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Canada Paid $1.7 Million To A Man Deported One Day After 9/11

The Algerian refugee spent five years in an American prison after being handed over by Canadian officials.

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Canada quietly paid out $2.8 million last year to settle dozens of human rights lawsuits. More than half of that was made up by one payment — $1.7 million to Benamar Benatta.

Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

Benatta came to Canada in early September, 2001, after defecting from the Algerian air force. He told officials he planned to claim refugee status.

But after the September 11 attacks he became a suspect. The next day Canadian authorities transferred Benatta over the border and gave him to United States officials for investigation.

Benatta was ultimately cleared of involvement in terrorism. But in total he spent five years imprisoned in America where he claims he was regularly beaten, shackled, threatened, kept in solitary confinement, denied food and subjected to sleep deprivation.

He was eventually returned to Canada, accepted as a refugee and is now a Canadian citizen.

In 2007 Benatta sued the Canadian government, alleging racial profiling, wrongful imprisonment and abuse of process. This March the two sides settled the lawsuit. The details were kept secret.

Fred Chartrand / The Canadian Press

But Public Accounts documents released Monday show the government paid Benatta a total of $1.7 million.

Ottawa also quietly paid out $1.1 million to 51 other people who sued under the Human Rights Act, an average of about $22,000 per person.

For the most part, these payments are not announced publicly and few details are available. The Department of Employment and Social Development paid out a total of $593,000 to 13 people, but even the names of the people being paid were not released.

In total, Ottawa paid out a whopping $548 million in legal settlements in 2014-2015. Most of that — $377 million — was paid by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to settle 3,600 abuse claims.

Paul McLeod is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Paul McLeod at

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