In 2003, officials in Sudan arrested Canadian citizen Abousfian Abdelrazik, who was in the country to visit his ill mother. During two different periods of detention, Sudanese authorities tortured Abdelrazik and frequently put him in solitary confinement. After each release from prison, Abdelrazik tried to return to Canada but was blocked by the actions of the Canadian government. After over a year of living in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum, a Federal Court judge in Ottawa ordered the Canadian government to bring Abdelrazik back to Montreal. In September 2009, Abdelrazik sued the government of Canada and Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon personally. In 2013, Mr. Abdelrazik commenced a separate action before the Federal Court claiming that the Canadian government leaked prejudicial information to the media in order to damage his reputation. The government settled this lawsuit in March 2017.
Abousfian Abdelrazik’s lawsuit alleges that CSIS, despite knowing of Sudan’s horrible human rights record, requested that Sudanese officials detain him in 2003. Abdelrazik accuses the Canadian government of “arranging for his arbitrary imprisonment by Sudanese authorities, encouraging or condoning his torture at the hands of Sudanese authorities, and actively obstructing his repatriation to Canada for several years.” The lawsuit also asserts that Minister Cannon is personally liable for misfeasance in public office and infringing on Abdelrazik’s Charter rights.
The Government of Canada brought a motion to dismiss the case, arguing among other things that individuals cannot bring a specific claim for torture in Canadian courts. The Federal Court ruled in Abdelrazik’s favour on all substantive points and allowed the case to continue. Importantly, the court stated that there is a “possibility that courts may, in the proper circumstances, recognize a cause of action for violation of customary international human rights.” It is believed to be the first time a Canadian court has recognized torture as a potential cause of action in a civil lawsuit. The government chose not to appeal the decision.
Since that time, the case has been delayed while the government reviews every piece of evidence for national security purposes and makes redactions to documents before disclosing them to Abdelrazik’s lawyers.
In August 2011, the newspaper La Presse published a story based on leaked CSIS documents which contained allegations concerning Mr. Abdelrazik’s links to suspected terrorists. In 2013, Mr. Abdelrazik’s commenced a separate action before the Federal Court against the Canadian government claiming that it leaked this information to the media to damage his reputation. During the course of these proceedings, the Federal Court ordered the Canadian government to release documents in its possession relating to a similar leak of information pertaining to Adil Charkaoui in June 2007. In March 2017, the Canadian government settled this lawsuit.