Two-tier citizenship: letter to the Prime Minister

10 February 2010


Right Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
K1A 0A2


Dear Prime Minister,

            The Canadian Council for Refugees is increasingly concerned that, when abroad, Canadian citizens are not all being offered necessary and equal protection by the Government of Canada.
            The cases of Suaad Hagi Mohamud, a Canadian citizen of Somali origin stranded in Nairobi, and Abousfian Abdelrazik, who suffered severe rights violations in Khartoum, highlight the fact that some citizens, seemingly based on race and religion, are denied the rights and protections that should be guaranteed to all citizens. 

            Worse, there is evidence that the Government of Canada has actually contributed to grave human rights abuses committed against Canadian citizens.  This has been made plain by Justice O’Connor who analyzed in detail the ways in which actions by the Government of Canada likely contributed to the unjust detention and torture of Maher Arar.  Similarly Justice Iacobucci, in the Internal Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Abdullah Almalki, Ahmed Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin, concluded that all three men had suffered mistreatment amounting to torture and that their detention and/or mistreatment resulted indirectly from actions of the Canadian Government.

            We cannot fail to notice that the Canadian citizens who suffer from a lack of government protection are predominantly Muslim and racialized.  This gives rise to a concern that there are effectively two tiers of citizenship, when all citizens should be treated equally.

            In December 2009, the Canadian Council for Refugees held a workshop on the issue of two-tier citizenship.  The problem under study was dramatically illustrated by the absence of one invited speaker, Abdullah Almalki, who was prevented from boarding a flight to Windsor from Ottawa, apparently because of the proximity of Windsor to the US border.  Thus Mr Almalki, whose betrayal overseas by the Canadian government was documented by Justice Iacobucci, continues to be denied full freedom of movement even within Canada.

            We are extremely disappointed by the failure of your government, over three years later, to implement the recommendations of Justice O’Connor in the Arar Commission, or even to publish a report on progress towards recommendations.  This failure only reinforces our concern that your government lacks the will to ensure that all citizens receive equal protection.

            We urge you to include in the upcoming Speech from the Throne your commitment to fully implement the recommendations of the Arar Commission and to put in place adequate policies, training and monitoring to ensure that the human rights of all Canadian citizens abroad are fully and equally protected by the Government of Canada.


Yours sincerely,



Wanda Yamamoto