The value of Canadian citizenship

The tale of Suaad Hagi Mohamud is an astonishing one.  The 31-year-old Canadian, originally from Somalia, was arrested at the airport in Nairobi, Kenya as she attempted to board a flight home on May 21st.  Security officials at the airport, however, insisted that her lips did not match those of her 3-year-old passport photo.  Suprisingly the Canadian High Commission to Kenya agreed, declaring her an impostor.  The government voided her passport, and then sent it to Kenyan law enforcement officials so that they could prosecute her for her crime.

But as the results of last week’s DNA tests now indicate, she is who she claims to be.  And we must now ask ourselves how is it that an ordinary Canadian citizen can be defrauded of her citizenship on the word of a foreign official; disavowed by her government, who ought to have come to her aid; and left to rot in a foreign city.  There is nothing exceptional about Suaad Hagi Mohamud’s case that would preclude it from happening to you or I or any other Canadian citizen.  All it takes is a picky airport screener and an unmotivated Canadian consulate.

Kateland at The Last Exile has an excellent post on the subject, and summarises what ought to be the next steps admirably:

It is long past the time to bring her home and commence a through house cleaning of the Canadian High Commission in Kenya as well as at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. An investigation must be immediately launched to determine whether Canadian consulate staff actively collaborated with the Kenyan authorities to shakedown and defraud a Canadian citizen of her citizenship.

Regardless of the outcome the investigation, the Canadian Kenyan ambassador should be immediately recalled and summarily fired for failing to adequately supervise the staff as well as carrying out what should be the first duty of any representative of the Canadian government – protecting the welfare of her citizens – all her citizens. Blame multiculturalism all you want, but from where I sit, the biggest devaluation of Canadian citizenship lies in the failure of the Canadian government to value and honour Canadian citizenship.

Exactly right.

UPDATE: Looks like Mohamud was caught in a shakedown racket.  This is why the High Commission needs to be aired out.

In a telephone interview from Nairobi yesterday, Mohamud gave further details of the event that started her ordeal when she tried to board a KLM flight home on May 21 after a three-week visit to Kenya.

A Kenyan KLM employee stopped her. “He told me he could make me miss my flight,” she said of the KLM worker, who suggested Mohamud didn’t look like her passport photo.

He seemed to be soliciting a bribe, she said, an experience Somali-born Torontonians say is commonplace for them at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

When she didn’t pay, a Kenyan immigration official arrested her. Canadian consular officials went along, returning Mohamud to the Kenyans, who threw her in jail on charges of entering Kenya illegally on a passport not her own.

— Marlow, Iain, Allan Woods and John Goddard.  “Harper says ‘first priority’ to get Mohamud home.Toronto Star, 13 August 2009.

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2 Responses
  1. Nathan B. says:

    This whole story has really caught my attention and held it. As a former expat, I know how absolutely pathetic Canadian government offices abroad can be, and I very much hope that the individuals in question at the Canadian High Commission in Kenya are fired, sued, and charged.

    I don’t understand how Mohamud was forced by the government to rely on DNA tests. There are many other ways of proving one is who one says one is.

    In any case, thank God she had guts and supporters.

    • Chris Taylor says:

      And a blood relative able to provide a DNA link.

      If she didn’t have that, she’d be screwed. The High Commission would have called her an impostor and she would not have had any definitive, scientific proof that she is who she says she is. She’d be locked up in a Kenyan jail.

      That’s frightening to say the least. Some dirty official calls you an impostor and your own consulate goes along with it. Disgraceful.