Justin Trudeau won’t keep his word to protect a Canadian Muslim

Canada’s leader once acknowledged people are cynical about politics. Duplicitous dauphins like him are the reason.

Hassan Diab attends a rally calling on the Canadian government not to extradite him, in Ottawa January 20, 2012. A judge ruled on June 6, 2011 that Diab, a suspect in a bombing that killed four people outside a Paris synagogue in 1980, should be extradited to France. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS)
Hassan Diab attends a rally in 2012 in Ottawa calling on the Canadian government not to extradite him [File: Chris Wattie/Reuters]

Since his move from teacher to politician, Justin Trudeau has built his “brand” on one defining principle: He is the antidote to cynicism.

From the moment in 2013 when he began his formal political life, which would, ultimately, lead to the prime minister’s office, Trudeau told Canadians he was determined to practice politics differently.

Early on, Trudeau made it plain that his pursuit of “sunny ways” was meant to be a tangible alternative to the dark, calculating modus operandi of his immediate and hard-hearted predecessor, Stephen Harper.

“Canadians are becoming cynical,” Trudeau said on the cusp of becoming prime minister in 2015. “And who could blame us?”

The irony, of course, is that – despite his signature pledge to restore optimism and faith that government could and should do the right thing for the right reasons – Trudeau has, as prime minister, fuelled the kind of corrosive cynicism he has long bemoaned.

Like every other ambitious politician who assumes high office, Trudeau has broken his word when convenience and parochial interests trump doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Trudeau broke his word to hundreds of injured Palestinian children in Gaza who, as opposition leader, he agreed ought to come to Canada to have their fractured bodies and spirits repaired by generous Canadian doctors, nurses and hospitals wanting to help.

When pressed time and again as prime minister to keep his word to kids in desperate need, Trudeau chose pessimism over hope, hypocrisy over humanity and Stephen Harper’s cynical ways over “sunny ways”.

What a lasting and shameful exercise in cynicism to say no to disfigured children whom you, Mr Prime Minister, once said yes to aiding.

More recently, Trudeau has broken his word to Hassan Diab, a Canadian husband, father and teacher who has, for almost 15 years, been the target of myopic French prosecutors more interested in vindictiveness than the truth.

Last week, Diab went on trial in France in absentia in connection with a bombing outside a Paris synagogue 40 years ago.

The trial is expected to last three weeks. Diab’s fate will be decided by five French judges who have heard testimony from prosecution witnesses that, taken together, has amounted to a predictable rehash of already discredited conjecture and subterfuge designed to implicate Diab.

Zealous French prosecutors began to train their crosshairs on Diab in November 2008. That’s when agreeable Canadian police arrested the sociologist and part-time university lecturer in Ottawa pending an extradition hearing. Diab was jailed for four months without charge.

The extradition judge, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger, dismissed France’s case against Diab as “weak” and said a conviction was unlikely if he were given a fair trial.

Still, Maranger ruled that Canada’s existing extradition laws left him little choice but to agree reluctantly to France’s request. So after his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada failed, Diab was shipped to France in 2015, where he spent another three years in prison – often in solitary confinement.

In early 2018, two French investigative magistrates ordered Diab released after they discarded the allegations against him due to a lack of any convincing or incriminating evidence.

Throughout this Kafkaesque ordeal, Diab has insisted on his innocence. The facts back him up.

First, they suggest that Diab was, in all likelihood, studying and writing exams in Beirut during the time the real bomber was thought to be in Paris.

Second, the only “evidence” tying Diab indirectly to the bombing was handwriting “analysis” of a few words the suspected bomber allegedly wrote on a Parisian hotel register.

Two prosecution “experts” testified that the handwriting samples were a match. One problem: Some of the handwriting samples the experts compared against the hotel register belonged not to Diab, but to his ex-wife.

After Diab returned to his home and family in Ottawa, Trudeau said, “What happened to [Diab] never should have happened, … and [we need to] make sure that it never happens again.”

But it is happening again, and Trudeau and his callous government have done nothing to stop the blatant persecution of a Muslim Canadian.

Instead, they have abandoned Diab to wolves set on convicting a Canadian to satisfy a stubborn strain of Islamophobia that infects France and the blind antipathy of pressure groups in search of a scalp rather than justice.

Trudeau’s rhetoric about ensuring a stop to the state-sanctioned injustice visited on Diab year after grinding year is just that – hollow rhetoric.

Cavalier Canadian diplomats have refused a written plea by Diab that they attend the trial as observers, given the seriousness of the charges and potentially dire consequences.

“Consular services are provided to Canadians abroad,” a diplomat wrote to Diab via email. “Unfortunately, we will not be in the position to attend your trial as requested.”

How’s that for standing up for a Canadian and to ruthless French authorities fixated on tarring him as a bomber?

If found guilty, Diab is facing the prospect that France will file another extradition request to get their malicious clutches on him permanently.

Amnesty International and a host of human rights activists have called on Trudeau to “immediately make it clear that any future request for Hassan Diab’s extradition to France is unacceptable and will not be entertained”.

In other words, the prime minister must keep his word and defend an innocent Canadian who continues to suffer a grievous injustice perpetrated by French prosecutors intent on skewering the proverbial sacrificial lamb.

Trudeau’s response to date: silence.

Trudeau’s learned critics may have more faith in Canada’s delinquent prime minister than I do. Any “leader” who turns his back on children in need is more than capable of turning his back on Hassan Diab and his tormented family.

The duplicitous dauphin’s disingenuous tenure as prime minister has made me even more cynical, and who, to borrow a phrase, can blame me.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.