A former Toronto street preacher and an Edmonton bus driver want $6 million from the Canadian government for allegedly sharing information with the United States they claim landed them on a no-fly list.
Haashim Atangana Kamena and Gamal Mohamed wrote in a statement of claim they were prevented from boarding planes because they were on the U.S. no-fly list. Both blamed Canada’s intelligence service.
The incidents occurred after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service spoke to their families about them, they said. Kamena said his wife was asked whether he was involved with “Islamic jihadist groups.”
“CSIS, they did a lot of damage to my life,” he told Global News.
The case was the latest seeking redress from Ottawa over the alleged sharing of information with foreign partners. The alleged events took place as Canadian police and security agencies were under pressure to stop suspected foreign fighters from leaving Canada.
But both men said they had no links to terrorism.
Kamena used to sit at Toronto’s Yonge and Dundas intersection with a microphone and loudspeaker, preaching against homosexuality. He once penned a letter to the editor proposing that Toronto “make it illegal for women to dress provocatively.”
According to the statement of claim, CSIS began contacting his wife in 2013. “They were trying to scare her and asking her if he was involved in any Islamic jihadist groups in Canada and abroad,” he wrote.
He alleged the CSIS visits eventually caused his marriage to falter. He later moved to Alberta and met with a CSIS officer who asked if he agreed with the ideology of the so-called Islamic State, and he said he did not.
In August 2016, Kamena tried to board a flight to Cameroon, where he said he intended to visit relatives, but was denied boarding “because he was put on an American No-Fly list,” the suit alleges.
The video spoke about “fighting for the sake of Allah to make the word of Allah the most high,” and singled out Mali, where Canada is now part of a multinational military mission. Kamena said he posted the video “for educational purposes.”
His suit against the minister of Public Safety alleged he was put on the no-fly list “because he is a Muslim who does Islamic awareness in the streets of Toronto” and accused CSIS of “sharing his profile information” with the U.S.
He said he has since been cleared to fly but claimed he was unable to finish an English degree at York University “because of the emotional distress and depression” caused by “continuous CSIS visits and harassment.”
The other applicant said he had no criminal record or links to terrorist groups and was recently given a gun license, but remains on the U.S. no-fly list.
“Gamel Mohamed’s nightmare began back in 2014,” according to the court claim. Two CSIS officers visited his parents’ home that year to ask about his “whereabouts and location,” it said.
Mohamed subsequently met with the intelligence officers, who asked about his friends and family in Montreal, where he was born. He also met with the RCMP and Edmonton Police Service, he said.
He told Global News the investigators asked him about Sami Elabi, who had left Canada in 2013 to join the al-Qaida faction in Syria and was seen on video shooting his Canadian passport.
“I was very, very shocked,” Mohamed said, adding that while he had attended the same school and mosque as Elabi, they were not friends.
Last December, he tried to travel to Las Vegas but was denied boarding “for security reasons,” he said. He tried to fly to Dubai in January 2018 but again was turned back “as his name was added on a U.S. No Fly list,” the suit alleges.
“This was an act of abuse of authority from CSIS,” the suit claims.
The city of Edmonton transit driver said the case was not about money and that he just wanted to be cleared and removed from the no-fly list.
CSIS spokeswoman Tahera Mufti said the court had granted a motion, sought by the government, to strike the claim due to a “failure to disclose a reasonable cause of action.” She said the appeal period expired last week.