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‘I can’t believe the Prime Minister didn’t know about this’


 

Joe Volpe says he told Lawrence Cannon and Deepak Obhrai of Suaad Hagi Mohamud’s situation on June 12—more than two weeks before the Toronto Star’s first story on her plight—and followed up with a letter on June 18. And he suggests a later switch in responsibility for the file would have meant notification of the PMO.

The file’s transfer to Canada Border services around July 17 would have alerted the Prime Minister’s Office, Volpe said. “It means the chief of staff in the communications branch of the PMO knows the file has gone from one minister to another. Put yourself in the shoes of the Prime Minister: People immediately below you have carriage of this file… they don’t tell you this is happening?”

A spokesperson for both Cannon and Obhrai refused comment yesterday on whether either minister might have informed the Prime Minister’s Office of the case.

See previously: I read the news today. Oh boy.


 

‘I can’t believe the Prime Minister didn’t know about this’

  1. Not the PM's fault on this one. An error occured and the files got sent to a daycare.

  2. Is it that Harper is a liar or that he is so bad at it?

    • It's that we only find out about the ones he is bad at.

  3. As Ed will explain later, the PM's statement
    "When we became aware of the case last week, we asked our officials in various departments to give us some information," Harper said at a news conference yesterday.
    is only correctly interpretted when you fill in the missing bits
    When we (the PMO, when he uses We it refers to the SH) became aware (say sht hitting the proverbial fan) of the case (not the case of Suaad Hagi Mohamud but the case of Cannon doing squat on the file and then getting caught by DNA evidence) we asked our officials in various departments to give us (make up) some information (we could use as cover).

    • Okay, I did my part, provided below.

      Cannon doing squat on the file and then getting caught by DNA evidence

      Indications are yes, but more details are necessary before knowing for sure.

      • Thanks Ed, you are a good sport.

        • no problem, BTW, I liked your take(s) on the Canada/US health care debate a few days ago – for the most part.

      • you are a gentleman and a good sport Ed.

  4. Aaron

    Has anybody bothered to contact Suaad Hagi Mohamud's lawyer Raoul Boulakia to see if they sent any correspondence to the PMO on the matter???

    • Her immediate and most direct link to the Government is through her Member of Parliament. Not through the PMO.
      Perhaps you were not aware of this but a Member of Parliament most important role is that of representing his/her constituents (particularly, when it is requested by the constituents themsleves to do so).

      Seems to me (if Volpe's comments bear any truth) she did exactly what she ought to have done and, good on her… It is nice to see a Canadian citizen (Mohamud) be aware of our parliamentary system and how it relates to her. There are far too many people in this coutnry, born here, and here for many generations who know absolutely nothing of our democracy. Ironically enough, most of these seem to think they are the ''real'' Canadians.

    • Her immediate and most direct link to the Government is through her Member of Parliament. Not through the PMO.
      Perhaps you were not aware of this but a Member of Parliament most important role is that of representing his/her constituents (particularly, when it is requested by the constituents themsleves to do so).

      Seems to me (if Volpe's comments bear any truth) she did exactly what she ought to have done and, good on her… It is nice to see a Canadian citizen (Mohamud) be aware of our parliamentary system and how it relates to her. There are far too many people in this country, born here, and here for many generations who know absolutely nothing of our democracy. Ironically enough, most of these seem to think they are the ''real'' Canadians.

      • Umm, that doesn't preclude her representative contacting a Mniister or the PMO. Perhaps you are unaware, there are many different ways to skin a cat.

  5. So Mohamud is suing for $2.5M. I say she's being nice. I would have sued for more…

  6. I was quite surprised it wasn't more… her lawyers will make more than she does off this suit. (That is unless Harper shows some class and pays up quick.

    [polldaddy 1900321 http://answers.polldaddy.com/poll/1900321/ polldaddy]

    • I have been waiting to hear about the email from Soudas or someone else about how in 1999 she donated $175 to the Liberal Party.

    • Oh, sorry, I thought we were doing the poll from Stephen Harper's head. I'd like to change my answer from 4 to 1 if we are doing it serious-like.

  7. Where in the world is Ignatieff? His silence on this issue boggles the mind!

    • Oh please – stop trying to make it Ignatieff's issue and shift the focus – Dan McTeague has been working on these issues and very well I might add.

      • i think one can quite say that SH et al have grievously erred a Canadian citizen and MI is 1) strategically stupid for not making more of the CPC failure; and 2) relinquishing his duty of opposition by not be loud on this, without any criticism of the work that McTeague has been doing.

        • Well, other leaders have competent people and aren't afraid to show it. Paul Dewar speaks for the NDP on these issues, for example.

          Harper can't trust his people – the ones who really should be speaking – to be able to handle it.

  8. It is rather odd. I'd actually have Rae front and centre (he has been the most public on this general issue). He speaks very wel on the issue.

  9. This is the way representative government should work – an MP looking after a constituent's concern and safety, and escalating the matter as details unfold. It is also representative of how it shouldn't work, with a series of bureaucratic mistakes. I think the case provides an excellent example for examining responsibilities, why bureaucracies fail, and how the process should be corrected. Who should have been the first responders – the constituents MP and the consular services in Kenya. Both seem to have failed to get Mohamud's case looked at during the eight days she was in prison. That doesn't necessarily mean that either should be blamed. After that, there are a flurry of responsibilities that are interrelated but the key events around them are the court date in Kenya and the DNA testing. When should the matter have been escalated to the PMO, most likely when the result of DNA test was known – the first indication that the system had failed.

    The political motivations for wanting to lay the blame for the whole matter on the PMO are obvious, and the more sensational the better, in the eyes of many of those players. The press too, are motivated to make the matter as sensational as possible, that generates interest. The grandstanding comments from McGuinty and Volpe should be taken for what they are, uninformed. Until more of the real details are known about the case, the only obvious failing was in the verification process of Mohamud's identity by Canadian consular and border services. The false conclusion that she was an impostor is negligent.

    As for the legal case, the only time Mohamud's safety was in danger was during the time she was in prison in Kenya. It will be up to the courts to determine the accountability for that, but certainly anyone who travels to such places assumes some risk. The fact that Nairobi born people are regularly mistreated in Kenya is not the blame of the Canadian government. Perhaps we should remove place a birth from our passports, but there are obvious security concerns with that.

    • Who exactly is trying to lay the blame for the whole matter on the PMO?

      I think the worst that people have accused Harper and the PMO is that they have been (a) slow and incompetent in responding to a bureaucratic screw up and (b) very quick to pass the buck and make sure everyone knows they are at fault and (c) that he is lying or the PMO is completely incompetent if they only knew about "this case" last week as Harper claims.

    • while you have some it correct, Ed, your post is a honourable attempt at blame shifting and also misses the point to some degree re the legal case. the issue is not, in the fist instance, about her life being at risk per se. the issue is that her rights as a Canadian citizen were arbitrarily interrupted notwithstanding that she cooperated fully, presented a large amount of evidence as to her identity and volunteered to produce more, and irrefutable, evidence if authorities would have cooperated. The treatment of Nairobi-born individuals has nothing to do with anything here.

      As to when the case should have first landed in PMO, your DNA litmus test also misses the point here. the issue here is not when it should receive PMO/PM attn but when did it. there is now evidence this had snr minister attention well before SH acknowledges. The "more of the real details" you are looking for are at the top of the page. Cabinet members are known to have been informed and either choose to ignore or not take sufficient action. The acts as presented on this post make clear that this equally negligent.

      • Her treatment by Kenyan officials is definitely pertinent, Canada did not incarcerate her. Her 8 days in an egregious prison has been the prominent complaint in the press. You seem to be extending her rights as a Canadian into some areas that Canada does not have sovereignty over. How can you come to the conclusion that anything was determined arbitrarily? We can't possibly know that. Senior minister knowledge and responsibility is a whole different ballpark than that of the PMO, and SH would not be talking about what the departments knew. Cabinet members can't possibly raise every issue within their department to the cabinet level in the anticipation that the information they are getting from department officials is wrong. The only blame shifting that appears to be going on is from the press and grandstanding politicians, from the department to the PMO. There are outrageous aspects to this case, unfortunately the outrage is being focused on PMO instead of the department(s) and that only serves political purposes, not the public's interest. The PMO's job should be to hold the department(s) accountable and correct the procedures.

        • I disagree that Kenyan activity is relevant and that prominent complaint is the eight days (not that they are acceptable either). the prominent complaint is a woman was denied her rights as a citizen for months notwithstanding her earnest efforts to prove her identity (see for example that not single news story thinks that it is ok that she was still left stranded in kenya after she was out of jail).

          and I am not extending a single thing, in fact i am explicitly distinguishing Kenya's jurisdiction. she was brought to Canadian consular officials for their assessment. they (should have) made an assessment independent of whatever any Kenyan official said or thought. they also were the individuals that blocked finger prints and DNA, not Kenyan officials

          How can I say decisions were made arbitrarily? how can one not say it? she produced 13 pieces of mainly state-sanctioned or accepted additional ID, offered fingerprints and DNA and was declared an "imposter" based on someone's subjective judgment about what her lips looked like? that is more ID than I even own! you don't think that is arbitrary? i hope that you are not serious.

          Other problems with your comment:

          "Cabinet members can't possibly raise every issue… to the cabinet" – rather obviously, but judgment is exerted in what is and what is not. the PM appoints the cabinet. if cabinet members have failed in the duties, the PM is responsible for taking corrective action (and for when none is taken).

          "The only blame shifting that appears to be going on is from the press and grandstanding politicians, from the department to the PMO." – have you read the piece above… Volpe's charge is that a formal process would have put information in the hands of the PMO, that isn't grandstanding.

          "the outrage is being focused on PMO instead of the department(s) and that only serves political purposes, not the public's interest." – what, exactly, precludes everyone – the PMO, the consular officials, the Ministers and their staffs and the PM from all being scrutinized and wearing this as appropriate. I have not seen a single story that lets any of them off the hook. your post on the other hand does.

        • No. The PM's job in a representative responsible government Westminister Parliamentary system like ours is to take responsibility for his departments and for his cabinet ministers who spoke on the issue and have known about it since June. Period.

          That was the whole issue with the "Billion Dollar Boondoggle" that wasn't a boondoggle ($80,000 is neither a billion nor boondoggle). Jane Stewart took responsibility for something that happened in her department even though she wasn't even the minister when the events covered by the AG's report actually took place. [CONT…]

    • "When should the matter have been escalated to the PMO, most likely when the result of DNA test was known – the first indication that the system had failed."

      Um, no, Ed, your timeline is way too charitable. The first indication the system had failed was when the consular officials refused to allow Mohamud's request for DNA testing. Accusing someone of impersonation, seizing their passport and turning them over to the Kenyan courts, and all the while refusing to consider evidence to refute your charge is arbitrary.

      That's the point when the Minister should have acted to prevent an injustice in progress. And when it surfaced that he wasn't taking action, that's when the PM should have taken the file away, disciplined the incompetent Ministed and acted to ensure the rights of a person claiming Canadian citzenship wer upheld. Two failures, first the Minister, then the PM.

      • Ministerial responsibility is not the same as PMO responsibility.

        On the matter of ministerial intervention, how could the minister know a department official had denied a test? So it is not when the official refused to allow the test, but when it came to light. We only know the press timelines on that and we don't know what the ministerial responses were.

        • Ed, you are being a good civil sport in this discussion, and you are certainly not coming off as any talking point regurgitating Conbot here. At all.

          Still, in bearing down on the minutia, you are missing a number of fundamental points here.

          1. A cabinet minister made a public announcement about this case almost a month ago. A minister knew long ago about the details of this case. It came to light a long time ago: from Volpe in June, from the papers in early July and certainly by July 24 when he commented. I would assume there are lots of such cases. The fact that Cannon chose this particular one to comment on says something. [CONT…]

    • And in this case, I think there should be an inquiry to ensure that all the real details come to public light.

      But I think we also need an Inquiry Light version, an inquiry process that takes years to complete is often ineffective.

  10. This is all part of Harper's SuperDuperStrategy to appear incompetent, uncaring, untrustworthy and prejudiced simultaneously.

    It's the road to a majority government. And folks, we're not even into September yet. Can you imagine how unbelievably toxic Parliament is going to be come Sept 14?

  11. "an MP looking after a constituent's concern and safety, and escalating the matter as details unfold. …Who should have been the first responders – the constituents MP and the consular services in Kenya. Both seem to have failed to get Mohamud's case looked at during the eight days she was in prison."

    First of all, I'd like to point out that Mohamud couldn't even contact her family to tell them she was imprisoned, surely the first people you'd call, so to expect her MP to know about it at that time is a little much. So you are going to blame Joe Volpe because when he escalated it to the powers that be, they didn't do anything? That's HIS fault?

    "Over four weeks, with the House no longer sitting, Volpe persisted with 20 emails, faxes and phone calls to Cannon and Obhrai." What would you have had him do, put a gun to their heads? That's a crime, you know.

    You also can't expect the consular officials to have done anything, since it was their doing something that landed her in prison in the first place!

    • I never blamed Volpe, I said from what we know he did his part. As for the family, you would expect that they would immediately start making inquiries when she failed to turn up at the airport at the time of her return flight. I suspect they did, but those details are unknown.

      Did I mention guns?

      I think it was Canada Border Services under the auspices of our consular services that landed her in prison (or failed to extract her from prison in a timely manner, as the case may be).

  12. I quite agree with Ignatieff standing back from this. At a certain level Ed is absolutely correct, that while no one believes that Harper did not know about this file for some time… it really was not a PMO type file. Indeed, if he could afford to find a bus and throw Cannon under it, his leadership creds could actually go up. His problem is that Cannon is actually one of his better performers and quite possibly the PMO did have there hands all over this.

    At some point, an email, recorded conversation whatever will surface which ties this to Harper or it won't. At that point, Ignatieff should jump in. Prior to that let McTeague (perhaps backed up by Rae) do their thing.

    Flinging every piece of crap you can lay your hands on is a good strategy for monkeys not opposition leaders presenting an alternate style of leadership. (alternate to you know, the guy that has never met any crap he didn't want to fling)

    Also we can forget the fast inquiry, I doubt it can begin until after the legal case. Indeed, back to my poll (free plug!) I should have added the possibility of deliberately stalling the trial to avoid the inquiry that follows.

    • I agree on all points.

      But the poll needs another choice, some mixture of B,C, and E above.

  13. […CONT]

    But this government is so quick to make sure that you all know that it wasn't their fault, that they didn't know anything, that it was a bureaucrat's fault or a staffer's fault. Or, more typically, the Liberals fault; it is so ingrained in their thinking that even the Conservative Party's active and strong support for harmonizing sales taxes is being blamed by their MPs on the Liberals. Even at Christmas when asked directly, Harper said he couldn't think of anything that he had done wrong in the past three years (a no-win question if you answer it honestly, of course, but you can fudge a non-answer to this type of question; instead he gave an unequivocal no).

    Say what you will about the problems of other governments, but I don't think we've ever had a government this insecure and this quick to pass the buck and duck any kind of responsibility.

  14. […CONT.]
    2. This thread and yesterdays relate to Harper's first response to this issue. No one is saying Harper caused this to happen. Almost no one is saying Harper let this happen. What his first and so far only pronouncement on this is: it wasn't me because I only found out about "the case" last week. Had he said simply "we are aware of this and looking into it post haste, Canadians abroad need to know they are protected by the Canadian government", we wouldn't be having this conversation. But instead his only pronouncement so far is so clearly false that it raises some serious questions about the PMO.

    3. And this is the big smell test: no one has seen any concern from the government here. Every step of the way, everything they have done has been geared to "it's not my reponsibility or fault". Technically, you and they may be correct: technically, the right time for the cabinet minister and the PMO to take charge of the file all occurred in the proper procedure (the facts seem to indicate otherwise from the evidence revealed in this post). [CONT…]

  15. [… CONT. – why does this comments thread allow sometimes allow long comments and sometimes not???]

    But a Canadian citizen was denied Canadian protection by the Canadian government, the Canadian government failied her, and spent days in jail because of it. That is the issue here. And all of the finger pointing and pointing to minutia and procedure leaves one with the distinct impression that this government doesn't really care about her or this issue. That is very alarming. Especially when this is not the first time Canadians abroad have had difficulty getting the attention or protection from this government.

    • – because IntenseDebate is an intensely flaky piece of software.

  16. Somewhat O/T, but what I don't grasp is why the officials at our Kenya High Commission could have failed to believe her. I mean, she lives in Etobicoke, presumably she can tell you where the Mac's Milk is, where the daycare is, what school her son goes to; how could an imposter possibly know that stuff? Couldn't one quick phone call have verified everything? There are two sides to this scandal: the apparent failure of the Minister to do anything after the story came out, and also the rather astonishing failure of the consular official to pick up the phone and make a quick call. Both failures need fixing, but let's not lose sight of the latter in our zeal to hold the Government to account.

    • I agree, but I don't believe they are so separate. Putting the two Kenyan cases together, and considering time scales this cannot be the screwup of one consular official. There is clearly a systemic problem that needs to be addressed. Obviously, the public cannot fix that mess, it needs to be done by the Minister in charge and his staff. There are two specific reasons to be concerned about the inactions of Minister Cannon.

      1) there was clearly cause for a Ministerial investigation and intervention in this specific case.

      2) there was clearly cause to initiate a review of the staffing, training and process wrt the Kenyan Consulate.

      Now it is possible, Cannon quietly initiated the 2nd of these without holding a press conference. However, if that was the case one thinks Mr. Harper would have referred to it in his statement.

    • Its an outrageous mistake.

      And a brilliant point.

      Reminds me of this comment made yesterday:
      The big question is how the consul staff ever reached the conclusion that Mohamud was an impostor. Surely part of their investigation should be to check with family in Canada. It is impossible to know all the information that the consul staff had, and why they made those choices, without asking for it.

      • "impossible to know all the information that the consul staff had, and why they made those choices, without asking for it."

        Hear hear; though if I were managing the damage control on this file, I would voluntarily state exactly why the official made the (wrong) assessment. But then I always think it's better to come clean and be straightforward when one makes a mistake, and Ministers are almost always secretive about their mistakes, so maybe I'm wrong about candour being good damage control.

  17. What the CONbot supporters are all very well covering is that the Harper gov't has laid the groundwork for cases like these by their systematic deboning of the foreign service: tightening the screws on assertive thinkers, winching down budgets, dovetailing whole consulates into fewer and fewer offices. Plugging up immigration work to the point where the best employees flee the industry from burn out… Meanwhile, at home, the Great Chess Master twiddles his thumbs and gets to pretend like he's Gary Coleman everytime another Willis comes thru the door with a problem – 'Whatcha talkin about?"

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