Fed­eral apol­ogy to Khadr reignites po­lit­i­cal fight over han­dling of saga

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JIM BRONSKILL

OT­TAWA — The fed­eral gov­ern­ment apol­o­gized Fri­day to Omar Khadr, spark­ing fresh public de­bate about the for­mer Guan­tanamo Bay inmate and a new round of po­lit­i­cal fin­ger-point­ing in a long-run­ning drama that has left Cana­di­ans deeply di­vided.

Af­ter the apol­ogy to the Toron­to­born Khadr was re­leased on pa­per, Public Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale emerged to con­firm the two sides had reached a set­tle­ment — and to ac­knowl­edge that it would not please ev­ery­one.

Khadr wound up in U.S. cus­tody at Guan­tanamo at age 15 for al­legedly throw­ing a grenade that killed Amer­i­can sol­dier Christo­pher Speer in Afghanistan in 2002.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the “then-il­le­gal mil­i­tary regime” at Guan­tanamo breached Khadr’s guar­an­tee of fun­da­men­tal jus­tice un­der the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms.

Records show Khadr’s cap­tors de­prived him of sleep by mov­ing him from cell to cell, a prac­tice known as the “fre­quent flyer pro­gram” de­signed to break down re­sis­tance to in­ter­ro­ga­tion.

Twice in 2003, of­fi­cials from the Cana­dian Se­cu­rity In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice and For­eign Af­fairs ques­tioned Khadr at Guan­tanamo and shared the re­sults of their in­ter­ro­ga­tions with the Amer­i­cans.

A For­eign Af­fairs of­fi­cial in­ter­viewed him again in March 2004, know­ing he had been sub­jected to the “fre­quent flyer” treat­ment. This time, Khadr re­fused to an­swer ques­tions.

Khadr was trans­ferred to a Cana­dian prison in 2012.

The fed­eral apol­ogy, de­liv­ered Fri­day in a terse state­ment, did not men­tion fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion, but fol­lowed re­ports of a con­tro­ver­sial $10.5-mil­lion set­tle­ment of Khadr’s long-stand­ing law­suit.

Goodale also laid the blame for the set­tle­ment squarely at the feet of Stephen Harper’s for­mer Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment, which re­fused to repa­tri­ate Khadr or oth­er­wise re­solve the mat­ter, not­with­stand­ing the Supreme Court rul­ing.

“They could have,” he said, “but they didn’t.”

Court pro­ceed­ings with re­spect to Khadr had al­ready cost tax­pay­ers close to $5 mil­lion in le­gal ex­penses, and not set­tling the case would have left them on the hook for mil­lions more, Goodale said.

Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer called the set­tle­ment “dis­gust­ing,” say­ing Khadr’s re­turn to Canada should have been rem­edy enough. “Justin Trudeau should never have agreed to a se­cret deal that gave a con­victed ter­ror­ist mil­lions of dol­lars,” he said Fri­day.

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