As we get ready to celebrate Canada’s 147th birthday, I’m feeling very grateful for the land where we live and the basic freedoms we enjoy.
The feeling was strengthened this week. I now serve on a provincial board with a man from Chile, we’ll call him Carlo. As I got to know Carlo, I heard how he left his country just over 20 years ago, during the military regime of General Pinochet. Carlo was one of the lucky ones. He wasn’t tortured or killed, but he was in prison for seven months. He was not allowed to see his family, and he was never told why he was incarcerated. His country treated him this way, “because they could”.
Carlo has a smile on his face most of the time. I’m thinking it has a lot to do with being a Canadian. Thousands of Chileans have emigrated to Canada in the 41 years since the military coup that ended democracy in their country. There are dozens of other countries, most of whom belong to the United Nations, where ordinary people live in fear that what happened to Carlo, might one day happen to them.
There was a time when our government would go to bat in a major way for a Canadian citizen who becomes a victim of military dictators. Such a victim right now is Mohamed Fahmy. He was born in Egypt, and he works as a journalist for Al Jazeera.
Fahmy was arrested in Cairo in December, and charged with spreading “False News” about the country’s military regime. This past week, an Egyptian judge who is known as the butcher, sentenced Fahmy and two of his Al Jazeera colleagues to seven years in prison.
After saying nothing for 48 hours, Stephen Harper finally declared that he was “most upset” by what’s happening to a Canadian citizen over there. Let’s count our blessings on July 1st, and maybe stay away from places like Cairo.
I’m Roger Currie