Re­sults find divide on de­ci­sion to grant bail to Khadr

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - DOU­GLAS QUAN

A new poll by the An­gus Reid In­sti­tute shows Cana­di­ans are evenly split over the re­cent de­ci­sion to grant Omar Khadr bail while he awaits an ap­peal of his con­vic­tion in the United States for war crimes.

And while just over half of Cana­di­ans be­lieve Khadr still poses a po­ten­tial threat, al­most the same num­ber be­lieve he has “served his time.”

It wasn’t that long ago that al­most half of Cana­di­ans — 46 per cent — told the same poll­ster they sup­ported the no­tion of in­def­i­nite im­pris­on­ment to pre­vent home­grown ter­ror­ism.

“What we see is Cana­di­ans tak­ing a harder line, a harder stance when it comes to public safety and the do­mes­tic ter­ror file — and yet it soft­ens when it comes to Omar Khadr,” said Shachi Kurl, the in­sti­tute’s se­nior vice- pres­i­dent.

“They can­not find con­sen­sus … whether this is a re­formed young man who means what he says around do­ing right and how he doesn’t har­bour vi­o­lent ten­den­cies or rad­i­cal­ized ten­den­cies any­more.”

The Toronto- born Khadr was cap­tured by U. S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15, and charged in the killing of an Amer­i­can sol­dier, Army Sgt. Christo­pher Speer, dur­ing a fire­fight. He later pleaded guilty in 2010 to war crimes be­fore a U. S mil­i­tary tri­bunal that has since been widely dis­cred­ited.

Khadr was trans­ferred from the no­to­ri­ous pri­son in Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba, to Canada in 2012 to serve out the rest of his eight- year sen­tence. On May 7, an Al­berta judge re­leased him on bail — his first taste of free­dom af­ter 13 years be­hind bars — de­spite last- ditch at­tempts by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to block his re­lease.

Ac­cord­ing to the poll con­ducted days later, Cana­di­ans were evenly di­vided about the de­ci­sion to re­lease Khadr: 38 per cent of re­spon­dents agreed; 39 per cent dis­agreed; and 23 per cent were un­sure.

Sup­port for his re­lease was strong­est in B. C. and Al­berta and least sup­port­ive in Man­i­toba and Saskatchewan.

A slim ma­jor­ity, 55 per cent, agreed that Khadr “re­mains a po­ten­tial rad­i­cal­ized threat,” but al­most the same num­ber, 52 per cent, agreed that he has “served his time — 13 years is enough.”

A stronger ma­jor­ity, 67 per cent, agreed that Khadr was a “child sol­dier” and that he should have been dealt with ac­cord­ingly.

But when asked whether Khadr had been treated fairly or un­fairly, 40 per cent said they were “un­sure.”

“It could sim­ply be Cana­di­ans need to see more of Omar Khadr in or­der to make up their mind,” Kurl said.

The Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment has main­tained that Khadr is an un­re­pen­tant war crim­i­nal.

Fol­low­ing his re­lease, a smil­ing and soft- spo­ken Khadr, 28, told re­porters that he was “sorry for the pain I’ve caused for the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims.

“Give me a chance, see who I am as a per­son — not as a name — and then they can make their own judg­ment af­ter that,” he said.

Omar Khadr

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