Maher Arar and Dr. Monia Mazigh

Maher Arar and Dr. Monia Mazigh with degrees

Doctor of Letters

(honoris causa) DLitt

Maher Arar and Dr. Monia Mazigh, each received the honorary degree, Doctor of Letters on Saturday, June 9, 2007 at the 9:30 a.m. ceremony. Arar and Mazigh both delivered the convocation address to the graduates of Nipissing’s Faculty of Arts and Science.

Born in Syria and living in Canada since the age of 17, Arar was detained by the United States in 2002 and deported to Syria for alleged links to al-Qaeda. He was held in Syria for 10 months, enduring torture and beatings. Dr. Mazigh, currently an assistant professor at Thompson Rivers University and Arar’s wife, campaigned relentlessly for Arar’s release and return home.  As a result, he was returned to Canada in October 2003. Dr. Mazigh then successfully pressured the Canadian government to call a public inquiry into his deportation. In 2004, under pressure from Canadian human rights organizations and a growing number of citizens, a Commission of Inquiry was announced to investigate the actions of Canadian officials in relation to the Arar case. Dr. Mazigh’s unrelenting efforts reminded all Canadians of the dangerous impact of security legislation on the rights of all citizens. In 2006, Arar was cleared of all terrorism allegations. Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to Arar and his family for the terrible ordeal that they suffered. In making the difficult decision to reveal their personal story to the Canadian public, Arar and Mazigh wanted to achieve three objectives: to clear his name, to hold accountable the people responsible and to ensure that this would not happen to any other Canadian. Arar has stated that his determination to persevere was due to the obligation he felt as a human being to keep his case alive in hope that the attention would help other innocent people. He has revealed that his endurance in coping with the stress of his ordeal and its ramifications has been strengthened by the support and generosity he has received from Canadians.