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The Harper government and Gill Rosenberg: colour-coded citizenship?

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Canadian-Israeli citizen Gill Rosenberg, a person with a sketchy past, joins Kurdish troops fighting ISIS and allegedly gets herself captured. The Harper government pulls out all the stops. "Our teams are obviously working to try to tackle the competing versions of what happened," says Foreign Minister John Baird. "But it is obviously a deep concern for us."

Deep concern, at the very top of the food chain. How touching, even if Rosenberg, as an Israeli Defence Force veteran, knew the risks and plunged in against all advice. Now it appears that she remains uncaptured after all, as safe and sound as one can be in a theatre of war. Given the grisly ISIS record, that's good news.

But the contrast between the government's treatment of Rosenberg and of Canadian citizens who happen to be Muslim and brown of complexion is excruciating. Recall Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen exiled for years until a federal court, exasperated by the government's obvious and continuing bad faith, ordered that he be permitted to return, using unusually scathing language in doing so.

DFAIT, far from trying to help Abdelrazik, did everything it could to keep him out of the country. In fact it cooperated with his Sudanese torturers to the point of deliberately turning a blind eye to the real possibility that he would be "disappeared" by the Sudanese government. DFAIT operatives vilely tried to explain away Abdelrazik’s scars from torture as ritual African scarification.

Then there was fellow-citizen Suuad Hagi Mohamud, on a trip to Kenya, who was not permitted to come back home. The Canadian High Commissioner claimed she was an impostor. She sat in a Kenyan jail for months, separated from he young son, until a DNA test cleared her.

Ditto with Abdihakim Mohamed, an autistic Canadian stranded for three years in Kenya by Canadian authorities. After a storm of protest, ignited in part by the Ottawa Citizen’s Kate Heartfield, he was grudgingly allowed back, after considerable dicking around by DFAIT. His mother had offered throughout this ordeal to have a DNA test. Officials refused to take her up on it.

As of this writing, Canadian Bashir Makhtal still sits in an Ethiopian prison. Toronto-born Omar Khadr is back in Canada after the Harper government did everything it could to keep him in Gitmo; the same government is now holding him essentially incommunicado.

Meanwhile the same government flew jailbird Brenda Martin home on a chartered jet. And now it's been speaking out on behalf of jailbird Gill Rosenberg.

But Rosenberg, like Martin, is white and non-Muslim. And for this government, that would appear to make all the difference.

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