The friends and family of Bruce Balfour, a Canadian missionary
currently imprisoned in Lebanon,
are looking for clear action from the Canadian Government to ensure that his human rights are
protected and that proper justice is served. Bruce recently returned to Lebanon to resume his work
as overseer of the 'Cedars of Lebanon' reforestation project. Approximately 10 days after his return
to the country, a friend received an anonymous phone call, informing him that Bruce had been arrested
on July 10, 2003, shortly after his arrival in the country. It was at this time that the Canadian
Government became involved.
In the fourth week of his incarceration, after the Lebanese
Government had only hinted at charges
against Mr. Balfour, a letter was received stating that Bruce had been accused and "convicted in absentia
of collaborating with the enemy" in March 2003. The Canadian Consulate then received a
36-page document, printed in both Arabic and French, claiming that Bruce was involved in espionage
for Israel and had been using his Christian humanitarian activities since 1982 as a front for illegal activity.
After the Canadian legal review of the document it was concluded that no concrete evidence was given
to back these charges.
A closed military tribunal date has been set for August 11
and it has been made clear that only members
of the Lebanese Law Society are permitted to be present. A Lebanese lawyer was willing to represent
Mr. Balfour on reasonable terms but abruptly cut off all communication with Canadian Authorities.
Another lawyer has come forward but is demanding a $10,000 US retainer towards his undisclosed fee
before he will even begin involvement in this secretive foreign procedure. If these charges go through it
is possible that Bruce will face the severest of penalties, and time is running out.
As Bruce's family and friends we are absolutely convinced
that his activities in Lebanon were charitable
and motivated only by his personal spiritual and biblical convictions. At no time did any of us have the
impression that Bruce was involved in anything that could be construed as harmful to Lebanon in any way.
We believe that Bruce is being held for political reasons and feel that Canada needs to address the
treatment of Mr. Balfour from a political perspective. Unfortunately, Government officials have not yet
indicated that they are willing to become involved in a political conflict with Lebanon over this issue.
Legal opinions indicate that the treatment of Mr. Balfour violates all three of the international treaties
to which both Canada and Lebanon are signatory. It alarms us that while the Government has proceeded to
cooperate with Lebanese officials by providing funding for legal proceedings there has been little done to
address the violation of Bruce's rights and freedoms. Bruce Balfour is a Canadian who is no spy and as a
Canadian Citizen, Bruce is entitled to all the protection, judicial process and transparent treatment that
our countries have agreed to.
Reliable Government sources have informed us that "there
are 3300 Canadians in foreign jails,
many of them wrongfully, and there is little that can be done." Canada is quickly loosing respect on the world
stage because of its 'all talk and no action' approach to human rights. If Canada is to retain its dignity,
we must re-establish the reality that there are consequences to human rights violations. As Canadians,
we need to take a firm stance against those who would put politics and money over the value of our citizens
or we will continue to reap hardship as more Canadians are wrongfully imprisoned and used as political pawns.
Let us wake up and face the challenge of our times. We take pride as Canadians that we extend equal human
rights to those of all race and religion, and we must be firm in distinguishing what these rights are and that we unquestionably support what we claim.
Family Spokesperson: Fred Van Vliet
Article written by: Nicole Lerner