House of Commons unanimously approves motion to grant citizenship to Raif Badawi

The Bloc Québécois' presented a motion at the House of Commons, calling on the immigration minister to use his discretionary powers to grant Canadian citizenship to jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. The motion was passed unanimously.

'He will see that people have not forgotten' him, says wife of jailed Saudi blogger

A woman in a toque and gloves holds a sign that says "free Raif."
Members of Parliament are calling on the immigration minister to grant Canadian citizenship to the jailed Saudi blogger. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Members of the House of Commons unanimously approved a motion Wednesday demanding jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi be given Canadian citizenship.

The motion, which is non-binding, was put forth by the Bloc Québécois, and calls on Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino to use his discretionary powers to grant citizenship to Badawi, given that he finds himself in a "a particular and unusual situation of distress."

Badawi has been in jail in Saudi Arabia since 2012, when he was arrested for promoting liberal views of Islam on his blog.

Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Sherbrooke, welcomed the latest news, and said she looks forward to telling her husband about it during their next telephone conversation. 

"It's extraordinary news. This gives hope to Raif. It warms my heart," she said. "He will see that people have not forgotten Raif. Canada and Quebec have not forgotten Raif."

Haidar is not sure how her husband is holding up. She is only allowed to have two brief phone conversations with Badawi per week.

A spokesperson for the immigration minister said he is keeping an eye on Badawi's situation and is eager to work with with other MPs regarding his case. 

"Canadian officials continue to highlight his case at the highest level, and we have asked on several occasions that he be granted leniency," said Alexander Cohen.

The Bloc Québécois proposed a similar motion near the end of 2019, but it failed due to opposition from the Conservative party.

Ensaf Haidar, Raif Badawi's wife, is only allowed two telephone conversations per week with her husband. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

Mireille Elchacar, who works with Amnesty International — an organization that has regularly protested against Badawi's incarceration — also welcomed the motion, but doesn't believe it will do much to help secure the blogger's release.

"We are extremely happy that citizens and politicians don't forget Raif Badawi, but for us, at Amnesty International, the request for Canadian citizenship was not part of our demands." said Elchacar.

"It's not that we oppose it, but we don't see how it could help us, because Saudi Arabia does not recognize dual citizenship."

Elchacar said the group has looked at other avenues to push for Badawi's release, including putting pressure on G20 states during last year's summit that was hosted by Saudi Arabia.

She remains hopeful about his release, pointing out that things appear to be slowly changing in Saudi Arabia when it comes people who are jailed for their opinions.