Call for Omar Khadr’s Return Heating Up Again

It has been a number of months since we have blogged about Omar Khadr. The Canadian government promised his return a number of months ago, but they are now delaying.

Senator Roméo Dallaire is running a petition online via the Change.org website:

The case of Omar Khadr—a Canadian citizen and former child soldier—is a stain upon our society and shows a blatant disregard for Canada’s obligations under international law.

After years of dragging its feet, Canada finally agreed to his return in 2010, so long as he served one additional year in Guantánamo. No one forced the government’s hand. It made its promise voluntarily. That year has passed, and yet the transfer request continues to gather dust on the minister’s desk awaiting his signature. This is simply unacceptable.

The Americans have held up their end of the deal. Omar Khadr has held up his end of the deal. Why is the Canadian government refusing to follow through on its commitment?

Enough is enough. Canada must keep its word — and Minister Toews must authorize Omar Khadr’s return without delay. A deal is a deal.

You can also follow Dallaire’s efforts via his Facebook page.

Peter Worthington has written an interesting comment, coming at it from the other direction:

Born in Scarborough, most of his life has been pledged to furthering the cause of al-Qaida, following the lead of his father who was killed in a Pakistani ambush.

But to call Khadr a “murderer” because he killed an American soldier who was invading Afghanistan is ridiculous, even though he confessed to being one as part of his deal to be returned to Canada from Guantanamo Bay.

It’s only slightly less ridiculous than justifying or excusing everything he did on grounds that he was a “child soldier” at the time, and did not appreciate the consequences of his actions. Baloney to that nonsense.

There are factions in Toronto and elsewhere that view Khadr as something of a folk-hero and lobby for his return.

Others want him banned, or, if he returns, charged with treason.

He essentially says he would be happy if Khadr was not brought home, but believes it does have to happen because he is Canadian. He sides with the government delaying the inevitable, however.

So the question, it appears, is not whether Omar Khadr will come back to Canada but when.

Do I see Khadr as a folk hero? No, but I do believe the way his incarceration and release are being handled show a disregard for human rights by two countries (Canada and the U.S.) that purport to support human rights throughout the world. His is not an easy case, and is a test of our system since it brings into play so many grey areas.

Related:

Ten years on, Khadr saga remains a national shame, by Roméo Dallaire and Shelly Whitman, The Ottawa Citizen, July 26, 2012.

USA vs. Khadr – Judicial Quote of the Decade, by Omar Ha-Redeye, Slaw, May 8, 2011.

Khadr and the Depravity Scaler, by Simon Fodden, Slaw, October 26, 2010.

Constraints on the Press at Guantanamo, by Simon Fodden, Slaw, October 14, 2010.

Canada C. Khadr Decision, by Simon Chester, Slaw, January 29, 2010.

Friday Release for Prime Minister of Canada Et Al. v. Omar Ahmed Khadr, by Simon Chester, Slaw, January 26, 2010.

Khadr Military Commission Prosecution to Continue, by Simon Fodden, Slaw, November 13, 2009.

CBA Calls for Repatriation of Omar Khadr (Again), by Connie Crosby, Slaw, May 4, 2009.

Federal Court Decision on Khadr, by Simon Fodden, Slaw, April 24, 2009.

Continuing Efforts to Bring Omar Khadr Home, by Connie Crosby, Slaw, December 15, 2008.

Guantanamero. Guajiro, Guantanamero., by Omar Ha-Redeye, Slaw, August 24, 2008.

Supreme Court Rules in Favour of Khadr, Simon Fodden, Slaw, May 24, 2008.

SCOTUS Refuses to Hear Khadr, by Simon Fodden, Slaw, April 30, 2007.

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Comments

  1. If this ends up back before the courts this time around I dont see things going well for the government. The charter breaches are already established. Last time the Supreme Court could barely restrain itself from granting a remedy whereby Ottawa would be obliged to go to a foreign government and make representation. This time, since the US wants to send him back, the proposed remedy doesnt intrude into the executives foreign policy power. Conceptually there is a big difference between the court ordering Ottawa to go and get someone and ordering that Ottawa allow someone whose Charter Rights have been breached to return.

  2. On the issue of the plea bargain, some have said the Harper government’s agreement meant nothing because all it said was that they were inclined to favourably consider a transfer at the time, subject to security concerns. However, if they wanted to make no commitment at all they could have left out the word “favourably”. It seems they intended to signal Khadr, and help motivate him to accept the deal, to plead guilty and give up appeal rights, in return for an 8 year sentence and a favourable chance of a transfer to Canada in one year. It would seem the government owed Khadr a fair decision making process, taking that into consideration. It also seems unreasonable that they didn’t have sufficient time and opportunity to assess the security risk even before they signed the agreement, or in the year following. Their position that they couldn’t even begin the decision process until the application was on Toews’ desk, and/or the US had approved the transfer, was a classic and unjustified delaying tactic because of the high degree of certainty that the US would approve and the transfer would be sought.

    The information the government recently requested, Welner’s report for the Prosecution, was known to exist almost two years ago, shortly after the government signed the agreement, if not before, because he testified about it at the trial and that was made public. It’s hard to see how the Court could regard this as a fair process, and perhaps especially, in light of their declaration of the previous rights violation and their expectation that the government would consider that in setting its policy.

    I’m sure the government will argue that this is a national security issue, if not still a foreign policy one, and claim the courts have no more right to interfere in that than in foreign policy. However, I assume the courts have the same right the Supreme Court defined in the foreign policy area, to determine the legality and fairness of the process, if not the actual decision, and to sometimes give direction. The Court has always been mindful of the fact that Canada didn’t have control over Khadr’s situation, but since the US approved the transfer, it does. In terms of security, since Khadr must be returned to Canada at the end of his sentence, if not before, it’s hard to see how delaying tactics put Canada in a better position to assess and address any security risk that might exist. Accepting the transfer sooner, rather than later, would seem beneficial from both a security and fairness perspective.

  3. KC and Diane, thank you both for sharing your understanding and perspectives.

    I have been watching the progress of Senator Dallaire’s petition, and notice addition of new signatures has been slowing. I wonder if he will reach the 35,000 that he hoped for?

  4. I believe that arguments over Khadr being a security issue have absolutely no foundation. That is more akin to putting lipstick on a pig. I am surprised that a child was treated in such a fashion from the moment of his capture. The Canadian government under several Prime Ministers has sullied Canada’s international reputation. Every other country with nationals in similar situations as Khadr sought and obtained the return of their citizens. Only the Canadian government treated some of their citizens with contempt. Americans don’t bother with contempt and kill theirs, after due process (tongue in cheek). Maybe that’s a better solution given this twisted world.

  5. Ginger, you are right. But we used to be the only western country that didn’t rescue its citizen from Guantanamo. Shameful as that was, we are now the only country in the entire world that is delaying on accepting its citizen at the request of the US. We are the only one not taking our responsibility for him either in terms of respecting his rights, or in terms of accepting our responsibility to manage whatever security risk there may be.

    What is wrong with our government? They don’t seem to think right. They don’t seem to have any sense of responsibility in terms of their obligations to respect the rights of individual citizens, their security responsibility, or their responsibility to uphold the values, traditions and international reputation of this country.

    Previous governments failed, but their officials including both Prime Ministers have recognized that in light of changing circumstances and information. They admitted their failure. They urged the present government to change policy direction. The present government, typically paranoid and narrow minded, dismissed that as some effort to make them look bad. They don’t need anybody to make them look bad. They can do it all by themselves with their warped ideology.

  6. m. diane kindree

    I have concerns regarding the courts willingness and/or ability to act to expedite Mr. Khadr’s transfer back to Canada because of the unspecified powers of Royal Prerogative (RP) under foreign affairs. The court had an opportunity to act, domestically, on violations under the Charter and under the international law against torture. They chose instead to allow the application of RP to foreign affairs to take precedent. Unfortunately, this is a decision that they cannot take back. Meanwhile, the government can continue to act, under RP (Crown), without the permission of the courts or parliament in their handling of this case. Ultimately, the poorly defined rules and lack of statutes governing the application of RP, to foreign and domestic affairs, is a concern I have raised before specific to this case and in relationship to the protection and defence of Her Majesty’s Letters Patent (domestic RP Q.C. honors). Senator Dallaire’s petition is the correct course of action because it is an Act of Parliament that can limit the use of RP, not the courts.
    Q: If the application of RP can not be protected and defended (against abuse and misuse) in Canada; and Parliament knows about the problem, then why would Parliament act to limit the misuse and abuse of this executive power as it relates to foreign affairs?