Maher Arar, the Syrian-born engineer who became the face of "extraordinary rendition" after Sept. 11, says he still feels nervous about stepping on an airplane 10 years after the attacks.

In 2002, Arar was living in Ottawa and coming back from a vacation when he was arrested during a stopover at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. The CIA then deported him to Syria where he was jailed and tortured.


Maher Arar in January 2007, holding a copy of Justice Dennis O'Connor's report recommending a government apology and compensation for his ordeal.

He returned to Canada one year later after a public inquiry into his deportation, and in 2007 received a $10-million settlement from the Canadian government. He also received an official apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Arar told CBC News he is enjoying life now living in Ottawa, but that ordeal has left him with unhealed emotional scars.

"I've learned a hard lesson. I don't feel safe as I used to feel before this happened to me, and I don't take anything for granted anymore," he said.

"I don't think the average Canadian citizen should take anything for granted."

Extraordinary rendition is deemed the abduction and illegal transfer of a person from one nation to another.

Arar was the first of a handful of immigrants in North America who faced travel issues and deportation following 9/11.

'I've learned a hard lesson. I don't feel safe as I used to feel before this happened to me, and I don't take anything for granted anymore.' 

—Maher Arar


Some trust restored

The inquiry that cleared his name has restored some of his trust in the system, he admits, but it will never be the same.

"I think that there's still injustice being committed," he told CBC News.

"The fact that there is still co-operation between some Western governments and dictatorships, as long as there's double standards there's going to be grounds for those groups to recruit people. And I hope that Western governments understand that."

Arar's native country is currently in a large revolt. As the U.S. government condemns the country's embattled present regime, Arar said he wonders why America sent him back there almost a decade ago.

He also said documents have been found showing Western countries sent people to Libya on rendition flights.

Arar said when he was deported it changed Canadian public attitudes, reminding them suspicion is not guilt and intelligence services do not tell the whole truth.

With files from the CBC's Evan Dyer