• Toronto, University of Toronto
  • January 29, 2009 - 18:30

High-level leaks and undisclosed sources: The case of Maher Arar and lapsed media ethics
January 29, 2009, Toronto



"Leaks, lies and sensational headlines: lessons from the Arar case"
J-Source.ca (includes audio clip and slide)

"Arar shocked and depressed by testimony tying him to Khadr"
Toronto Star

"'Enough of this', Arar says of name coming up at Khadr hearing"

"Stunned, not surprised, U.S. still trying to smear his name, Arar says"
The Globe and Mail (Canadian Press)

"Maher, leaks, anonymous sources and journalism"
A BC-er in Toronto blog

by Andrew Hind


"Accountability is not about seeking revenge; it is about making our institutions better and a model for the rest of the world. Accountability goes to the heart of our democracy. It is a fundamental pillar that distinguishes our society from police states."
- Maher Arar

The Canadian media played a major role in focusing attention on the plight of Syrian-Canadian Maher Arar and pressuring the government to establish an inquiry after his release. But the media also allowed itself to be manipulated into publishing and broadcasting unverified leaks that exacerbated the Arar trauma, and no one in the media has yet been held accountable.

Mr. Arar will talk frankly about the media’s role in his rendition, his release and his current quest for accountability. Following his presentation, Arar will be joined by Kerry Pither, author of Dark Days: The Story of Four Canadians Tortured in the Name of Fighting Terror, CBC News security correspondent Bill Gillespie and former Globe and Mail security correspondent Jeff Sallot to further discuss the coverage of his story. The panel discussion will be moderated by Parliamentary Press Gallery member and former Globe and Mail columnist Hugh Winsor.

After the Q&A there will be a reception where panelists and guests can continue the discussion.

WHEN: Thursday, January 29, 2009
Presentation 6:30-8:00, Reception 8:00-9:00

WHERE: Victoria College Chapel, University of Toronto
91 Charles St. W. (see below for map)

Sponsored by:

Maher Arar's Story

On September 26, 2002, a 30-year-old Syrian-born Canadian named Maher Arar was detained by US officials at JFK airport and interrogated about alleged links to al-Qaeda. Twelve days later, he was chained, shackled and flown to Syria, where he was held in a tiny “grave-like” cell for ten months and ten days, tortured and forced to make a false confession.

Pressured by the Canadian public, human rights organizations, and the efforts of Arar’s wife Monia Mazigh, the Canadian government intervened and Arar was returned to Canada in October 2003. On Jan. 28, 2004, under pressure from Canadian human rights organizations and a growing number of citizens, the Government of Canada announced a Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar.

The Arar Commission released its official report on September 18, 2006. Commissioner Dennis O'Connor cleared Maher of all terrorism allegations, and found that the actions of Canadian officials very likely led to his ordeal.

Kerry Pither

Kerry Pither is a human rights activist and author of Dark Days: The Story of Four Canadians Tortured in the Name of Fighting Terror. She has worked on a range of international and national human rights issues for almost 20 years, and played a pivotal role in the struggle for Maher Arar's release from Syrian detention and in the push for a public inquiry into his case. More recently she has worked to expose Canada's role in the overseas detention and torture of other Canadians. She lives in Ottawa.

Bill Gillespie

Bill Gillespie is an award-winning journalist, former foreign correspondent and current security correspondent for CBC News. He has travelled extensively in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya and the Russian Caucusus. He witnessed the fall of the Taliban, the deadly siege of Beslan School Number One, and was in Baghdad’s central square the day Saddam’s statue came down. He is also the author of a book titled A Class Act: An Illustrated History of the Labour Movement in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Jeff Sallot

Jeff Sallot joined the Carleton University faculty in 2007 after a long reporting career with the Globe and Mail. He has reported from every corner of Canada, and from more than 30 foreign countries. Jeff was the Globe’s diplomatic and security correspondent, based in Ottawa, from 1992 until he joined the Carleton faculty. His coverage of RCMP security service scandals in Quebec for the Globe resulted in the publication of his book on police corruption.

Hugh Winsor

Hugh Winsor is one of Canada's leading commentators on public affairs and a senior member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. He has also had a long-term involvement with organizations researching foreign aid programs and promoting the interests of developing countries, and has lectured on media and politics at various universities in Ontario. He originally joined the Globe and Mail in 1969 as a member of the Editorial Board as a foreign affairs writer and columnist, and has been involved in the reporting and analysis of a wide range of political topics. Four decades later, he continues to write for the paper on an occasional basis as an emeritus member of the Globe’s Ottawa Bureau.