Torture stories win Ottawa book prize
Last Updated: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 | 8:29 PM ET
- Kate Porter reports from the City of Ottawa Book Awards ceremony (Runs: 1:40)
- Play: Real Media »
A book that tells the story of Maher Arar and three other Canadians tortured overseas has won the 2009 City of Ottawa Book Award for English non-fiction.
Dark Days: The Story of Four Canadians Tortured in the Name of Fighting Terror by Kerry Pither won over four other finalists in its category to take this year's $7,500 prize. The book bills itself as the story of "Canadian national security investigations gone wrong," retelling the experiences of Arar, Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin, while examining the investigations by CSIS, the RCMP and other Canadian officials that led to the men's detention, interrogation and torture.
The winners in the three other book award categories, who also receive $7,500 each, are:
- Eva's Threepenny Theatre by Andrew Steinmetz for English fiction. The novel is based on the life of Steinmetz's great-aunt Eva from her childhood in pre-Second World War Germany through her adulthood in post-war Berlin and her old age in Canada.
- Chronos à sa table de travail by Margaret Michèle Cook for French fiction.
- Esprit de sel by Maurice Henrie for French non-fiction.
Pither is a longtime human rights and civil liberties activist who grew up in Ottawa, studied at the University of Ottawa, and went on to campaign for Arar's release from Syrian detention. According to her website, she conducted in-depth interviews with El Maati and Almalki, and wrote detailed accounts of their experiences in Syria and Egypt for human rights and civil liberties organizations in preparation for the public inquiry into Arar's case and later the inquiry led by former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci into the cases of the other men. At that point, many people encouraged her to write a book based on her research.
In 2007, Arar received an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and more than $10 million compensation for his ordeal.
However, just this past Monday, the federal government rejected a call from MPs to compensate El Maati, Almalki and Nureddin, saying that "would be inappropriate" because the three men are suing federal agencies.
Pither has pledged any profits she makes from sales of her book to Amnesty International Canada.
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