Ottawa Citizen

Ex- minister denies claim RCMP told him of Arar case foul- up

‘ I was not informed,’ Easter tells panel


The former head of the department that oversaw the RCMP has disputed testimony by Commission­er Giuliano Zaccardell­i that he briefed his political masters soon after learning the RCMP spread false informatio­n on Maher Arar.

Commission­er Zaccardell­i testified last month before a parliament­ary committee that he first learned of the RCMP mistakes some time after Mr. Arar was imprisoned in Syria in the fall of 2002.

He also said the RCMP “ had discussion­s with the minister to inform him of the situation.”

But in testimony before the same committee yesterday, Wayne Easter, solicitor general in the former Liberal government, said he was not briefed about the errors, nor RCMP efforts to correct them.

“ I was not so informed. And I will state that again. I was not so informed,” said Mr. Easter. “ There is no situation where the RCMP came to me and basically said, ‘ We screwed up. We provided improper informatio­n’.”

Members of the public safety committee, which has been conducting hearings into the Arar case since the release of Justice Dennis O’Connor’s report, were troubled by the apparent discord in testimony between Mr. Easter and Commission­er Zaccardell­i.

“ I have very, very shaky confidence in ( Commission­er) Zaccardell­i) and him continuing this role, and this just further undermines that,” said Liberal MP Mark Holland. “ Given the severity of what happened to Mr. Arar, given the weight of the mistakes made by the RCMP, it’s just flabbergas­ting that they would not have at any point talked to anybody in the political sphere and let them know that they made a mistake.”

Mr. Arar, an Ottawa engineer with Canadian and Syrian citizenshi­p, was detained by U. S. authoritie­s in September 2002 and later sent to Syria, where he was tortured.

An inquiry headed by Judge O’Connor found the RCMP shared inaccurate informatio­n about Mr. Arar with U. S. authoritie­s, including that he was an Islamic extremist with links to al- Qaeda, and that the misinforma­tion “ very likely” led U. S. authoritie­s to send him to Syria.

Mr. Easter said he was not informed that Mr. Arar was anything more than a “ person of interest” in an RCMP investigat­ion until the summer or fall of 2003, when he was more extensivel­y briefed.

In fact, the former solicitor general said he did not learn that the RCMP had provided incorrect informatio­n to U. S. authoritie­s until the O’Connor report was released last month.

Mr. Easter also cast doubt on Commission­er Zaccardell­i’s assertion that the Mounties took steps to correct the record with the U. S. In July 2003, he requested a briefing note from the RCMP to prepare for a meeting with former U. S. attorney general John Ashcroft to express displeasur­e about Mr. Arar’s treatment. However, the note did not refer to false informatio­n provided to the U. S. or efforts by the RCMP to correct the errors.

 ?? TOM HANSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? Former solicitor general Wayne Easter says he was not briefed about errors in the informatio­n the RCMP provided to the U. S.
TOM HANSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS Former solicitor general Wayne Easter says he was not briefed about errors in the informatio­n the RCMP provided to the U. S.

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