Federal apology to Khadr reignites political fight over handling of saga
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.