Khadr fight should be fought at home

THE SPEC­TA­TOR’S VIEW

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - Howard El­liott

There is room for dis­agree­ment about as­pects of the Omar Khadr set­tle­ment and apol­ogy.

You can­not cred­i­bly ar­gue his rights were not vi­o­lated. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled not once, but twice, that leav­ing him to rot in Guan­tanamo did vi­o­late Khadr’s Char­ter rights. You also can­not cred­i­bly ar­gue he was not a child sol­dier. Fif­teen at the time of the in­fa­mous fire­fight, Khadr was of­fi­cially a child sol­dier ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions. And you can­not rea­son­ably ar­gue his ad­mis­sion of guilt should stand, as it is ac­knowl­edged he con­fessed hav­ing been tor­tured. Such a co­erced con­fes­sion would never stand up in a Canadian court of law.

But there is cer­tainly room for le­git­i­mate de­bate in other ar­eas. Was the $10 mil­lion set­tle­ment jus­ti­fied? Most le­gal ex­perts say it would have cost Canada more, much more, had the govern­ment fought the law suit in­stead of set­tling. It is said pre­vi­ous prime min­is­ters, in­clud­ing Stephen Harper and Jean Chré­tien, would have fought any set­tle­ment, even against pro­fes­sional ad­vice and re­gard­less of how much money it ended up cost­ing. But it has to be noted that le­gal con­sen­sus sug­gests, at min­i­mum, a fight would have cost $30 to $40 mil­lion, and might have cost up to $100 mil­lion. Should Justin Trudeau have had that fight, even though his own le­gal team said it was a los­ing cause?

There’s am­ple room to ar­gue the govern­ment didn’t han­dle this well by keep­ing it quiet. Tak­ing it to Par­lia­ment, even as a courtesy, would have made sense.

There’s even room to de­bate the Con­ser­va­tive strat­egy of tak­ing the case against the deal to the Amer­i­can me­dia. On that point, we would ar­gue the Khadr crit­ics are dead wrong. Granted, the anti-Khadr cam­paign didn’t get a warm re­cep­tion with most Canadian me­dia. That’s be­cause it fol­lows the rule of law, and most of us sup­port that whether we like this par­tic­u­lar ex­am­ple or not. But that doesn’t jus­tify re­cruit­ing Fox News and oth­ers to take the fight against the Trudeau govern­ment to the Amer­i­cans at a time when the govern­ment is ne­go­ti­at­ing NAFTA and do­ing its best to main­tain con­struc­tive re­la­tions with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

It’s called putting par­ti­san party in­ter­ests — hurt­ing Justin Trudeau — ahead of na­tional in­ter­ests. That is nei­ther ap­pro­pri­ate nor wise.

Let’s give the fi­nal words to Michael Spratt, who wrote in Canadian Lawyer mag­a­zine: ‘The sim­ple fact is that the Khadr crit­ics’ ide­ol­ogy is ir­rec­on­cil­able with the law and the facts. The rep­e­ti­tion of ill-in­formed and disin­gen­u­ous talk­ing points by the Con­ser­va­tive pun­dits and mem­bers of Par­lia­ment is noth­ing but a dis­hon­est at­tempt at po­lit­i­cal gain that will only serve to un­der­mine re­spect for hu­man rights and the rule of law — and no set­tle­ment can com­pen­sate Canada for that crime.’ Well said.

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