A black and Muslim Canadian woman, Suaad Hagi Mohamud, was falsely arrested in Kenya for identity fraud and stranded for three months, because both Kenyan and Canadian officials claimed that she was not a Canadian citizen. Even mainstream Canadians blamed the Harper government for discriminating against her because she was not white.
Now Mohamud is suing the Canadian government.
A Toronto woman who was stranded in Kenya over false claims she was an impostor said she believes the colour of her skin played a role in her ordeal.
In an exclusive interview with the CBC’s Diana Swain, Suaad Hagi Mohamud was asked if she thought things would have been different if she were white.
“I wouldn’t be stopped at the Kenyan airport if I’m a white,” Mohamud said.
“The Canadian High Commission wouldn’t be treating me the way they treat me. If I’m a white person, I wouldn’t be there in one day. I wouldn’t have missed the flight.”
Mohamud, 31, who was visiting her mother in Kenya, had been stranded in the country since May after Kenyan authorities said she didn’t look like the picture in her passport photo.
Mohamud, who filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against the federal government on Friday, said the reaction by officials to her situation was “really frustrating” because “deep inside I thought we all the same.”
Despite Mohamud’s insistence from the beginning that she is a Canadian citizen and providing other forms of identification, in July, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon had claimed that there was “no proof” that she was Canadian citizen, further stating, “The individual has to be straightforward, has to let us know whether or not she is a Canadian citizen.” (A timeline of the Mohamud’s ordeal is available here.)
Officials claimed that she did not look like her passport photo because her lips were different. She has been cleared recently with a DNA test, but in May, the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi sent a letter to Kenyan officials that stated, “Please be advised that we have carried out conclusive investigations, including an interview, and have confirmed that the person brought to the Canadian High Commission on suspicion of being an impostor is not the rightful holder of the aforementioned Canadian passport.”
Mohamud’s case is similar to the case of Abousfian Abdelrazik, a black Muslim Canadian man who stranded in Sudan for six years. After he was cleared from having ties with al-Qaeda, the Canadian government refused to issue him an emergency passport and allow him to return to Canada. The Federal Court of Canada had to force the Canadian government to do so, successfully arguing that the government violated his constitutional rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Despite multiculturalism being a national policy of Canada, systemic racism continues to exist, because Canada does not have a national policy of anti-racism. When the Canadian federal government itself racially discriminates against its own citizens, to continue to believe that racism does not exist in Canada is delusional.