MONTREAL (CN) – A Muslim sales manager claims Quebec police illegally arrested him and “absurdly” accused him of being a terrorist because of “a pep talk he had given his fellow sales staff about ‘blowing away’ the competition”.
Saad Allami, a Canadian citizen of Moroccan descent, sued the attorney general (Procureur Général) of Quebec, its police force (Sureté du Quebec) and Sureté Sgt. Jayson Gauthier, in Quebec Superior Court.
Allami says he managed more than 2,000 sales reps for a telecommunications company when “he was illegally arrested and detained on January 24, 2011, apparently for a pep talk he had given his fellow sales staff about ‘blowing away’ the competition in New York at a trade show; he was absurdly and wrongfully accused of being a terrorist, and suffered financial, psychological and moral damages, and significant damages to his reputation”.
Saad says he was arrested on the street three days after sending the message from his cell phone to about 30 sales reps.
The complaint states: “On Friday, January 21, 2011, plaintiff had sent a message from his cell phone to about thirty of his sales staff that he wanted to ‘blow away’ the competition at a trade show in New York City the next day; the word he used was ‘exploser‘; it was an anodyne term commonly used in the industry, meaning we are going to make our venture ‘take off’ ‘succeed’ ‘grow’, ‘triumph’;
“The SQ concluded, without any evidence whatsoever, without making any inquiries, or doing any research, that the plaintiff intended to commit an act of terrorism or had recruited people to commit such an act; they handcuffed plaintiff, took him to the police station, and held him overnight, without reason and without proof, illegally and in violation of his fundamental rights”.
While he was in jail, Saad says, “four or five officers of the SQ invaded plaintiff’s home and conducted an intrusive search that lasted about four hours; the officers were there from around 7:30 to 11:30 p.m.;
“The whole time the officer kept repeating to plaintiff’s wife that her husband was a ‘terrorist'”.
Saad says when he was arrested he was supposed to pick up his 7-year-old son from school, and “the officers who arrested plaintiff said they had called a friend to pick up the son and take him home, but that turned out to be completely false”.
Saad says he has “nothing to do with any terrorist organization or Islamic movement,” and that the arrest has been “disastrous” to his personal and professional life.
“(H)is colleagues, having learned of the incident, no longer wanted anything to do with him; M. Allami could not return to the same work; in fact, he has found it difficult to find any work at all since the incident;
“Some colleagues of M. Allami confided they were held for hours at the American border on account of the false accusations against him, the whole indicating the SQ has likely communicated with the American authorities about it”.
Saad claims he discovered his reputation in the finance industry had been tarnished when he applied for a police certificate of good conduct and found that his municipal police force had information of the terrorist accusations against him. Without the certificate, Saad says, he can no longer work in his profession.
He says the trauma forced him to see a psychologist and both he and his wife are taking anti-depressants because of it.
“Without any evidence, and without any follow-up, the SQ just cannot go about arresting north Africans of Muslim persuasion, inferring they are terrorists, giving them a police record, and destroying their reputation, credibility, and livelihoods,” Saad says.
Racial profiling against Muslims in Canada has sparked heated debate since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. Canada has seen a spike in anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence since the attacks. Some Canadian politicians have suggested banning Muslim face coverings – known as hijabs, burkas, or niqabs – in public.
A ban on burkas and niqabs at oath-taking ceremonies for citizenship was implemented last year.
Saad seeks damages for loss of income, illegal detention, illegal search, and damage to his reputation. He is represented by Grey Casgrain.