Adil Charkaoui says civil suit against govt is about restoring reputation
MONTREAL - A simple "sorry" and an offer to pay his legal fees might have sufficed, but Adil Charkaoui said he didn't even get that courtesy from the federal government.
So the Moroccan-born Montrealer who was accused by Ottawa of being a terrorist and who spent several years living under tight restrictions believes he was left with little choice but to sue the federal government.
Charkaoui said Friday he intends to sue for $24.5 million to restore his tattered reputation after failing to get an apology from Ottawa.
He said the civil suit, filed in Quebec Superior Court on Feb. 22, is not about the money.
"I'm doing it to clear my name, this is very important for me," Charkaoui told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview between teaching classes.
He said he sent a letter asking for an apology, Canadian citizenship and compensation for lost income and legal fees after a federal judge quashed a security certificate against him.
The response he says he received was that the government was just doing its job.
"To me it meant 'Go to hell'," Charkaoui said.
"This is about accountability. I want to restore my name and they made a mistake and destroyed my life in Canada and outside Canada and they have to pay for what they did."
Charkaoui spent more than six years under suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent, spent 21 months in jail and had to wear an electronic GPS-bracelet.
He also missed the birth of his son.
A Federal Court justice ruled in October the security certificate used to arrest him in 2003 must be quashed and that Ottawa had no right to appeal.
The case against Charkaoui began to unravel last year when Ottawa's lawyers withdrew evidence against him because of concerns it would jeopardize national security if it became public.
Charkaoui said he didn't want to publicize the suit right away as his lawyers were still putting the finishing touches to the case.
But he slipped up this week when he mentioned the lawsuit during a talk he gave in Sherbrooke, Que., while a reporter was present.
Charkaoui said the legal proceedings have begun but that the documentation has not been sent to the federal government yet. It will be in the coming weeks.
Charkaoui, 36, is a full-time French teacher and a father of four who is completing his PhD.
"I wanted to forget this whole nightmare but they didn't even accept to even present an apology," Charkaoui said, adding it's important to him to clear his name for his children.
Three of his children are named as plaintiffs in the suit.
According to the 23-page document, Charkaoui is suing the Attorney General of Canada, CSIS, the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and the federal immigration, justice and public safety departments.
He's also named the Liberal and Conservative ministers who headed those departments at key moments during his case: Liberal MPs Denis Coderre and Wayne Easter and Conservative MPs Diane Finley and Stockwell Day.
Charkaoui was among five men -- including four from Ontario -- who were facing removal from Canada under the certificates, which are rarely used immigration provisions for expelling foreign-born individuals considered a national security risk.
Former security certificate detainee Hassan Almrei's lawyer has said he is considering launching a lawsuit. Almrei told The Canadian Press last month he too is seeking an apology from the federal officials who had him jailed.
Mohamed Harkat, Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub still face expulsion from Canada and are all fighting to remain in the country.
The three say they reject terrorism and argue they face torture if returned to their homelands.