Canadians stranded far from home

After being stranded for almost three months in Kenya, Canadian citizen Suaad Haji Mohamud is finally set to return home on Saturday, despite what her lawyer calls a delayed reaction from the federal government.
The lawyer for Suaad Hagi Mohamud accuses the Canadian government of speaking up about his client's case only when it was convenient to do so. ((Canadian Press))

After being stranded for almost three months in Kenya, Canadian citizen Suaad Hagi Mohamud is finally set to return home on Saturday, despite what her lawyer calls a delayed reaction from the federal government.

The government has had to defend itself from criticisms by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and others that Ottawa failed to stand up for the 31-year-old woman.

"The really important time to stick up for her was in May, June and July," said Mohamud's lawyer Raoul Boulakia on Thursday.

In recent years, the Harper government has found itself in the centre of a handful of similar situations and has been criticized for not doing enough to help Canadian citizens abroad who find themselves in distress.

Here are some of the most high-profile cases:

 Name The issue The Canadian government's response The resolution
Suaad Hagi Mohamud, 31, is a Somali-born single mother who resides in Toronto.

Detained in Nairobi on May 21, 2009, while trying to board a Canada-bound flight. Kenyan officials say they do not believe she is the person in her 4-year old passport photo.

She is charged with identity fraud and released on bail on May 28.

She lives in limbo in Nairobi for the next 2½ months.

Officials initially say they believe she is an impostor and urge the Kenyan government to prosecute her.

On July 24, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon tells reporters in Ottawa "there is no tangible proof" Mohamud is Canadian."

In August, the government administers a DNA test that verifies her identity, after which it says she will be allowed to return to her Toronto home.

Mohamud left Kenya on flight bound for Toronto on Aug. 14.

Abousfian Abdelrazik, 47, of Montreal.

Arrested and detained while visiting his mother in Sudan in 2003, acting on a tip from the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

He remains in custody until July 2006, when he is released from a Sudan prison after authorities find no evidence to support criminal charges.

CSIS and the RCMP clear him of terrorism allegations in 2007. The Canadian embassy grants Abdelrazik "temporary safe haven" in Khartoum in April 2008.

But the Conservative government refuses to issue him travel documents to return home because his name was added to a UN Security Council list banning travel for terrorist suspects.

Federal Court Judge Russell Zinn rules on June 4, 2009, that the Harper government breached Abdelrazik's constitutional rights, which allow Canadian citizens freedom to enter and leave the country.

The government complies with the ruling, and Abdelrazik returns to Canada on June 28.

Omar Khadr, now 22, is the last Western prisoner being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba. He used to live in Ottawa.

Khadr is captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002, when he is 14 years old and is accused of killing a U.S. soldier in a gun fight.

He is transported to Guantanamo Bay prison camp in 2003.

In April 2009, Federal Court Judge James O'Reilly rules in favour of Khadr's charter challenge of the Canadian government's decision not to request his repatriation from Guantanamo Bay.

The government appeals that ruling, arguing as they have throughout the case that the allegations against him are serious enough that he should face military proceedings in the United States.


The Federal Court of Appeal upholds O'Reilly's ruling on Aug. 14, 2009. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused to comment on the Court of Appeal ruling until Department of Justice lawyers study it in full.

Khadr's case, meanwhile, remains on hold pending a review of the U.S. military tribunal system by the Obama administration.

Huseyin Celil, 39, is a Muslim and member of China’s Uighur minority group, who arrived in Canada in 2005 and lives in Burlington, Ont.

Celil is arrested in Uzbekistan in 2006 while visiting his wife's family. He is charged with helping to set up a political party for China's minority Muslim Uighurs.

Celil is sentenced to life in prison in April 2007 on terror charges. An appeal against the sentence fails.

In 2006 and 2007, high-ranking members of the Canadian government, including Prime Minster Stephen Harper and then-Foreign Affairs minister Peter MacKay, press China repeatedly to ensure Celil won't be tortured and that his legal rights are upheld.

Since the failed April attempt to appeal the Chinese court ruling, Ottawa has kept a largely low profile on the case, seldom offering public comment.


Celil is currently serving his life sentence in China.

Bashir Makhtal, 36, was born in Ethiopia. He became a Canadian citizen in 1994 and later moved to Kenya, where he opened a used-clothing business.

Makhtal is arrested at the Kenya-Ethiopia border by Ethiopian agents in December 2006.

He is charged with being a member of the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front — an allegation he denies.

He is found guilty on July 27, 2009 in Addis Ababa on terrorism-related charges.

Transport Minister John Baird, who was lobbied on Makhtal's behalf by the large Somali-Canadian community in his Ottawa riding, presses the Ethiopian government repeatedly to release him.


Makhtal is sentenced to life imprisonment on Aug. 3.

The Canadian government is trying to secure a pardon.

Brenda Martin, a Trenton, Ont., woman who was working in Mexico as a chef.

Martin is arrested in February 2006 and charged with money-laundering and criminal conspiracy in a $60-million internet fraud scheme.

She spends 26 months in jail awaiting her trial. In March 2008, she is placed on suicide watch after threatening to kill herself if she is not released

In March 27, 2008, a Canadian government report is leaked, revealing that government officials have met with Martin several times in the previous two years and called her repeatedly, as well as contacting Mexican authorities, in an effort to expedite her case.


On April 22, 2008, a Mexican judge finds Martin guilty of money-laundering and sentences her to five years in prison.

Ottawa negotiates a prisoner transfer agreement and she is flown home on a private jet paid for by the government on May 1, 2008.