The Canada Border Services Agency attempted to deport him, calling him a risk to Canadians. He says he tried to erase his name and get his life back on track.
“I try to move forward; I try to be the model citizen, ”said Hamdan The National in his first TV interview.
“And again, the Canadian government has the audacity to say that I am dangerous. ”
Hamdan, a Jordanian citizen, came to Canada in 2002 in search of a better life and settled in Fort St. John, British Columbia. But this outspoken politician came to the attention of the RCMP in 2014 in the aftermath of the Parliament Hill shooting.
As part of Project Scollop, which investigated online extremism in Canada after this attack, the RCMP approached Hamdan about the Facebook posts he had posted that appeared to support ISIS.
Hamdan said he was told the topics he was posting on were “very sensitive” and could be offensive to some. But, he said, they didn’t tell him to stop
Eight months later, Hamdan was arrested and charged with four terrorism-related offenses.
“Disturbing” messages tracked
In total, the RCMP had tracked thousands of messages Hamdan posted – some he wrote, others he shared – and reported 85 for celebrating ISIS’s success, praising the attacks. lone wolves and Parliament Hill marksman, as well as identifying places in Canada with low security.
He was denied bail and spent two years in prison awaiting trial.
While a British Columbia Supreme Court judge called the messages “disgusting,” “offensive” and “disturbing,” he ultimately ruled that without knowing more about the background of the messages, Hamdan had no idea. not intend to commit a crime.
In 2017, he was acquitted of all charges.
Yet he was not released.
Instead, immigration officials arrested Hamdan on the grounds that he posed a “danger to the security of Canada” because of the views he expressed online. His refugee status was revoked and he was found inadmissible to Canada.
Hamdan was transferred to the immigration detention center, where he was held for another two years, sometimes in solitary confinement, while the CBSA took steps to deport him.
“Face I win, face you lose”
University of Toronto law professor Kent Roach suggests Hamdan’s case was a miscarriage of justice. When the government failed to secure a conviction, he noted, it appears to have decided to prosecute Hamdan in immigration court, where the burden of proof is lower.
“It seems to me that in the best of all worlds, the government would choose one of these instruments and not align them sequentially, so that if they lose a criminal case, they can return to migrant detention,” he said. said Roach, who wrote about the case.
“You know, it’s kind of like, ‘I win tails, you lose tails.’ “
WATCH | Adrienne Arsenault of the National asks Kent Roach about Hamdan’s ambiguous status:
The RCMP. The CBSA and Public Safety Canada have all denied CBC’s request for interviews or specific information on Hamdan’s case or risk assessment.
They noted that there are 993 foreign nationals in the country who are not currently in detention, but who are inadmissible to Canada for safety and security reasons.
In Hamdan’s case, the CBSA wants to deport him to his native Jordan, where Hamdan says he would be killed. Officials also said they found graffiti with ISIS insignia on the wall of his cell while in detention. Hamdan says it was simply an Islamic emblem.
In September 2019, Hamdan was released under 26 strict conditions that a federal court judge said would mitigate any risk it may pose to the public. He would not have access to the Internet, a cell phone with Internet capabilities, or a driver’s license. And he had to register with the RCMP daily.
“During the first year of my partial release, the RCMP knocked on my window at two or three in the morning, or so every night,” Hamdan said.
“They would wake me up just out of bed, just to come and show my face, shake me back…”
WATCH | Adrienne Arsenault of the National asks Hamdan if he has any remorse for the messages and the fear some people may have of him:
CBC also spoke with residents of Christina Lake, British Columbia, where Hamdan currently resides, who have expressed concerns about his presence in their community. None wished to speak officially, but said they were afraid of him and felt that Canadian laws had failed.
They also explained that Hamdan had never expressed remorse or any prejudice that might have been caused by his social media posts.
“There is no reason to apologize,” Hamdan said. “What have I done that requires remorse?” That I spoke about the conflict in the Middle East, really, and expressed that all sides are committing crimes? Including ISIS? Including al-Qaeda? Including the Canadian government? “
Navaid Aziz, an expert on religious extremism who served as a witness for the defense, said that although he found Hamdan’s posts “deeply uncomfortable,” Hamdan is not an extremist.
“He eventually found meaning in his online activism. And if he had channeled it correctly and if he had perhaps been more careful in what he published, his situation might be different, ”said Aziz, who sometimes gives advice to Hamdan.
“As long as he’s part of a holistic system that provides support… a psychological and mental health perspective, [and] spiritual counseling, I believe he’s on the right track to being in a better place. “
Hamdan’s lawyer argued that due to the criminal charges he faces there, his life would be in danger in Jordan.
Three months ago, a judge suspended Hamdan’s deportation order, noting in his judgment that he had no record of Hamdan committing offenses in the past six years.
So, with his criminal case resolved and his deportation suspended for the time being, Hamdan says he wants his name cleared – and to have his status in Canada resolved.
He filed two civil suits against the CBSA and the Department of Public Safety for malicious prosecution and for his solitary confinement.
“They don’t want to give me status. They want me to disappear, ”Hamdan said. “We don’t know where it’s going to go. ”
Roach agrees that Hamdan’s status remains ambiguous.
“It’s the same status as men detained under security certificates. It’s the status of being under a cloud, ”Roach said. “For people like Mr. Hamdan, I think it will be a constant struggle. ”
So far, Hamdan has obtained a temporary work permit, limited internet access and a driver’s license. He is also looking for work in the community.