04.12.2014 05:51 PM

In Sunday’s Sun: give a damn, Messrs. Sousa and Baird

Imagine you’re a dad with four young kids, and a wife who is a school principal. Imagine you’re an engineering graduate of a Canadian university, and you do a lot of charity work.

Imagine you get the political bug, and get involved in a campaign, and you win and you get to write memos for the boss about helping minorities, and you even get to meet Hillary Clinton.

Then, imagine you kiss your wife and kids one morning, head off to work, and a bunch of big guys storm into your office. They’re shouting and waving weapons and they hustle you and your co-workers off to the worst prison in the country.

Imagine they toss you in a concrete cell slightly bigger than a broom closet. Imagine you get a blanket, but nothing else. None of your medication, no clean underwear, no visits by your wife or kids.

Now, imagine that’s been going on for nine months. And imagine that your MPP, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa, doesn’t even return the calls of your family. And imagine that the federal minister who is supposed to do something about this, John Baird, hasn’t done a damned thing to help you.

Khaled al-Qazzaz doesn’t have to imagine any of that stuff. It’s what has happened to him.

Full disclosure: I met his wife, Sarah, last week. Some of her classmates at U of T thought I could help her out. I brought along some colleagues and family to meet Sarah – and, afterwards, all of us decided to help.

Sarah is tiny. It looks like a strong wind could blow her away, she seems so fragile. But she’s tough, tough as steel – and she’s kept the family going, and she’s kept her kids safe, while her husband remains captive in the worst part of one of the worst places on Earth.

She’s going back to Egypt, and God knows what fate, in three weeks. She decided to come back home to Canada, with the kids, to raise awareness of Khaled’s plight, and to seek – to beg – for the help of the likes of Baird and Sousa. Sarah is Canadian, and so are the kids. Khaled is a permanent resident, but was born in Egypt. Which could be why the government is not intervening. (Who knows.)

He and Sarah met while they were both chemical engineering students, in front of the Second Cup on University Ave. in Toronto. She fell in love with him – with his passion and his intelligence and his desire to help people. He started up a campus group called Students for World Justice, and it’s still going. He raised money for an orphanage.

He told Sarah he wanted to go home to set up a school, and give Egyptian kids – kindergarten to Grade 12 – the sort of education he was privileged to get in Canada. Sarah became the school’s principal.

The Arab Spring happened. Khaled was swept up in it. He saw a chance to bring democracy to Egypt, for the first time in its centuries of history. He joined the Freedom and Justice Party, and caught the attention of its leader, Mohammed Morsi. He wasn’t a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or anything like that. The party won the 2012 election, fair and square, and Khaled got hired as staffer.

He wrote memos for the boss about human rights. He agitated for minority rights, for Jews and Christians. Then, on July 3 of last year, he sent Sarah a text message that chilled her blood: “Forgive me.”

He had decided to stay at work, on the day Morsi and others were seized by men dressed in black. He was thrown into Cairo’s sprawling al-Aqrab pison, where he has remained ever since.

Sarah and her four kids need help to get Khaled back to Canada – or, at the very least, to get him better living conditions.

And imagine this: Baird and Sousa won’t give it.




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    Mississaugapeter says:

    Imagine your wife wanting to get away and see her daughter in Gaza because a major law firm in Toronto stole $3.6M of her family’s money (which was in trust) …


    And after waiting to get into Egypt for almost a month because the border to Gaza was closed, bombs are in the air, and she wants to get out of Gaza. But the border out is closed and has been closed for weeks and no one knows when she will be able to get out. And the Canadian Consulate in Cairo will do nothing for the Canadian citizen.

    I was in Egypt two months ago. Morsi won the first real democratic election in Egypt in what I think is ever. The border to Gaza was open every day. Military takes over, the border is open maybe once every six weeks now. The Canadian Consulate in Cairo …

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    que sera sera says:

    I suspect Khaled al-Qazzaz is ineligible for the Conservative’s get-out-of-a-foreign-jail-free-card enjoyed by a blue-eyed, blond Caucasian female with an anglo name and interesting employers.

    Apparently MP Jason Kenney and Rick Norlock flew to Mexico and orchestrated Brenda Martin’s release to Canada from her Mexican conviction & incarceration for money laundering. Harper’s flunkies were so successful that they sent a government jet ($83,000 charter) to retrieve that particular damsel in distress.

    I suspect that Khaled’s name, gender, country of birth and innocence means his predicament is of no consequence to the venal thugs still holding court in Ottawa. This Harper government, and all the arbitrary ugliness it promotes and protects, sickens me.


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    John Werry says:

    This is why 2015 vote most important in Canadian History. We need some electoral Karma, a high as hell voter turnout. I guess Mr. Baird’s advocacy is conditional as Warren asserts.

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      MississaugaPeter says:

      Unfortunately, there is no reassurance that either Trudeau or Muclair would lead a government that supported its citizens any differently overseas.

      Unfortunately, this cynicism has become quite rooted by the actions of almost every democratically elected official in Canada and the United States. They are all in it for themselves and will say and do whatever is necessary to get elected and then will do likewise say and do whatever is necessary to keep getting elected, not being concerned much of the wasted opportunities to do great things. Case in point, Gerard Kennedy. Ten years Executive Director of the Daily Food Bank. Reason he has a strong following, but does not introduce one piece of legislation to help the plight of the hungry when part of government.

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    frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

    I expected better from John Baird, frankly…….but then again, Im sure he doesn’t take a dump without Mr. Harper saying so…….

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    davidray says:

    Maher Arar redux much.

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    Paul Brennan says:

    seems so dumb 1) it is the right thing to do 2) would be popular with most voters and ones that dont like it too bad…also dont understand why main streeam media – other that Warren – arent shouting about it – or are they and I’m out of touch..

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    Marc-Andre Chiasson says:

    There is still a lot of prejudice out there including in the mainstream media. I bet if his name was John Smith or Jean LeBlanc, there would be more of a public outcry. Perhaps I’m wrong, I hope I’m wrong…but sadly I think not.

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    Merrill Smith says:

    I can’t help wondering if the fact that Canada has alienated the entire Arab world with its total support for Likud, means that any efforts the government is making are being ignored or laughed at.

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    e.a.f. says:

    Harper doesn’t care about anything except himself and remaining in power. As to the other two mentioned, they wont do anything. they don’t care either. They have their positions and perks adn the rest of us can go to hell. We can die in Canada or a foreign country, they don’t care. They care even less about people who don’t form part of their political base.

    By not acting on this matter Harper and his “hoes” are simply continuing their terror attack on Canadians.

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    Joel R says:

    I think that Ottawa should at the very least return the phone calls of this fellow’s Canadian wife, and perhaps through government connections get her a visit with her husband in jail. But if Khaled al-Qazzaz is not a Canadian citizen, then I think he is screwed. The military coup in Egypt looks like it is here to stay, and all those connected with the old regime will be lucky to escape the bullet. This is the first rule in a coup – get rid of the old guard and everyone who was connected with it.

    However, Sarah should get at least the decency of some kind of assistance in Ottawa – that’s simply not right.

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