Mohamed Fahmy: NDP demands government invoke passport power
Passport Order allows minister to override bureaucracy to issue travel documents
New Democrat MP Paul Dewar is challenging the government to invoke a rarely used ministerial power to issue Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy a Canadian passport.
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Fahmy, who faces a trial in Egypt on widely denounced terror charges stemming from his coverage of the events surrounding the country's 'Arab Spring' in 2013, was denied a replacement passport due to a court-ordered travel ban.
His application for the identification document was nixed by Canadian officials.
During a testy exchange with Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson at a committee Thursday, Dewar noted Fahmy may no longer be in jail, but he is not yet free to leave the country.
The passport is "the standard base of identification" in Egypt, Dewar reminded Nicholson. It is required not only to travel freely within the country, but to rent a car or an apartment — or, indeed, to get married, as Fahmy hopes to do.
Dewar also reminded the foreign affairs committee that Fahmy has surrendered his Egyptian passport and his Canadian passport has been lost by the Egyptian authorities, a fact that has been formally acknowledged in court.
The letter from Canadian officials also told Fahmy they needed confirmation from the Egyptians that his old passport was lost.
"We know the Passport Order gives the government the authority to grant a passport in this case," Dewar said.
"Why haven't you granted him one, or will you?"
Nicholson assured the committee that the government is "on top of this file," and said it would continue to be a priority.
"My understanding is that when Mr. Fahmy is free to travel, there will be the proper documents available," he said.
"That's not the question," Dewar said, wondering aloud if Nicholson even knew the extent of the power within his position. "Why isn't he using it?"
Needs it to get married
Nicholson responded that it's actually his cabinet colleague, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, who is enabled to act under the Passport Order. That did little to mollify the NDP foreign affairs critic.
"The government is now saying they won't issue Mr. Fahmy a passport ... Not only have they left him abandoned in Egypt, but they won't even grant him the documentation he needs... to rent an apartment, or to be able to get married," Dewar shot back across the table.
"Why aren't you allowing Mr. Fahmy to get married? Don't give me this 'It's Mr. Alexander,'" he said.
"Is that the standard of service you're giving to Canadians abroad? If so... it is a matter of incompetence, and it's disgraceful."
The session was Dewar's last opportunity to hold the government's feet to the fire over the Fahmy case until the House returns on April 21 following the two-week Easter constituency break.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau later tweeted on the issue, saying he had spoken to Fahmy and asking the government "why refuse?"
Spoke w/ <a href="https://twitter.com/MFFahmy11">@MFFahmy11</a>. Egyptian govt needs his passport for ID purposes. Our govt refuses to re-issue it. <a href="https://twitter.com/pmharper">@pmharper</a>: Why refuse? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NotMyCanada?src=hash">#NotMyCanada</a>—@JustinTrudeau
Fahmy will remain in Egypt until the conclusion of his retrial.
He and two Al Jazeera colleagues were arrested later that year. Last June, they were convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison, but that ruling was overturned earlier this year.
With files from Canadian Press
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