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Trouble in Kenya, take two


 

Canadian Press picks up a CBC report tonight of another Canadian stranded in Kenya, this one unable to return for three years. The story of his situation has actually been around for at least several months—the Citizen’s Kate Heartfield having written about Abdihakim Mohamed in February. Heartfield followed up with a piece this June, concluding as follows.

Like Abdelrazik, Mohamed is a citizen and has a right to enter Canada. It’s in the Charter. But Abdihakim Mohamed has not yet become a cause célèbre. Maybe he never will. Maybe the stories we do hear — about the Abdelraziks, the Arars — are just a few among many.

It shouldn’t have to take a media firestorm and an expensive court case or inquiry for the government to respect the basic rights of citizens abroad. This government has shirked its duty in foreign affairs, forcing the courts to rule on cases that should have been handled, competently and honestly, by the Foreign Affairs Department.


 

Trouble in Kenya, take two

  1. According to the CBC report, the young man is autistic.

    Can we get a senior manager or two, a deputy minister and a minister down to Nairobi to figure out WTF is going on? Like, yesterday?

    • Exactly. This sort of situation seems rare, so I have absolutely no problem with the taxpayers footing the bill to fly over senior officials to investigate these matters properly and thoroughly. No Canadian citizen should ever have to deal with this sort of bureaucratic indifference from our own officials and government.

    • Exactly. This sort of situation seems rare, so I have absolutely no problem with the taxpayers footing the bill to fly over senior officials to investigate these matters properly and thoroughly. No Canadian citizen should ever have to deal with this sort of bureaucratic indifference from our own consular officials and government.

    • Exactly. This sort of situation seems rare, so I have absolutely no problem with the taxpayers footing the bill to fly over senior officials to investigate these matters promptly and thoroughly. No Canadian citizen should ever have to deal with this sort of bureaucratic indifference from our own officials and government.

    • Exactly. This sort of situation seems rare, so I have absolutely no problem with the taxpayers footing the bill to fly over senior officials to investigate these matters promptly and thoroughly. No Canadian citizen abroad should ever have to deal with this sort of bureaucratic indifference from our own officials and government.

      • Rare or not, Foreign Affairs is one of the very few OBVIOUS functions of our federal government, more than, oh, say, pride parades (and for Kady, puppies and orphans) and domestic automotive manufacturing. This needs to be fixed because the national government seems to be screwing up one of its main reasons for being. Period.

        • I suspect we could have an interesting debate on the obvious functions of our federal government, but that would be pointless, because I agree with you that foreign and consular affairs are one of the most fundamental responsibilities of the federal government. Even if this situation wasn't rare, the federal government would still have a sacred moral obligation to help and protect every Canadian citizen who is outside this country.

    • except add to the list someone external that is respected across party lines to (John Manley?)… I don't want this investigated just by people that may be implicated.

      • …and/or a recently retired judge, maybe.

          • Although, it is remotely possible that managers higher up the food chain should be expected to identify trouble and just bloody well fix it.

            OK, send over the judge.

          • in normal circumstance I think that would be fine. but i am not sure we have the full picture on now high up the rot goes on this one.

  2. If these situations seem to be popping up more frequently it can only be that no one in Ottawa has to worry that their fingerprints are on it — Harper knows that if you can transfer blame onto a 'bloated, indifferent civil service' that a few 'outraged and concerned' quotes, then a convenient scapegoat pro-offered to the public/msm will likely make it all better.
    Or if these people were caucasian, of wealthier means, there'd really be hell to pay. Sadly.

    • I've debated this situation in my head, and while there may be some partial truth to it – namely stereotyping occuring at some levels – that there's a straighter line to be drawn between the domestic tough on crime philosophy and these cases. The "if you screw up somewhere else, it's not our problem" (or at the very least won't be a major priority for us). Unfortunately, somewhere along the line there's a guilty before being proven innocent philosophy going on. Maybe it's not being mentioned publicly, but I do find it odd that at this point the PMO/political wing of government isn't asking for a list of every single Canadian stuck abroad who can't get back and telling Foreign Affairs to make this a top priority. A serious citizenship issue that's obviously been ignored for too long is quickly becoming a political firestorm for the government, but they seem slow to react to it.

      • How do you know that PMO has not asked the Deputy Minister to make this a top priority? Why jump to conclusions?

        • Well, apparently the PMO heard about a story that hadbeen in the news for over a month just last week

  3. What a nightmare. "We're the government and we say you're not who you say you are." What would you do? What could you do? What is the appropriate procedure to follow for an embassy official confronted with a person who insists they are a Canadian citizen, at the point in time when there is some yet-to-be-evaluated suggestion that they might not be? Is it reasonable to expect that any such policy should reflect a commitment to conclusively resolving issues exactly like this?Tried to spend a little quality time with the Framework of Operations on the Foreign Affairs and International Trade website. They've got lists of what they will and won't do for Canadian citizens, but there's the rub. If you're not considered a Canadian citizen, then what's the Canadian consul expected to do for you?

  4. One would think that Biometric passports would solve the problem of misidentifying Canadian passport holders abroad, and a trial program has been run. No news on when this will be implemented other than around 2012.
    The good news is the pilot program was very effective in correctly confirming identity. Bad news, privacy concerns. All biometric passport holders would have their fingerprints on file. Who else has access to that database? CSIS? RCMP?
    Thoughts of the assembled multitudes on your privacy concerns regarding biometric passports?

    • Completely opposed to biometric passports. There is no justification for such an invasion of privacy. Furthermore, those biometric details are likely to be shared with the likes of Homeland Security. CSIS and the RCMP have already demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with such private information.

      • I couldn't agree more – our national authorities, including the RCMP, have been a disgrace of late. No way would I trust them with any further access to information than they already have.

      • I'm not a huge fan of the concept either, but stories like this piling up are starting to make me reconsider. Which do I fear more, the RCMP and CSIS getting their hands on my fingerprints, or my government abandoning me to de facto exile because I lost some weight and dared to go overseas?

        I'm starting to think maybe I'd be willing to give in my fingerprints, as I'm beginning to wonder if our current passports are worth the paper they're printed on.

      • the only way CSIS and RCMP have distinguished themselves lately is though major cluster f*cks, i am scared of what they could do with a database like this through incomptence, lack of checks in the ssyte, lack of accoutnability if not worse.

        that being said, I am furious that people are getting stranded because someone says 'that doesn't look like you', we aren't dealing with underage drinking here. why the hell is info not getting up stream and if it is, heads better roll!

        Does anyone have an ATIP request yet for all correspondence on Mohamud between Kenya and Ottawa, esp snr officials and the minister/office?

      • Biometric data does not have to be stored in a central database. If you think about it, your photo on your passport is biometric data. It is used to compare against the carrier of the passport to validate your identity. Obviously this can fail due to the subjective judgement of unreliable human intervention. Fingerprints on your passport do not have to be stored anywhere other than in the passport.

        When needed to confirm the photo ID, an on-the-spot comparison can be made (though fingerprints have their own issues.) Same thing with DNA data. The digital fingerprint identifying your DNA only needs to be stored on the passport. Heck, it could even be a barcode, it doesn't to be an electronic chip.

        When needed for an on the spot comparison, you submit a saliva sample, a computer processes it and spits out a corresponding code. That code should match the code embedded in your passport.

        The human visual match of your face to your photo is an on-the-spot true/false test. The failing of the human method is that it is imprecise, inconsistent, and very subjective. Electronic means to do the same thing can be done without an "invasion of privacy" and without a central database storing this information. As long as we treat it as augmenting the photo ID method, we should be fine, and have a better systems as a result.

    • First off, I tend to love the use of cool technology to solve problems. You already raised the privacy issue… but what about the screw-up, to illustrate lets talk about tasers.

      Before tasers, police had sticks available as a non-lethal alternative to shooting someone. However being bashed by a batton can leave bruises, people can get seriously hurt. Tasers were the high-tech, guaranteed non-lethal improvement. The threshold for using a taser became lower than for the batton because it was guaranteed nonlethal. Even as evidence piled up that tasers kill people, police were in denial after all tasers were clearly high tech and the manufacturer guaranteed they were non-lethal.

      So when a screwup happens with a biometric passport, the officials will be even more convinced that you are a horrible bad person. Your family may be beside you, you may have a whole wallet of ID etc, but the infallible, high tech device just said you were not who you said you were.

      In the end, biometrics will play an important role. (I actually think tasers should play a role in policing although I am not convinced our police are ready for them) However, none of this technology solves anything if our systems are screwed up and in these two cases they certainly are!

    • The report refered to above has this statement;

      " It is of the utmost importance to CIC to protect the privacy of your personal information. CIC, its visa offices and the CBSA's participating border offices will strictly adhere to Canada's Privacy Act. The Privacy Act can be found at the following website: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/P-21/95414.html. "

      Any lawyers able to give an executive summary of that law and how it pertains to sharing passport biometric information with domestic and foreign security and law enforcement agencies?

    • In every one of these cases the passport – i.e. documentation in general – was not at fault. Lack of adequate management and poor executive level direction, inadequate policies and procedures plus incompetent and callous ministers together with a government that is indifferent to and inexperienced in these issues are the cause; these individual tragedies are the effect.

      Harper may not consciously believe he is the reincarnation of Caesar, however, there is more than a whiff of that aroma in the manner in which he runs Canada's New Government:

      Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
      Like a Colossus; and we petty men
      Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
      To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
      Men at some time are masters of their fates:
      The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
      But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

  5. Harbles – you are quite off base with your understanding of the facts and biometric technology.
    Fingerprints will NOT be on file – even if this technology ever gets approval. A biometric token – that is derived from fingerprints – is the most likely option. Even that throws up the possibility of of False Positives – or even worse False Negatives – where your fingers in a scanner do not reproduce a match to the token when scanned elsewhere.
    Anyway – I only have two observations – for this thread.
    1) Is it just a coincidence that all these incidents seem to have started just three years ago. What happened in Foreign Policy (and all government policy in fact) three years ago? Why – the Tories took power!
    2) The same government made re-issuance of passports such an easy game that security experts in Foundation documents – like my frirnds in the RCMP who have connections to Interpol – have just thown in th towel…

    • I beg to differ, fingerprints were a part of the trial run from the report;

      " Fingerprints

      Ten inkless, flat fingerprints were collected for the purpose of enrolment at the time of the first in‑person contact with the client–at the visa office or port of entry. During enrolment, clients were asked to place four fingers from their right hand, then four fingers from their left hand, and then two thumbs together on the glass of the fingerprint reader.

      After clients had enrolled 10 fingerprints at the visa office, on subsequent entries into Canada through a participating port of entry, they were asked to provide only one fingerprint (usually the index finger) for the purpose of verification. The system then compared the presented fingerprint to all (usually 10) of the fingerprints enrolled at the visa office. This was done for two reasons:

      With all 10 fingerprints in the system, we can eliminate the possibility of requesting a match for a finger that is not on file, which would produce a false rejection.
      The officer is given some control over which finger is presented for comparison.
      These capabilities will be important to the success of a fully deployed system.

      If the client applied for and received their visa by mail, and subsequently entered Canada through a participating port of entry, they were asked to provide all 10 fingerprints for the purpose of enrolment."

      Now perhaps they will not use fingerprints in the final implementation but I have seen no mention of that.

      And point taken that passport identity verification is only part of a much larger problem that has appeared recently, I believe partly because of post 911 security paranoia, and partly because of apparently incompetent employees at embassies and apparently uncaring top officials and ministers in Ottawa.

  6. The genie is already out of the bottle. Many other countries already take fingerprints when visitors go thru customs. I can't understand why posters are ok giving thier prints to other counrtries but scream privacy concerns when Canada does it.

  7. I'm sorry but, as far as I am concerned, biometric forms of identification for the average citizen have no place in a democratic society. You simply do not allow your government to have that kind of access to your private information.

    Call me crazy but for me, privacy is a cornerstone of a free society. A passport is ample information for identification purposes.

    • "If you haven't done anything wrong you don't have anything to worry about"
      Thin edge of the wedge for the police state.

      "First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me."

      I agree with your point of view. Even if the current government swore on a stack of bibles that passport biometric data would be safe in the CIC data center and not disclosed to anyone I still would not trust them. I would be surprised if the biometric data collected so far wasn't in an NSA computer in the US right now.

      • Harbles, it isn't a matter of trust for me. The clear difference between a Police State and a democratic one is, among other things, a citizen's right to privacy. Why on earth would I allow my government to scan my eye retina? Why isn't my SIN or passport number sufficient for them to identify me?

        What's next? A bar code on the back of our necks?

        The question that some ought to ask themselves when they hear of this is indeed "why?" as opposed to "why not?"

        • If it's good enough for your pet … everyone must have one of these installed at birth.

    • Privacy? Government access? You sound like a hard core conservative.

    • A passport is ample information for identification purposes.

      Unless the government says it's not your passport. In which case, sure, you've avoided giving the feds your fingerprints, but you're pretty much in exile until you give them your DNA.

      • Right. DNA evidence has gotten a lot more (innocent) people out of prison than it has putting them in. The issue is not privacy, it's science.

        • Just to be clear, my comment wasn't really meant as a "paranoid about giving up my DNA" reply so much as an "it's ironic that people worried about giving up their fingerprints may someday be forced to give up their DNA to prove who they are, since a passport is essentially useless without fingerprints if the government is denying that you're truly the person pictured in the passport.

          If the government says that's not you in the picture, just how are you supposed to prove that they're wrong? Show them another piece of ID with your picture?!!?!? In this case the person in question had to get a DNA test done. If fingerprints were connected to passports (hopefully in some anonymized way that can't be used for any other purpose), the government never could have claimed it wasn't her passport.

  8. I'm sorry but, as far as I am concerned, biometric form of identification for the average citizen have no place in a democratic society. You simply do not allow your government to have that kind of access to your private information.

    Call me crazy but for me, privacy is a cornerstone of a free society. A passport is ample information for identification purposes.

  9. The solution is in making the idiots accountable, not giving them more access to your private affairs.

    • Oh, I generally agree (even if I'm less worried about biometrics than you) I just meant to point out that a passport is only ample information if you look like you did when you had the photo taken and no one questions it. If someone in authority is going to claim that it's not your passport, that you're not the person pictured, then a passport is no better a form of ID then your Costco card.

  10. If Ms. Liliane Khadour's " tour of duty is over," and she and her partner have a condo apartment in Ottawa I surely hope we aren't paying for her hotel!

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