Egypt—Detention of Mohamed Fahmy

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, this question is obviously to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Mr. Leader, as you know, we recently began asking questions submitted by Canadians during Question Period, but today I would like to ask you a question from a Canadian who can’t ask a question because he is in an Egyptian jail. Mohamed Fahmy is unable to take part in any of our questions because of his circumstance, and he’s being held by a foreign government. Mohamed Fahmy is the English language bureau chief for Al Jazeera news service, and he has been detained, along with two of his colleagues, in Cairo since late December.

He has received consular services, but your Conservative government has been silent while others — journalists, international organizations, UN representatives, world leaders — have called for his release. Even the President of the United States, Barack Obama, is calling for him to be released.

Mr. Leader, where is your government on this issue?

[Translation]

Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Canadian representatives are providing consular assistance to Mr. Fahmy and are in contact with his lawyer. Senior Canadian officials have discussed his case with their Egyptian counterparts. They have called for a speedy and fair trial in accordance with Mr. Fahmy’s wishes.

We are in regular contact with his family and will continue to look out for his overall well-being.

[English]

Senator Munson: A fair trial. It seems that there should not be any trial for Mr. Fahmy, who was doing his job as a journalist in Cairo. Mr. Fahmy is a dual citizen. He came to this country 20 years ago with his family, but he’s been told by consular officials that because of his dual citizenship, their hands are tied in terms of getting his release.

Do you believe that is the case?

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: As I said before, Senator Munson, Canadian representatives are providing consular assistance to Mr. Fahmy and are in contact with his lawyer. Senior Canadian officials have discussed his case with their Egyptian counterparts. We are in regular contact with his family and will continue to look out for his overall well-being.

[English]

Senator Munson: I have a brief supplementary question. When I was a reporter, many years ago now, and was thrown in jail in China, in the Forbidden City jail — and, God forbid, you don’t want to spend a couple of days there — your government, the Progressive Conservative government, a compassionate government, through Minister Barbara McDougall, negotiated my release pretty quickly by foreign minister talking to foreign minister. I was a grateful journalist to not have to spend too much longer there. I was simply doing my job, post-Tiananmen massacre, doing my work.

I recognize that it’s very sensitive, and I understand the issue in Egypt, but all Mohamed Fahmy was doing was his work. Consular to consular, officials to officials, I recognize the work that they do, but don’t you think this should be looked at on the ministerial level?

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: Senator, even in light of the experience you just mentioned, the answer is the same. Senior Canadian officials are discussing this case with their Egyptian counterparts. Canadian representatives are providing consular assistance to Mr. Fahmy to continue to look out for his overall well-being.