Canada lawmakers voted to grant citizenship to blogger Badawi

A human rights defender, Badawi is in jail in Saudi Arabia for blogging about free speech and ‘insulting Islam’.

Raif Badawi
Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in jail for blogging about free speech and 'insulting Islam' [File: Facundo Arrizabalaga/DPA]

Members of Canada’s House of Commons voted to grant citizenship to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who has been imprisoned in his home country for nine years and whose wife and three children live in Canada.

The motion, which was unanimously voted on Wednesday, asks Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino to use his “discretionary power” to grant Canadian citizenship to Badawi, “in order to remedy a particular situation and unusual distress”.

Badawi was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes and then resentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes in 2014 for blogging about free speech and “insulting Islam”.

He received 50 of those beatings in January 2015, but the rest of the sessions, which were to be carried out weekly, were suspended after a global outcry.

Before Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court abolished in late April flogging as a form of physical punishment, Badawi had been the most high-profile instance of flogging in the kingdom.

The blogger was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov human rights prize the following year. He is currently serving his jail term.

Ensaf Haidar, the wife of the jailed Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi, shows a portrait of her husband as he is awarded the Sakharov Prize, in Strasbourg, France [File: Christian Lutz/AP Photo]

“Now that this is a formal request from the House, [Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau and Minister Marco Mendicino must act,” Yves-Francois Blanchet, head of the separatist Bloc Quebecois party and sponsor of the bill, said after the vote.

“Every day counts” for Badawi, “as his health is constantly in danger in prison”, Blanchet said in a statement.

Translation: There are days when, despite everything, we are very proud to be in politics for the right reasons. I can imagine the reception, after more obstacles I know, that Quebec will give to Raif Badawi upon arrival in Quebec. We are there for him, and for the right causes.

The news was welcomed with joy by the human right activist’s wife, Ensaf Haidar. “What a news! Raif will be so happy! It gives me hope,” she said on Twitter, thanking lawmakers for remembering her husband’s case.

Relations between Ottawa and Riyadh deteriorated in 2018 when the Canadian government called for the release of Saudi human rights activists, including Badawi’s sister Samar Badawi.

Badawi’s wife and three children, who live in Quebec, have already received Canadian citizenship.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies