Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fundamentally different paths? Prove it.

Over at pogge, Ian Welsh points us at a Thomas Walkom column in the Toronto Star about the Maher Arar fiasco. Walkom's thesis is this:

Ottawa's decision to compensate Canadian Maher Arar for its role in his unlawful imprisonment and torture contains a warning and a lesson.

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.
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.

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.


West End Bound said...

Do you think the jury would have an easier time making a decision with someone other than mr. harper as Prime Minister?

Just curious . . . .

Greg said...

We don't get that honour until all of the goverment and RCMP officials who smeared Arar, by leaking false information to the press, are in jail.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

west end bound,

Not Harper in particular, but a Conservative in general, yeah. It seems that Conservatives feel more pressure to kowtow than Liberals would because Liberals are more likely to use standing up to the Americans as a posturing technique to play to their base.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Good point.

famousringo said...

The jury will be out for a very long time. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, after all.