Friday, 6 October 2006

Maher Arar's dual citizenship

A Challenge to Canada Free Press

Dick Field at Canada Free Press has come out with a particularly snarky article that makes a really big deal out of Maher Arar's dual citizenship, implying that Arar had divided loyalties, is not really committed to Canada, and brought his misery on his own head.
First, and exceedingly strange, is the fact that our media has persuaded the public that Mr. Arar is an ordinary immigrant Canadian of Syrian descent. No, he is not an ordinary Canadian like most of us. He is a citizen of Canada and a citizen of Syria. For months this writer has tried verify this fact by listening to every newscast and reading every newspaper possible in order to find out if Mr. Arar was indeed a dual citizen but no luck, nary a mention. Why the silence? Why the mystery? Apparently, the fact was discussed early in the O'Connor Inquiry and then dropped, so there is no excuse for the media.

...

Mr. Arar knew the torture practices in his own country, so we should ask Mr. Arar why he risked keeping his Syrian citizenship. Certainly by retaining his Syrian citizenship, Mr. Arar must be partly responsible for his own misfortunes, even if he is totally innocent.

I have a lot of pet peeves and dishonest, nasty journalism figures high on the list. You may remember that I participated in my own small-scale way to helping to spread the fuss about the CBC's skewed report on Prime Minister Harper.

This article raised my ire in a similar fashion. While Field castigates the media for not doing their homework, he (un)studiously neglected doing his own. So I did it for him. And sent Canada Free Press the results.
Syria makes it very difficult for expats to renounce their citizenship.
http://www.opm.gov/extra/investigate/IS-01.pdf

LOSS OF CITIZENSHIP:
 VOLUNTARY: Though voluntary renunciation of Syrian citizenship is permitted by law, the Syrian Information Office stated that it is so complicated that it is best not to attempt the process. In effect, according to that Office, the process is complicated in order to discourage renunciation of Syrian citizenship. Former citizens of Syria probably maintain an unofficial dual citizenship status and would be subject to Syrian law as citizens should they return to Syria.

Therefore your rant on Maher Arar (http://www.canadafreepress.com/2006/field100406.htm) is highly inaccurate. Are you going to publish a retraction?

Two days later, no answer, no acknowledgement of receipt, no posting of my letter on their "letter blog" (about one letter a week, none negative), no apology to Arar, and of course, no retraction.

The Syrian Information Office itself, in correspondence with the American government states baldly that they make it deliberately difficult to renounce Syrian citizenship. I have heard it rumoured, though I can't confirm it, that relatives remaining in Syria are targetted if you try to renounce your Syrian citizenship.

I can handle highly partisan media if they stick to truthful reporting. Canada Free Press does not seem to feel obliged to live by those standards. Smearing a man who has already endured much with shoddy, unprofessional journalism and pretending not to hear when you are called on inaccuracies is not the way to win my respect.

Dick Field and/or Canada Free Press is invited to respond.

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2 comments:

Adrian MacNair said...

I won't speak to the controversy surrounding dual citizenship. I will say that I would have been more shocked, more interested, and more concerned if Arar HAD been a Canadian and not a naturalized Canadian.

For my opinion on dual citizenship, however, you will find positive feedback. On my polisci weblog Popular Doctrine search for the Sunday Debate "Should we continue allowing dual citizenship?"

Janet said...

Dual citizenship is an issue I haven't yet formed a solid opinion on. But I dislike nasty journalism at any time, and shoddy nasty journalism even more. This guy just wanted to grind an axe, which is permissible in an editorial, but his premise had all the solidity of cheesecake. So I called him on it, but as far as I can tell, they're too deaf to hear over at Canada Press. I will check out your post.

 

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