Image Caption: UAE Minster of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan meets Justin Trudeau
It increasingly appears that the United Arab Emirates is dismissing Canada’s concerns about the case of whistleblower Andre Gauthier. Though Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland reportedly reached out to UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, as well as Defence Minister Saif bin Zayed, a few weeks ago, there is little sign that the Emirates is taking the Canadian government seriously.
“The Candian embassy receives contradictory and unreliable information about Andre’s status and court proceedings,” said Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, who represent Mr. Gauthier. .
“Despite contacts between Canada and the UAE at the political level, what we are seeing are the same tactics of delay by the courts, evasion, and the lack of transparency which we have seen in this case for the last 4 years. Whatever Minister Freeland said to the UAE, it has not improved their approach to Andre’s case. If the Canadian government thought that Andre could be freed through the legal process, Dubai is making it very clear they have no intention of handling this issue fairly. Only government to government discussions will resolve Andre’s dilemma, and what has been done in this vein until now is seriously insufficient.
Prime Minister Trudeau met with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed last year to discuss furthering trade, investment, and political cooperation between the two countries, even while Andre’s case was ongoing; but he has not met with Andre’s family or with us to discuss securing his freedom”.
Andre’s son Alexis said the Canadian government has been disappointingly inactive, “They know political intervention is the only way to save my father, but they only pay lip service to diplomatic efforts. I can’t even reach the officials who operate at that level; they only let me talk to people in consular affairs, and even their information is inaccurate because the UAE is not cooperating with Canada.”
Alexis said years of his father’s life have been wasted and years more may be taken away from him if the Canadian government does not step up its efforts. “Gold AE clients have misdirected their complaints against my father, even though he is the one who exposed the fraud, so he is facing so many wrongful cases that he could stay in detention for years, if not decades, without even a court judgment, just because of delays. After 4 years of investigation, and an expert report by the Ruler’s Court exonerating him, Dubai still keeps him in jail. With a legal process like that, Canada cannot just leave it to the UAE to sort it out. They have to do more to bring my father home.”
Stirling notes that other governments have been more proactive on behalf of their citizens, “A Malaysian national was arbitrarily detained in the UAE and the Malaysian Foreign Minister flew to the country to meet with his counterpart and secured his release. British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt was extremely active in the case of Matthew Hedges, ultimately resulting in him receiving a royal pardon. The US and Australia have also gone the extra mile diplomatically to bring their citizens home when they are wrongfully detained or prosecuted in the UAE.
“Andre is not only innocent of any wrongdoing, he was instrumental in exposing a multimillion dollar fraud that would have continued had it not been for his diligence and integrity. Yet the UAE has been tormenting him for years, and Canada has stood by in silence, while simultaneously promoting the UAE to Canadian investors. After the contact with Minister Freeland, the UAE immediately demonstrated their disregard for Canada’s concerns, and have proceeded to deal with Andre as they always have been. How the UAE treats Andre reveals how the UAE views their relationship with the Trudeau government; and that appears to be quite poor.”