Why we need public in­quiry for Has­san Diab

Shine a light on ex­tra­di­tion, El­iz­a­beth May writes.

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - El­iz­a­beth May is leader of the Green Party of Canada and MP for Saanich-Gulf Is­lands.

A grave in­jus­tice was vis­ited upon Has­san Diab, a Le­banese-born so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor from Ot­tawa. It stemmed in part from his own govern­ment’s laws and ac­tions. As a Cana­dian law­maker, I am com­pelled to speak out and de­mand that we find out why he was sub­jected to such ap­palling treat­ment.

In 2008, the French govern­ment ap­plied to ex­tra­dite Diab, a Cana­dian cit­i­zen and fa­ther to a young fam­ily, on the ba­sis of ev­i­dence de­scribed by the Cana­dian judge as “weak, con­vo­luted and con­fus­ing (with) sus­pect con­clu­sions.” He was ex­tra­dited nonethe­less in 2014. Diab main­tained his in­no­cence from the be­gin­ning of his nine-year ordeal.

Af­ter liv­ing for 38 months in a French prison, dur­ing which he missed the birth of his son, for­ma­tive years in the life of his young daugh­ter, the fu­neral of his brother and the death of his fa­ther, Diab was re­turned to Canada a free man ear­lier this year. De­spite the French govern­ment’s best ef­forts, the French court sys­tem could no longer pun­ish a demon­stra­bly in­no­cent per­son.

How could this have hap­pened? How could a Cana­dian cit­i­zen be robbed of his free­dom on the ba­sis of in­cred­i­bly weak ev­i­dence from a for­eign state? How could a Cana­dian cit­i­zen be ex­tra­dited — with­out a trial date or any charges — to sit in soli­tary con­fine­ment while the re­quest­ing coun­try con­tin­ued its in­ves­ti­ga­tion?

What we know, at least, is that Canada’s ex­tra­di­tion law is deeply flawed. Gary Bot­ting, an ex­pert on Cana­dian ex­tra­di­tion law, de­scribed Diab’s case as “slimy” and “the low­est low in terms of qual­i­ta­tive ju­di­cial prac­tice.” But he says this is stan­dard pro­ce­dure for Canada’s ex­tra­di­tion sys­tem.

We also know that se­nior coun­sel at the fed­eral De­part­ment of Jus­tice worked to se­cure court de­lays and pro­vide sub­stan­tive sup­port to France when its case was fall­ing apart. The

It is truly heart­break­ing that our govern­ment was com­plicit in such a pro­found in­jus­tice.

de­part­ment even with­held ex­cul­pa­tory ev­i­dence from the de­fence and the ex­tra­di­tion judge.

It is truly heart­break­ing that our govern­ment was com­plicit in such a pro­found in­jus­tice against one of its own cit­i­zens. What is more tragic is that the same thing could hap­pen to other Cana­di­ans in the ab­sence of ad­e­quate re­forms and ac­count­abil­ity.

That is why I have joined Amnesty In­ter­na­tional Canada, the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Univer­sity Teachers, the Bri­tish Columbia Civil Lib­er­ties As­so­ci­a­tion and oth­ers to de­mand an in­de­pen­dent public in­quiry into Diab’s ex­tra­di­tion.

I was some­what re­lieved to hear that Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould has writ­ten to the B.C. Civil Lib­er­ties As­so­ci­a­tion and Amnesty In­ter­na­tional Canada men­tion­ing that she had re­cently “asked for an in­de­pen­dent ex­ter­nal re­view” into Diab’s case.

But an in­de­pen­dent ex­ter­nal re­view is not the an­swer here. The jus­tice min­is­ter must com­mis­sion an in­de­pen­dent public in­quiry un­der the In­quiries Act, mean­ing that a com­mis­sioner or com­mis­sion­ers — likely a se­nior judge or group of judges — would have the power to sum­mon wit­nesses in a public process and would re­port back to govern­ment within a set pe­riod.

We have no clue, on the other hand, what an in­de­pen­dent ex­ter­nal re­view would look like. As Diab’s lawyer stated, such a re­view could be­come a “cos­metic white­wash” of what took place. That out­come would be in­sult­ing to Diab and his fam­ily and would do lit­tle to as­suage Cana­di­ans’ con­cerns.

Noth­ing short of an in­de­pen­dent public in­quiry into Diab’s ordeal — de­ter­min­ing how our laws al­lowed this and the role played by govern­ment of­fi­cials — will en­sure that a mod­icum of jus­tice is achieved and that this will never hap­pen again.


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