The older sister of former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr is suing the federal government for refusing to allow her to fly to Canada.
Zaynab Khadr filed an appeal in Federal Court on Friday seeking an order forcing the minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to remove her name from Canada’s no-fly list, saying it has no grounds to consider her a threat.
She says she is a Canadian citizen and was denied boarding in Europe in February when trying to travel back to Canada with her five children.
In September, Public Safety denied her request to remove her from the list created under the Secure Air Travel Act, the appeal says.
She claims the department provided “no reasonable basis to suspect she would engage or attempt to engage in an act that would threaten public transportation or to suspect she was travelling by air to commit certain terrorism offences…”
Khadr, 41, was last reported living in the country of Georgia with her husband and children. In the past, she has spoken supportively of Osama Bin Laden. Although she has been investigated, she has never been charged with any offences.
“The allegations against the Appellant are based on her history of speech and association,” the appeal says.
“The Appellant has never engaged in or threatened acts of violence, and her words have never had the effect of compelling or encouraging acts of violence.”
The appeal alleges she was added to the no-fly list based on her history of speech and political views, a breach of her Charter rights.
It also alleges her liberty rights were breached “by restricting her ability to use air transportation, thereby severely restricting her ability to return to Canada and reunite with her children, especially in the current pandemic.”
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told reporters on Monday that while he can’t comment on matters before the courts, “the passenger protection lists that we develop and manage with Transport Canada is intended to maintain the safety and security of all Canadians.”
“If someone objects to being on that list, there is a process for them to bring those concerns forward and if they don’t like that decision there's another process that allows for that to be reviewed at the federal court level,” Blair said.
Khadr is represented by prominent Toronto lawyer Barbara Jackman, who said she could not discuss the case without her client’s permission. Jackman would not say where Khadr is currently living, but said she can be difficult to reach.
Khadr’s brother, Omar, pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. soldier in a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15 years old. He was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before he was transferred back to Canada in 2012 and later released on bail.
He went to court in 2017 asking his bail conditions be changed so he could have contact with his sister.
Omar Khadr later sued the Canadian government for breaching his Charter rights. The case was settled in 2017 with an apology and a financial settlement reported to be $10.5 million.
Zaynab Khadr had previously been married to Joshua Boyle, the Ottawa-area man who was captured in Afghanistan with his American wife, Caitlin Coleman, on a backpacking trip in 2012. After they returned to Canada, Boyle was charged with assault, sexual assault and unlawful confinment. The charges were withdrawn last year.