Montreal imam gets passport back after it was revoked in 2014
Federal officials have issued a new Canadian passport to an Iranian-trained Montreal imam, seven months after revoking it and informing him he was a “subject of interest” in an RCMP national security investigation.
Ali Sbeiti was notified June 3 that a passport would be sent to him in Beirut, according to documents filed in Federal Court. Sbeiti has been in Lebanon, where he is also a citizen, since his Canadian passport was seized.
No explanation was given for the reversal but it came after the Shia cleric’s lawyers sought a court order forcing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to disclose five documents related to the case.
His lawyer, Mitchell Goldberg, declined to comment on Wednesday.
“The newly issued passport has the same expiry date as the original passport that was invalidated, that is, September 14, 2017 and will be sent … to the Canadian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon such that it should arrive there within four days,” Gretchen Timmins, a Justice Department lawyer, wrote to the court.
The Federal Court scheduled a hearing for Wednesday to hear arguments on how to proceed. The Department of Justice argued in a letter that if Sbeiti’s appeal for a passport was resolved, there was no need to continue his legal fight for the CSIS documents.
The dispute began Nov. 19, when C.I.C. wrote to Sbeiti advising him that his passport had been “invalidated” and that Passport Canada was reviewing his “eligibility for passport services.” Sbeiti was born in Iraq but has been a Canadian citizen since 1991.
According to Quebec corporate records, Sbeiti is president of the Association El-Hidaya, a Montreal non-profit that shares an address with the Centre Communautaire Musulman de Montreal, where he is listed as the imam.
In 2006, he told a self-styled “Peo- ple’s Committee on Immigration Security Measures” about “his personal and community experiences of harassment” by CSIS, the Quebec activists wrote. “He has been interviewed tens of times by CSIS.”
Sbeiti also reported “having problems at airports” and eventually “found out that he had been placed on the no fly list in the United States and that this was affecting him even when he was flying in Canada.”
Internal government documents showed that the RCMP had expressed an interest in Sbeiti since 2009. He was also flagged by the Passport Canada security bureau after he altered his passport by trying to remove a sticker from one of the pages in 2007.
The passport he used at the time he was under RCMP scrutiny had several entry and exit stamps from Lebanon, as well as an Iranian visa, and indicated he had travelled to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.
Sbeiti appealed the passport revocation in Federal Court last December, but the case was put on hold while lawyers argued over whether the government could withhold “sensitive” intelligence documents.
Releasing the documents “could injure national security,” the government claimed in court filings that were themselves kept secret until a judge lifted the confidentiality of the case.
New legislation tabled by the Conservatives would allow federal officials to revoke passports for up to 10 years for security reasons. The bill would also allow the government to withhold the information upon which such decisions were based — although judges would still be allowed to see it.