Canadian travellers have long used their national symbol, the maple leaf, as a kind of talisman. Strangers, it is felt, take kindly to Canadians on the road. But the maple leaf on their passports did nothing for Zehra Kazemi. Or William Sampson. Or Mehar Arar. Or Abdullah Almalki. Kazemi, a photojournalist, died after a beating in an Iranian jail, and the mullahs will not return her body. Mr Sampson spent three tortured years in a Saudi jail. And Mr Arar and Mr Almalki were brutalised in Syria for crimes they did not commit. All looked to Canada for help, and all, in different ways, were let down. Their cases constitute a national shame. The Canadian government was less than robust in their defence because the four held 'dual citizenship'. Kazemi, for example, was a citizen of Iran as well as Canada, so when she went to Tehran to report on the treatment of political prisoners, Canadian officials say, she should have been more careful. 'Dual' citizenship, it seems, means second-class citizenship. One Iranian-Canadian, in an internet chat room put the matter in stark terms: 'Despite what we've been told, not all citizens are equal in the eyes of the government.' In Iran, a subsequent trial freed the man charged with beating Kazemi. Canadian officials were turned away from the hearing. So what did Ottawa do? It recalled its ambassador to Iran, made angry noises, and threatened to take the case to the International Court of Justice. And there it remains. Iran, apparently afraid of what an autopsy will show, is not releasing the body. Mr Sampson holds British and Canadian passports. For nearly three years, the Saudis held him on a bombing charge. He was tortured, then released. Ottawa said his release is 'proof that our system worked', but a traumatised Mr Sampson disagrees. He is unwilling to forgive a country that he says failed him. The Arar and Almalki cases are even more egregious. There is evidence that Canadian authorities, caught up in the North American terrorism scare, may have co-operated with the Syrians in trying to build a legal case against them. Those trials failed. What should the Canadian government have done? Send home the Saudi, Syrian or Iranian ambassador, maybe. Or use some economic leverage. In Syria's case, for example, Canada buys one-fifth of its oil. But Canada prefers what it calls 'soft power' - words instead of coercion. Michael Bell, a former ambassador to Israel, says we must not let 'consular cases' dictate foreign policy. In other words, if a foreign government applies an electric current to the body of 'dual' citizen in a foreign jail, or beats her to death, the Canadian government must be 'measured' in its response. The maple leaf, some say, is losing its lustre.