Maher Arar's wife, Monia Mazigh
Maher's Story in Brief
Maher Arar is a 34-year-old wireless technology consultant. He was born in Syria and came to Canada with his family at the age of 17. He became a Canadian citizen in 1991. On Sept. 26, 2002, while in transit in New York’s JFK airport when returning home from a vacation, Arar was detained by US officials and interrogated about alleged links to al-Qaeda. Twelve days later, he was chained, shackled and flown to Syria, where he was held in a tiny “grave-like” cell for ten months and ten days before he was moved to a better cell in a different prison. In Syria, he was beaten, tortured and forced to make a false confession.
During his imprisonment, Arar's wife, Monia Mazigh, campaigned relentlessly on his behalf until he was returned to Canada in October 2003. On Jan. 28, 2004, under pressure from Canadian human rights organizations and a growing number of citizens, the Government of Canada announced a Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar.
On September 18, 2006, the Commissioner of the Inquiry, Justice Dennis O'Connor, cleared Arar of all terrorism allegations, stating he was "able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada." To read the Commissioner's report, including his findings on the actions of Canadian officials, please visit the Arar Commission's website...
Monia Mazigh is the Laura Secord of our time
TheStar.com - Opinion - Monia Mazigh is the Laura Secord of our time
Robert Meynell sees parallels in the stories of the two women's struggles
January 28, 2007
The best of a nation's character comes through in the actions of its heroes.
We have found inspiration in the courage of Laura Secord, Visionary Cree chief Poundmaker, World War I flying ace Billy Bishop, hockey hero Maurice "the Rocket" Richard and Marathon of Hope runner Terry Fox.
Today, we can add one more to their number: Dr. Monia Mazigh, who fought the governments of three states to rescue her husband Maher Arar from torture and possible execution.
In the course of her struggle, Mazigh became the Laura Secord of our time.
Just as Secord conveyed a message of an impending enemy invasion that might have brought about the fall of Canada in the War of 1812, so, too, did Mazigh convey the message of an attack on our citizens that might have brought the fall of the principles of justice that define Canada.
Just as Secord was thrust into an extraordinary circumstance that saw her husband wounded in battle and her home occupied by American troops, so, too, did Mazigh see her husband tortured and imprisoned and felt the power of a secret army at work against her.
Just as Secord took great risks and set out on an arduous journey to warn the British of the attack, defying the expectations that she would be too passive to foil the American invasion, so, too, did Mazigh defy expectation and indefatigably pursued justice through mobilizing the press, the public, and, eventually, the government, to rescue her husband, and foil this latest attack on all of our freedoms.
Since his release, the coverage of the case of Arar has, quite rightly, focused on him, and throughout he has shown exemplary strength and dignity. While his courage is to be lauded, we must not forget that his story may never have been known were it not for the efforts of his wife.
Those efforts finally bore fruit last Friday, when Arar received an official apology from the Canadian government through Prime Minister Stephen Harper and $10.5 million ($8.3 million US) in compensation for the time he spent being tortured in a Syrian jail.
Mazigh's relentless fight to rescue her husband saved not only Arar, but was pivotal in rescuing Canada both from disgrace and succumbing to practices that would transform the relationship between the Canadian citizen and the state from one of relative trust to fear.
In the Arar case, Canada as a country had started down a dark path. We must be vigilant to ensure that justice is quickly restored. We owe it to ourselves to punish the offenders, and to celebrate the heroes.
As long as Canadian citizens refuse to surrender the rule of law in favour of some agenda-laden promise of security, they will be able to restrain these would-be hijackers.
Mazigh understood that, and she understood that the brilliance of the rule of law is that before the law all are considered equal.
Ultimately the state must serve those who act within the law and prosecute those who violate it, even if they hold government offices and wear the state's uniform.
Too few Canadians appreciate just how powerful the rule of law makes them, and so too often allow themselves to be trodden upon.
Those who would abuse the power of the state, as CSIS and the RCMP did, count upon such meekness.
To their chagrin, Mazigh was neither ignorant nor meek.
With a doctorate in financial economics from McGill, Mazigh is a thinker and an expert communicator with an advanced understanding of the government and society.
And, much like Secord, she took her opponents by surprise.
Because of Arar's eventual release and the subsequent investigation, his story is the only officially documented case of the U.S. (and Canadian) practice of "extraordinary rendition."
It is the only case that can be cited authoritatively by American opponents of this program.
In effect, it not only stayed the decline of democracy in Canada, but it provided Americans and others with a means to fight the same battle at home.
Arar was neither the first nor the last to meet this fate, but his story was made unique, a story of redemption, because he had an ace up his sleeve: the tenacious Monia Mazigh.
And we should all be thankful for it.
Let us not wait more than 40 years, as we did with Secord, to acknowledge the great contribution of this Canadian hero.
Robert Meynell isa Toronto writer and a Fellow at the Dominion Institute.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Monia Mazigh (Arabic: منية مازيغ) (born 1970) is a Canadian academic best known for her efforts to free her husband Maher Arar from a Syrian prison. A resident of Ottawa, Ontario, she was the New Democratic Party candidate for the riding of Ottawa South, a traditionally Liberal riding, in the 2004 federal election.
She was born and raised in Tunisia and emigrated to Canada in 1991, at the age of 21. Mazigh has a Ph.D. in financial economics from McGill University and speaks Arabic, English and French fluently. In 2000, she started working for the University of Ottawa as a research assistant and later as a French-language instructor. She has stated that until 2002, her goal was to become a professor instead of a politician.
Mazigh first entered the public spotlight when her husband was deported to Syria in 2002 by the US government, on suspicion of terrorist links. He was tortured and held without charge for over a year before being returned to Canada. Mazigh joined with a number of human rights groups to press the government for his release. She appeared frequently in the media and was widely respected for her tireless efforts. However, she alienated a lot of potential supporters of her husband's cause by her strident anti-Israel rhetoric. Of her willingness to speak out, she has said that she was never afraid: "I had lost my life. I didn't have more to lose."
She was courted by the Liberal Party, but chose to stand as a candidate for the NDP. Mazigh had reportedly grown personally close with NDP foreign affairs critic, and former federal leader, Alexa McDonough, and she perceived the NDP as having been more emphatic than the other parties in calling for her husband's release. During a leaders' debate, NDP leader Jack Layton said that the party was proud to have her as a candidate. However, Mazigh's candidacy was unusual in that Mazigh personally does not support same-sex marriage; had she been elected she would have been the only NDP MP, alongside Desmond McGrath, NDP candidate in the riding of Random-Burin-St. George's in Newfoundland and Labrador, to oppose same-sex marriage by abstaining from a vote. While campaigning Mazigh said that she would abstain if Parliament was ever called to vote on the issue because of her reluctance to vote against a human rights issue. She also joined several individuals and groups in criticizing the NDP's more friendly attitude to Israel following the departure of Svend Robinson from the role of foreign affairs critic.
She ran against but lost to Liberal candidate David McGuinty, the brother of Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty. Despite finishing third, her 8,080 votes were the highest the NDP has ever won in Ottawa South federally or provincially until Henri Sader won 8,138 votes in 2006.
After running in the election, she worked for a while as a policy researcher at NDP headquarters in Ottawa. Some of her areas of expertise included economics (such as budget issues) and child care. She was employed as a professor of finance, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia for about one year until spring 2007. She currently resides in Ottawa.