Woman detained in Kenya suing Ottawa for $2.5M
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Friday, August 21, 2009 6:09PM EDT
A Canadian woman stranded for almost three months in Kenya over false claims that she was an impostor is now suing Ottawa for $2.5 million for her ordeal.
Lawyers for Suaad Hagi Mohamud are also asking for a public inquiry and apology from the federal government that Mohamud says "let her down."
"I don't care about the money," Mohamud told a Toronto news conference Friday. "I'm only going to court so this never happen to another Canadian citizen."
Mohamud, 31, finally arrived home in Toronto last Saturday after being stranded for three months in Kenya, where she had been visiting her mother. She had been barred from leaving the African nation after authorities there said she did not resemble her four-year-old passport photo.
Mohamud produced several other forms of identification to prove her identity, including her Ontario driver's licence, her health card, social insurance card and a Canadian citizenship certificate.
But the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi agreed she was an impostor, voided her Canadian passport, and handed her over to Kenyan authorities for prosecution on charges of identity theft.
She spent nine days in jail, which she called "horrible." She slept on the floor, and children were locked up with their mothers.
"One lady had blood on her hand. They said it was blood from the person she killed," she said. "I was afraid. I couldn't sleep."
Only a DNA test that proved she was related to her 12-year-old son in Toronto was finally able to confirm Mohamud was who she said she was. She returned to Toronto Saturday and was reunited with her son, Mohamed Hussein.
"What would have happened if my son had come with me to Kenya?" Mohamud wondered Friday. "What would have happened if I didn't have a son, or something that could vouch for who I am?"
Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan has said the Canadian Border Services Agency is working on a report detailing how Mohamud came to be detained in Kenya. On Sunday, he said he would wait to read the report before deciding whether to award Mohamud compensation.
An inquiry must be called to investigate whether Mohamud's race and culture played a role in how she was treated, said one of Mohamud's lawyers, Julian Falconer. Falconer represented Maher Arar in his lawsuit against Ottawa.
"If a Caucasian person had been in Suaad's position in Kenya, would she have received the callous and reckless treatment she did?" he said.
"We don't know the answer. We need someone to look at it and answer that question, because frankly, I find it hard to believe that a white, Anglo-Saxon person in her position would have been treated the same way."
The statement of claim alleged that embassy officials "deliberately and-or negligently" failed to properly conduct an investigation into Mohamud's identity.
It also alleges Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Van Loan failed to respond to the situation when they became aware of the case.