havta hand it to the chief ... (cf. Pope B16's "apology") http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1159440909139&call_pageid=968332188492&col=968793972154&t=TS_Home RCMP chief won't quit 'Innocent people can be swept up in our search to find those who might harm us,' Zaccardelli explains Sep. 28, 2006. 04:12 PM BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH TORONTO STAR OTTAWA - A contrite RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli today apologized to Maher Arar and his family, saying he was “truly sorry” for the role played by the police force in Arar’s “nightmare” deportation and detention in Syria. Speaking to a parliamentary committee this morning, Zaccardelli broke his silence on the case and swept aside speculation that he would be stepping down from his post. “I accept my responsibilities . . . and I’m working diligently to lead this great organization,” said Zaccardelli, who has scheduled an afternoon news conference to talk further about the case. Justice Dennis Dennis O’Connor last week concluded that the RCMP had passed misleading information to U.S. officials, suggesting that the Syrian-born Canadian had terrorist ties, that led to Arar’s 2002 deportation to Syria. “Mr. Arar, I wish to take this opportunity to express publicly to you and to your wife and to your children how truly sorry I am for whatever part the actions of the RCMP may have contributed to the terrible injustices you experienced and the pain that you and your family endured,” Zaccardelli said. He praised the dignity shown by Arar and his wife Monia Mazigh during their ordeal and, in attempt to further clear Arar’s name, he confirmed there is no ongoing investigation into him or his family. Zaccardelli conceded that a special investigative team formed after the Sept.11, 2001 terror attacks lacked experience and training in national security probes, “including the area of information sharing with the Americans.” “The investigative team wasn’t provided with appropriate guidance and direction from within the RCMP,” he said. The RCMP’s top cop said Canada’s national police force accepts “without exception” the recommendations laid out in O’Connor’s 822-page report into the circumstances surrounding Arar’s deportation. He said his “ultimate goal” is to ensure “no other Canadian citizen will ever suffer what happened to the Arar family.” “It is a terrible truth that we have had to acknowledge that in the pursuit of justice against those who would destroy our way of life, innocent people can be swept up in our search to find those who might harm us,” he said. “It happened in this instance,” he said. Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day told the committee the government stands by the commissioner and the Mounties. “The RCMP continues to have the confidence of the government of Canada,” Day said. But Day refused to apologize on behalf of the Canadian government pending compensation talks with Arar. Arar was with his family Thursday in their new home town of Kamloops, B.C., and could only monitor the hearing through an open cellphone in the committee room because his TV set was damaged in a recent move from Ottawa. His lawyers said he was pleased to hear Zaccardelli’s apology — but dismayed the government had not followed suit. The RCMP boss said his force quickly alerted U.S. authorities after Arar’s arrest that they had detained a man on faulty information. But he struggled when asked to explain why the RCMP never communicated such information about Arar’s innocence to the Canadian government and public. “You let him rot for a year in Syria’s prisons,” said Bloc Quebecois MP Serge Menard. Liberal MP Irwin Cotler said: “Why did you not speak up and correct the public record?” Zaccardelli was also challenged to explain why his force should be trusted to lead a fair investigation into the long whisper campaign against Arar. He agreed that whoever continued leaking information to journalists accusing Arar of terrorist links must be punished — whether or not those responsible were RCMP employees. “What happened is deplorable. It’s illegal,” said Zaccardelli. He insisted that his force is qualified to investigate its own officers and other departments where the leaks may have originated. The RCMP chief said he was only vaguely aware of who Arar was before his 2002 arrest at New York’s JFK airport. Arar was one of thousands of people being observed for possible terrorist ties in the chaotic period following 9-11, Zaccardelli said. But after the arrest, he said, he examined the case and was ``shocked” by the flimsy evidence used by U.S. authorities to detain and deport the bi-national to his birth country. He said his force would never have proceeded so quickly with similar information and would have asked Crown lawyers to follow due process. New Democrats said the RCMP should no longer be leading the investigation into the anti-Arar leaks and smear campaign. But they said Zaccardelli should keep his job for now. “He’s on probation. We are not going to call for his resignation at this time,” said NDP MP Joe Comartin. “What we are calling for is for the investigation on the leaks to be taken away from the RCMP, and given to the OPP (Ontario provincial police) or the Surete du Quebec.” If such an investigation concludes that Zaccardelli was aware of the smear campaign, he said, “that will be grounds . . . to insist on his resignation.” Cotler, who was a human-rights lawyer representing Arar before he became the Liberal justice minister in 2003, offered a similar view. But fellow Liberal Mark Holland took a tougher stand: “In my opinion Mr. Zaccardelli should resign,” he said, adding quickly that his party had yet to discuss its official position. All opposition parties bashed the government for failing to apologize to Arar, rejecting arguments an apology now could affect the financial settlement with Arar. Cotler noted that when Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for Canada’s century-old racist Chinese head tax, he seemed unfettered by the potential legal implications. Zaccardelli denied that the government gagged him after O’Connor’s report came out. Day said the Arar family has been taken off all border watchlists, and added that he was assured by U.S. officials that they had done the same. Arar’s lawyers confirmed that their client is already having an easier time in airports. They said he enjoyed his first hassle-free flight in recent memory when he returned home to Kamloops from Ottawa on Wednesday. Just last week, Arar was held up for 15 minutes for extra security questioning when he flew to Ottawa for the release of O’Connor’s report. Arar has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.