Prime Minister Stephen Harper's apology to Maher Arar is a major change from comments made five years ago, when he was Opposition Leader and little was known about Arar's deportation and torture.

The Canadian Press has compiled quotes from Opposition MPs in November 2002, as news broke of Arar's detention in Syria and possible terrorist links:

  • Nov. 18, 2002

Stephen Harper (Canadian Alliance leader): "While the minister participated in high level consultations to defend a suspected terrorist, it apparently took a trip by the U.S. secretary of state for the minister to admit what he really knew.

"Officials now acknowledge that they have had evidence on Arar's activities for weeks. Why did it take a newspaper article to correct the record? Why did the minister and the government not reveal these facts to the House before today?"

Diane Ablonczy (Canadian Alliance MP): "Mr. Speaker, it is time the Liberals told the truth: that their system of screening and security checks is pathetic. Arar was given dual Syrian and Canadian citizenship by the government. It did not pick up on his terrorist links and the U.S. had to clue it in.

"How is it that the U.S. could uncover this man's background so quickly when the government's screening system failed to find his al-Qaida links?"

Ablonczy: "Mr. Speaker, the government needs to take responsibility for what it is doing to protect Canadian security. The fact is that these Liberals were asleep at the switch.

"Arar was not properly checked. Instead, the government ran around chastising the U.S. for sending Arar back to Syria, where he is also a citizen.

"Why is it that the Liberal security system is so weak here that they overlook vital information that the U.S. picked up on a routine check?"

  • Nov. 19, 2002

Stockwell Day (Canadian Alliance MP): "Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the deputy prime minister gave an evasive answer concerning Maher Arar and his possible terrorist ties. As members know, a few months ago, the minister of foreign affairs proudly announced that there was no reason to deport Mr. Arar. Now we know that the RCMP had received warnings about Mr. Arar weeks, perhaps months ago.

"When did the minister of foreign affairs receive these warnings?"

Day: "There is lack of vigilance in the country on terrorism. Fourteen groups have been banned in the U.S. and in the U.K. but they have free passes here in Canada.

"The minister said that he could not talk about security matters but when he thought everything was lovely about this gentleman, he was talking about him all over the place. When he receives some information that he was dangerous, all of a sudden it is, 'Oops, maybe I should not have said something.'

"The minister talked about it before and should talk about it now. He should shed some light on it. When did he know about this?"