Canadians abroad should feel less confident about this country coming to their aid if the need were to arise given what’s happened to journalist Mohamed Fahmy, says the federal Liberal candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country.
“For some unknown reason the prime minister and the government of Canada are not putting their back in to getting this guy home and as a Canadian, I don’t feel good about that,” said Stephen Fuhr, from his hotel room in Cairo.
“I think the people need to think twice before they travel abroad. Is the Canadian government going to pick and choose who they help out based on a criteria only they know about?”
Fuhr, a pilot whose work regularly takes him to the Egyptian capital, is particularly touched by the story of Fahmy, given that he’s met with him twice in recent months and has been able to hear his story first-hand.
“I wanted to see first hand, from the source, if what I was reading was the case,” he said.
Fahmy, along with two other journalists—Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed—were arrested for giving support to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt labels a terrorist group.
The journalists denied they were terrorists and argued they were just doing their job during their trial—a perspective the international community has largely supported— but in December 2013 they were convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail.
Last month Fahmy, a dual citizen of Canada and Egypt, was released on bail after 400 days in jail.
He’d expected to be home in Canada by now. Instead, explained Fuhr, the Egyptian court ordered a second trial for his case and Fahmy remains in Egypt.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird could have used their influence to get Fahmy home, but they haven’t, said Fuhr.
Fuhr explained that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had intervened on Greste’s behalf, speaking to the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi three times.
“Harper did not speak with the Egyptian president to secure his release,” he said.
“If you watch question period, you get the impression Harper sent emails and letters…People have asked, ‘Have you phoned?’ and they skirted the question.”
In addition to the prime minister’s perceived lack of action, Fuhr has been told that Baird has failed Fahmy.
During a recent visit to Cairo, Baird had said Fahmy wouldn’t have to serve the rest of his sentence if he were to be deported to Canada.
“That flies in the faces of an agreement being made,” said Fuhr, explaining that the agreement with between governments would see Egypt release foreigners convicted of crimes there to be deported to their home countries for trial or detainment.
Fuhr is also concerned Fahmy has yet to get back his Canadian passport, something he surrendered early on in this process, as it limits his freedom in the security-oriented country.
Although it may seem like a problem far removed from every day life in the Okanagan, Fuhr said that he’d like to see Canadians start putting pressure on the government to ensure that citizens abroad are protected.
“They need to reach out to their MPs, if they feel that Canadians abroad deserve better from the government,” he said. “Most people feel if there’s a problem, the Canadian government will come to their aid…We need to get the guy a passport and the Prime Minister needs to step up, get personally involved, and assure (Fahy) that the government is doing everything that we can to get him home.”