Canada acted abominably in this instance, and has now changed its tune. As I'm sure you already know, the House of Commons voted unanimously to formally apologize to Arar after he was cleared of any suspicion of terrorist ties.
Meanwhile, the US government looks for "compromises" that will make it technically legal for them to violate the Geneva Conventions.
Canada hands over one man to torturers and it makes national news - overwhelmingly in support of the victim. The US continues to torture who knows how many victims on several different continents, and hides, justifies and defends its actions.
Arar, however, still waits for an apology from Mr. Stephen Harper.
From Star columnist Thomas Walkom:
In the Arar affair, the worm has truly turned.And what happened to accountability, Mr. Harper? Does that only apply to Liberals? We shall see. Another Star columnist asks, Is stealing taxpayers' money more evil than robbing an innocent man of his freedom?
When the Canadian computer engineer was arrested by U.S. authorities during a stopover in New York four years ago and deported to Syria to be tortured, he had almost no champions here in Canada. Some MPs demanded to know why this dangerous man hadn't been arrested earlier.
In those days, there was nothing but praise for the RCMP and its efforts to battle terror. Flash forward four years. Today it's hard to find anyone in public life who doesn't laud Arar.
Yesterday, the Commons voted unanimously to apologize to him — although the government warned that this doesn't mean it is admitting any legal liability.
And now conventional wisdom holds that the Mounties acted like a bunch of dopes. There are calls for RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli to be fired. In the Commons, opposition MPs say the government should move quickly to discipline those RCMP officers responsible.
Still others question the idea of allowing the RCMP any role in national security cases. The implication, never explicitly stated, is that the Mounties are just big, dumb cops — too unsophisticated to deal with tricky issues of terrorism and security. But does this focus on the RCMP's role in the Arar affair let everyone else off the hook?
Hanging on Stephen Harper's answer is his election promise to make the federal government accountable.
It's this capital's habit that those in high places are rarely punished for sins spanning the spectrum from negligence and incompetence to greed and malfeasance. If in doubt, consider that gun registry costs spiralled into the stratosphere without much career damage, and multiple Quebec sponsorship investigations only netted bottom-feeders.
Harper's campaign commitment was to replace a culture of entitlement with the discipline of accountability. Voters listened and a Conservative minority government now faces turning easily mouthed words into tough-to-take actions.
In his unusually unambiguous report this week, Justice Dennis O'Connor found one of the country's foundation institutions sadly wanting. Precipitously pressed back into the anti-terrorism business, the RCMP recklessly slipped the U.S. fanciful information about Maher Arar leading to his illegal deportation and then imprisonment in Syria, an authoritarian state notorious for torture.
Along with wrongly connecting Arar and his wife to Al Qaeda, the fabled horsemen sapped efforts to secure his release, smeared his reputation, and then obscured a hapless investigation from their political masters.
O'Connor's damning report was released Monday and by now heads would be rolling in any normal organization. But the federal government and the RCMP are, well, different.
Accepting responsibility is alien to both. Their reflex response is to sniff the political winds and wait until the storm inevitably gives way to the calm of public indifference.
So, Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli hasn't resigned or been fired and Harper's young administration is sounding old, paying the usual lip service to reform.