Friday, 30 April 2010

Canadian Gulag


Ernst Zundel in a courtroom in Mannheim, Germany on November 8, 2005 (Michael Probst/AP)

I was arrested in broad daylight on American soil by officials of the U.S. government who acted as hit squads for a nefarious lobby. There was no arrest warrant. I was not read my rights. I was whisked away in handcuffs without being allowed to get my wallet, to call my attorney, to be allowed to make my case before an American Immigration Judge or even hug my wife goodbye.
I was incarcerated in six different prisons on two continents in three countries-the USA, Canada, and Germany-without relief of any kind. In effect, I have had 10 percent of my life stolen from me ­ and for what "crime"? For having "overstayed my U.S. visa"?
Throughout my imprisonment, basic human rights principles were trampled underfoot repeatedly and with impunity. The worst prisons were the Canadian detention centers at Thorold, Ontario and at Toronto West, where I was held for two long years in isolation cells, ice-cold in the winter, no shoes or socks allowed. The electric light in these cells, bright enough to be able to read, was kept on 24 hours a day. Through a glass slot in the door I was checked every 20 minutes, and my activities were meticulously noted by the guards: one sheet for every day. No dignity, no privacy. My toothbrush was kept in a plastic bin in a hall. I was not allowed to speak to other prisoners.
Bed sheets were changed only after three months. No pillows. No chairs. When I wrote to my wife or to my attorneys, I had to sit on a makeshift pile of my court transcripts. No radio, no television, not even an electrical outlet to sharpen my pencils. No ball point pens, only pencil stubs, cut in half with a saw. No spoons, forks, or knives were permitted; only a white plastic spoon with a fork called a "spork" that had to be returned every time at the end of the meal. With very few exceptions when furtive guards showed me some kindness away from the surveillance cameras, I was treated as though I was the worst of criminals. That's Canada for you, where I have lived and worked without a criminal record for more than 40 years. (Read the full
Foreign Policy Journal interview here.)

About the same hour that this unfortunate man was getting out of a German prison my fellow Canucks were closing down their winter Olympics (motto: "Believe!") amid much jubilation and boasting over all the gold medals they'd just won. Such victors! Zundel should get a medal for endurance, courage, and the feat of just holding up his head after all he's been through. Believe indeed!

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