TORONTO — Ottawa has no excuse for failing to help a Toronto woman who was detained in Kenya for nearly three months over false claims that she was an impostor, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.
“Something is fundamentally wrong when we can’t count on the Canadian government to stand up for Canadians,” he said. “I’m not sure I can put it any more directly than that.”
Canadians expect their government to come to their aid when they’re in distress, no matter where they are, McGuinty added.
“That didn’t happen in this particular circumstance, and there’s no excuse for that.”
The Liberal premier was referring to Suaad Hagi Mohamud, 31, who has been stranded in Kenya since May.
The Somalian-born woman was unable to leave the country after authorities said her lips did not match her four-year-old passport photo.
Canadian consular officials called her an impostor, voided her passport and turned her case over to Kenya for prosecution.
Officials maintained that she was not who she claimed to be, even after Mohamud handed over numerous pieces of identification, offered fingerprints and finally demanded her DNA be tested.
It wasn’t until the genetic tests confirmed her identity Monday that the federal government began preparing emergency travel documents that would permit her to return to Toronto and reunite with her 12-year-old son.
Mohamud said Wednesday she completed the forms to obtain the documents and expects to receive them as soon as Thursday.
She’s glad the ordeal is over, but said she’s still upset that the Canadian government did little to help her.
“Well, of course I’m angry,” she said in a telephone interview from Nairobi.
“All of these problems they put me through, I’m supposed to be angry.”
Mohamud said she hopes to fly back to Canada early next week, as soon as the travel papers come through.
“Whatever I really wanted to say to (the federal government), I really don’t want to say right now,” she said.
“I have to be with my kid first.”
She said she calls her son every evening, but still worries about him. Her aunt and uncle in Toronto are currently caring for him.
According to her Canadian lawyer Raoul Boulakia, an agreement in principle had been reached for Canada to resolve the Kenyan charges laid against her.
The charges, which include using another person’s passport and being in Kenya illegally, were laid as a result of Canadian consular officials calling Mohamud an impostor.
On Thursday, Boulakia is expected to appear in Federal Court with a motion demanding the government repatriate his client back to Canada within 48 hours.
Boulakia has said he will withdraw his motion only if Mohamud is put on a flight to Toronto before then.
Another Canadian, Brenda Martin, was freed from a Mexican prison last year after her plight drew national headlines and put pressure on Ottawa to respond.
Martin spent two years behind bars in connection with an Internet fraud scheme run by her ex-boss, Alyn Waage, but has maintained she was innocent of any wrongdoing.
Amid mounting pressure from family members, friends and politicians, Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally intervened and called Mexican president Felipe Calderon to discuss Martin’s case.
So far, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan have avoided comment about Mohamud’s case.
Chris McCluskey, a spokesman for Van Loan, would only say that the minister has asked the Canada Border Services Agency and his department for a full account of what happened.