Suaad Hagi Mohamud was detained for three months in Kenya when Canadian authorities decided she did not resemble her passport photo.
Photo: Mike Cassese/Reuters
Published: November 7, 2012, 4:45 pm
Updated: 2 hours ago
OTTAWA — The federal government has spent more than $1.5 million in legal costs defending itself against a lawsuit filed in 2009 by a Toronto mother who was stranded in Kenya for nearly three months because immigration officials thought she was an impostor.
Suaad Hagi Mohamud was visiting her mother and husband when she was stopped from boarding her flight home because she didn’t look like the woman in her four-year-old passport photo.
The results of a Canadian High Commission investigation founds she was indeed an impostor. The then 31-year-old mother of one was jailed for eight days before she was released on bail. A subsequent DNA test, however, proved she was who she said she was. The Canadian government convinced Kenyan authorities to drop the charges and got her emergency papers so she could return home.
Soon after she filed a $2.6 million lawsuit against the government for “callous and reckless treatment of her while she was abroad.”
Postmedia News has learned the case was finally settled out of court within the last six months. While the terms of the settlement are confidential, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson did reveal this week the total cost of the case.
“To the extent that the information that has been requested is protected by solicitor-client privilege, the federal Crown asserts that privilege and, in this case, has waived that privilege only to the extent of revealing the total legal cost. The total legal cost is approximately $1,455,450.09,” he said in response to a written question from Liberal Kevin Lamoureux.
Lamoureux wanted the government to break down the legal fees incurred, the terms of the settlement and the agreed upon payout.
Lamoureux said he asked the question because he wanted to get a sense of “how aggressive” the government was being with respect to the case and the length of time it was taking to reach a resolution.
“People that have to go through this process want to see a speedy decision made and there’s a sense of frustration when that doesn’t happen and it’s fairly costly to extend things when it’s not necessarily the right thing to do,” he said.
“At the end of the day, what we want to be able to see is the process sped up.”
Lamoureux said he would continue pushing for a more detailed breakdown and he questioned the rationale behind these sorts of confidentiality agreements.
“I think there should be basic information provided when you’re using tax dollars to resolve public issues,” he said. “So what that basic information should be, well I would suggest to you that any sort of agreement for settlement would be one of those things that should be on there.”
Mohamud’s lawyer Julian Falconer confirmed the matter was settled within the last six months, but that the terms are confidential, something “not unusual in cases like this.”
The high-profile case last made headlines in December 2010 when the Federal Court ordered the Canadian government to pay $13,500 in legal costs for Mohamud.
It’s not clear if that’s included in the $1.5 million.
The government has faced widespread criticism for how it handled Mohamud’s case. Many critics accused the government of a double standard with respect to how it treats visible minorities facing legal problems overseas.