“I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice.”
Albert Camus, in Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, 1960

By now most Canadians are familiar with the story of Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen whose return to his Ottawa home was interrupted by authorities who stopped him at JFK Airport and sent him to Syria, where he was tortured and jailed for over a year. Fewer are aware of the three other Canadians who suffered similar abuses around the same time. In Dark Days: The Story of Four Canadians Tortured in the Name of Fighting Terror, author Kerry Pither reveals how Canadian agents were complicit in the detention and torture of Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almaki and Muayyed Nureddin. These three men, like Maher Arar, were guilty only of being Muslim in the tense aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. They attracted the attention of overzealous, blundering RCMP and CSIS agents who thought their heritage and frequent travel made them suspicious extremists. For that, these four unfortunate men paid a heavy price indeed.

Writing in a compelling, fast-paced dramatic style, Pither exposes the ineptitude, if not the outright malevolence, of other Canadian officials who not only turned a blind eye to the plight of the four Canadians as they rotted in jail, but actually relayed interrogation questions to their Syrian torturers. The Syrians apparently felt they were doing Canada’s bidding and the Canadian consular officials who were in a position to disabuse them of that notion, and return the four men to their Canadian homes, utterly neglected to help. Pither names names, and her portrayal of Franco Pillarella, former Canadian ambassador to Syria, and his subordinate Leo Martel, is less than flattering. The reader cannot help but be angered by the obtuse ignorance of these men and their complete failure to discharge their primary duty, which was to safeguard the interests of Canadian citizens abroad.

Pither also documents the despicable leaking of false information calculated to demean the reputations of the four men and to cast doubt on their innocence. Every Canadian should read this book, for as Camus said later in the same essay quoted above, “it is at least worth knowing that when expressed forcefully truth wins out over falsehood”.