Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Maher and Mazigh honoured at Nipissing University

I wonder why the pair refused an interview with the Nugget. It would seem a good opportunity to spread their message to a larger audience. I see they also awarded a degree to the weather guru David Phillips!

Nipissing honours Maher Arar; Tells graduates to embrace their civil liberties

BRYN WEESE / The Nugget
Local News - Monday, June 11, 2007 @ 08:00

Maher Arar's message to graduates of Nipissing University was short but sweet: Use your education to make the world a better place, and don't take civil liberties for granted.

Both Arar and his wife, Dr. Monia Mazigh, received honourary doctorates of letters from the university.

"Before my experience, I took my human and civil liberties for granted. Now I've learned not to be complacent," Arar, a 37-year-old Syrian-born Canadian citizen, told the crowd.

"Because of your potential, skills, and qualifications, you have the power to change the world and affect the lives of many people."

Arar was deported by U.S. authorities to Syria in 2002, where he was tortured into false confessions of terrorist links before he was released and returned to his adopted home.

He has since received a formal apology from the RCMP and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Earlier this year, Arar was awarded $10.5 million for his suffering and legal fees.

Mazigh, who successfully pressured the Canadian government to hold an inquiry into his deportation, said she is more proud of the honourary doctorate from Nipissing than the Ph.D. she earned from McGill University seven years ago.

This degree is not for passing exams and for completing research, she said, but rather for understanding one of the many meanings of life: To fight for what you believe in and never give up.

University president Dennis Mock said the decision to invite Arar and Mazigh to Saturday's convocation was an easy one.

"They work so well together and they both really applaud the Canadian justice system," Mock said.

"We know there are injustices, and when something like that happens, we're very proud of the fact that in Canada there are ways to address it, and that's what Monia did."

"Here was a man who was being tortured in a Syrian jail, and his wife, with two kids here in Canada, started to advocate on his behalf, and people listened," Mock said.

Jake deBruyn, a fourth-year honours criminal justice graduate, called the presence of Arar and Mazigh moving and said most students heard their message loud and clear.

"What happened to them in our society today is unacceptable. It's 2007," he told The Nugget.

"It's just great that people like them have the tenacity to help the Canadian public realize what happened and that it's not acceptable . . . When you hear people like Arar, it really grounds you. Suddenly you realize it's not just about me."

Both Arar and Mazigh declined The Nugget's request for interviews.

Others to address Nipissing University graduates during the institution's convocations included Romeo Dallaire, Kate Pace Lindsay and David Phillips.

Mock said the calibre of this year's guests speaks volumes about the university, which only received its charter in 1992.

"I think it's a matter of us coming of age as a university. We're maturing as a university and individuals who see we're committed to learning and students identity with that," Mock said. "When we ask them to honour us, they accept . . . And that's really something."

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