Our laws say we owe Khadr

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - John Roe

The pub­lic out­rage that has greeted the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s $10.5-mil­lion pay­out to Omar Khadr is un­der­stand­able but mis­placed.

It is un­der­stand­able be­cause many Cana­di­ans — based on a rea­son­able read­ing of events — con­sider Khadr to be a vi­o­lent ter­ror­ist who reaped the bit­ter har­vest of his own mis­deeds af­ter be­ing cap­tured by Amer­i­can forces on a bat­tle­field in Afghanistan in 2002.

Im­pris­oned by the U.S. for years in Guan­tanamo Bay, this son of a se­nior al-Qaida as­so­ciate fi­nally pleaded guilty to throw­ing the grenade that killed Amer­i­can Army Sgt. Christo­pher Speer.

It is patently un­fair for Ot­tawa to now give so much money plus an apol­ogy to Khadr, the crit­ics will say. And their frus­tra­tion is not hard to fathom. Their anger, how­ever, is mis­placed. The is­sue here is not what Khadr might have done to some­one else, it’s what the fed­eral gov­ern­ment did to Khadr, as a young Cana­dian cit­i­zen.

In 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada found that Cana­dian of­fi­cials ques­tioned Khadr at Guan­tanamo Bay in 2003 af­ter the youth had been sub­jected to weeks of sleep de­pri­va­tion by the Amer­i­cans.

The Cana­di­ans then shared the in­for­ma­tion they had ob­tained with the Amer­i­cans who con­tin­ued to im­prison Khadr in that hell­hole.

In the Supreme Court’s words, what those Cana­dian of­fi­cials did “of­fends the most ba­sic Cana­dian stan­dards.” And it is hard to dis­agree.

Khadr was just 15 when cap­tured. He was un­der­age when the Cana­di­ans in­ter­ro­gated him.

At Guan­tanamo, he had been sleep-de­prived and sub­jected to other abuses by the Amer­i­cans that could be con­sid­ered tor­ture, yet he had no ac­cess to le­gal coun­sel. Some will say all’s fair in the war on ter­ror. Canada’s Supreme Court dis­agrees. Not only did Cana­dian of­fi­cials vi­o­late Khadr’s rights as a cit­i­zen, the court de­clared, but the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment failed him fur­ther by re­fus­ing to press the Amer­i­cans to re­lease him from Guan­tanamo and send him to a Cana­dian prison.

Both Bri­tain and Aus­tralia per­suaded the Amer­i­cans to repa­tri­ate their ci­ti­zens from Guan­tanamo.

Canada didn’t try and the Supreme Court said that vi­o­lated the pro­tec­tions guar­an­teed to Khadr by the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms. We know opin­ions re­main di­vided on Khadr. We know some Cana­di­ans con­sider him a vil­lain who is now en­joy­ing un­de­served re­wards.

We also know oth­ers see him as a child sol­dier, a vul­ner­a­ble youth who was led astray by his fa­ther, vic­tim­ized by a bizarre le­gal sys­tem at Guan­tanamo that even U.S. courts crit­i­cized and who ul­ti­mately con­fessed to a killing as the only way to re­gain his free­dom and re­turn to Canada, where he now re­sides.

But you do not need to de­clare Khadr ei­ther a devil or a saint to rec­og­nize that he de­served far bet­ter from the fed­eral gov­ern­ments led by Stephen Harper’s Con­ser­va­tives and Jean Chre­tien’s Lib­er­als.

Our high­est court has ruled that th­ese gov­ern­ments vi­o­lated his rights as a cit­i­zen.

If those rights and our rule of law mat­ter, we must set­tle with Khadr.

The Trudeau Lib­er­als are right to do this.

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