An evening with Maher, Monia and Dr. Stephen J. Toope

Presidents distinguished series featuring Maher and MoniaMy wife and I attended tonights President’s Distinguished Lecture: “Civil Liberties and National Security:” a panel discussion with Maher Arar, his wife Dr. Monia Mazigh and Dr. Stephen Toope, moderated by Dr. Andrew Petter of the Faculty of Law.

I will assume my readers know who Maher Arar is. Follow the link for specifics.

Long story short: Maher was vacationing with his wife, Monia, in Tunis and upon returning to Canada to work, was detained in New York by the U.S. Government and then flown in a private jet to Jordan and then to Syria for rendition and torture. He was kept in the most notorious prison in Syria where he was tortured regularly until his release to Canada almost a year later.

A subsequent (and thorough) Canadian investigation cleared Maher Arar of any wrong-doing, and for the Canadian goverments part in his experience compensated him and his family for his nightmare.

The United States government, however, refuses to clear Arar’s name and continues to have both him and his family on a watch-list.

In listening to Maher and Monia’s story tonight, I have been given a sense of hope – that a handful of clear thinking and genuinely honest people can make a difference – that we not rush to sacrifice our freedoms to gain some sense of security in an obviously upside-down World – that torture, rendition, or disappearance is not an acceptable tool in achieving this sense of security.

It was a honor to be in the same room as Monia and Maher. UBC Presidents Dr. Toope’s contribution to the proceedings were at all times stimulating and illuminating and moderator Dr. Andrew Petter maintained order and regulated a flow of intelligent questions from the audience.