way too much credit. Yes, it was a good thing that the Canadian government officially apologized to Arar, and compensated him financially. But we can never let ourselves become self-congratulatory about that simply because the U.S. is still treating Arar even more despicably than Canada treated him.
The warning is that Canada and the U.S. are on fundamentally different paths when it comes to matters of terrorism and human rights. The lesson is that until Ottawa gets more aggressive with our friends in the war on terror, a Canadian passport won't mean much.
We can't forget that there was a reason an official apology and several million dollars in compensation were necessary. We can't forget that the very Canadian who issued that apology, when he was leader of the Conservative opposition, was one of the people who helped sow suspicion against Arar once upon a time, and that several people below him directly accused Arar. And most of all, we can't forget that being one step better than the U.S. in matters of terrorism and human rights is hardly something to pat ourselves on the backs about, but a terrifically unambitious goal.
An apology for contributing to the deportation and torture of a Canadian citizen is what needed to happen, but it doesn't come close to proving that "Canada and the U.S. are on fundamentally different paths." We only get that honour once we prove that we'll be willing to stand up to the U.S. and assure that nothing like this can ever happen again. And as far as I'm concerned, the jury's still out on that one.