Results find divide on decision to grant bail to Khadr
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.