A man who was tortured during his 14-year detention at Guantanamo Bay is suing the Canadian government for $35 million for its alleged role in the events that led up to his detention.
On Friday, Mohamedou Ould Slahi filed a statement of claim in the Federal Court of Canada, alleging that Canadian authorities “caused, contributed to, and prolonged [his] incarceration, torture, assault, and sexual assault at Guantanamo Bay.”
Slahi, a Mauritanian national, lived in Montreal from November 1999 to January 2000, and was the subject of a security investigation during that time. Slahi, 51, claims that Canadian authorities harassed him during their inquiry, prompting him to return to Mauritania due to the stress.
Slahi’s main claim is that Canadian officials gave false information about his activities and otherwise contributed to the events that led to his detention, following which he was sent to Jordan, Afghanistan, and finally Guantanamo Bay, where he spent 14 years without charge.
“Canada’s sharing of flawed intelligence sparked a vicious echo chamber,” says the statement of claim. The suit was first reported by the Toronto Star on Saturday.
The Attorney General of Canada, which represents the government, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
During his detainment, Slahi wrote several books, including a memoir that formed the basis for the 2021 film The Mauritanian. Slahi is now a writer-in-residence at a Dutch theatre.
At the time of Slahi’s arrest in 2002, officials suspected him of having links to terrorism, in part because he prayed at the same Montreal mosque as the attempted “Millennium bomber,” Ahmed Ressam. Slahi said he had also travelled twice to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet-backed Afghan government in the early 1990s.
U.S. interrogators, suspecting Slahi of membership in al-Qaeda, employed “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which are now considered torture.
“Eventually, the torture broke him down. Slahi began to confess to the lies his interrogators put to him,” the statement of claim reads. One of the false confessions concerned a plot to blow up the CN Tower in Toronto, which Slahi said he had never heard of.
There have been several high-profile instances of compensation paid to individuals who were the subjects of detention or torture, to which the actions of Canadian authorities contributed. Maher Arar, for example, received $10.5 million in 2007 following his detention in Syria, and the government settled a lawsuit from Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr for the same amount in 2017.
Mustafa Farooq, head of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said Canada’s alleged complicity in the events surrounding the torture of a Canadian resident stems from Islamophobic stereotypes, and that accountability is needed.
“The reality is that Mr. Mohamedou was in peril in part because he happened to be praying at a mosque, where he was at the wrong place in the wrong time and happened to come under the surveillance of the Canadian state,” Farooq said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“Part of the reason that it’s so horrifying is that the Canadian government and Canadian national security administrations participated in having a man who had done nothing wrong tortured, that [they] knew about it, and that [they] tried to make sure Canadians never found out about it.”
Who Omar Khadr?
Omar Ahmed Said Khadr (born September 19, 1986) is a Canadian citizen who was jailed by the US at Guantanamo Bay when he was 15 years old and pleaded guilty to the murder of US Army Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Speer and other counts while there. He eventually contested his conviction, saying that he had falsely pleaded guilty in order to return to Canada, where he spent another three years in custody.
Khadr sued the Canadian government for infringing on his Charter of Rights and Freedoms rights; the case was settled in 2017 with the federal government paying CA$10.5 million and issuing an apology.
Khadr was born in Toronto on September 19, 1986, to Egyptian and Palestinian immigrants who became Canadian citizens, Ahmed Khadr and Maha el-Samnah. In 1985, the Khadr family relocated to Peshawar, Pakistan, where his father worked for a charity that assisted Afghan refugees.
His boyhood was spent bouncing back and forth between Canada and Pakistan. His mother, who detested certain of Canada’s Western social influences, intended to raise his six siblings outside of the country. 
Khadr’s father was seriously injured in Logar, Afghanistan, in 1992.
Following his injury, his family relocated to Toronto in order for him to recover. Omar started Grade 1 at ISNA Elementary School.
Omar’s father, Ahmed, was imprisoned in 1995 after the family returned to Pakistan and accused of financially helping the Egyptian Islamic Jihad in the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan.
Ahmed was hospitalized during his incarceration after going on a hunger strike, and was released a year later due to a lack of proof.
Khadr’s father relocated his family to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 1996 to work for an NGO.
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, Omar’s mother and siblings fled to the Pakistani mountains, where their father paid them only sporadic visits.
Khadr was living in Waziristan with his mother and younger sister in early 2002.
To avoid attention, he was obliged to don a burqa and masquerade himself as a girl at one time, which he found offensive.
Despite his mother’s objections, Omar requested permission to stay at a group home for young men until his father arrived. His father agreed, and a month later, Omar was allowed to join a group of Arabs linked with Abu Laith al-Libi in Khost who needed a Pashto interpreter.
Khadr underwent “one-on-one” weapons training in June 2002, according to the military commission’s April 2007 allegations, and his visits to his mother and sister became less regular.