Useful advice for Canadians who might end up jailed in Somalia: pretend to be British


A New York Times photo essay about Somalia’s pirates identifies an inmate jailed in the Somali port city of Boosaaso as Canadian Gure Ahmed. 

The World Desk called Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to ask if they had any information on the man. After two days of research, they replied that they have never heard of him, which, among other disturbing implications, suggests no one at DFAIT is familiar with Google.

The topic of Canadians jailed abroad is one I will be exploring in more depth in an upcoming article in the print edition of Maclean’s.


Useful advice for Canadians who might end up jailed in Somalia: pretend to be British

  1. Gee.. I thought by the Canadian government’s attitude that there were no Canadians jailed abroad.

  2. Given how much help our government has been lately with helping out Canadians in trouble abroad, isn’t pretending to be British useful advice for anyone, in any type of trouble, ANYWHERE outside of our borders? I happen to hold a British passport in addition to my Canadian, and while I usually travel on my Canadian (as it is my place of residence and the country I am truly attached to) I nonetheless would rarely bring ONLY my Canadian passport with me on a trip (except maybe to the States). And if I got in trouble overseas, I’m pretty sure I’d be waving my BRITISH passport in the face of anyone who was looking.

    Frankly, recent anecdotal evidence suggests to me that even someone just pretending to be British is likely to get more help from the British government than an actual Canadian would from the Canadian government.

    It used to be that Americans traveling abroad felt well-served to pretend to be Canadian, but I’d guess that day is passed anywhere outside of Iraq. If I were an American traveling abroad and I got in trouble, I’d be EMPHATIC about being American and not Canadian. If they know you’re American, at least they’ll know someone’s likely to do something to help you. If they think you’re Canadian, they’ll probably doubt whether the Canadian government will even acknowledge your existence.

  3. Another angle you may want to cover in your article is whether there have been government cutbacks in consular services around the world in the last few years (I have a hunch the answer is “yes”). And, if so, how this impacts Canadian citizens who need these services in more remote locations such as Somalia.

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