Caledonia and Omar Khadr
A victimized child; a victimized town
It is not surprising that so many people are weighing into the debate over Omar Khadr’s settlement. What strikes me as curious is that so many believe it was inevitable since our government is obliged to follow the rule of law. And although I value justice and rule of law as much as they do I cannot share their belief that each and every citizen’s rights are protected regardless of race, creed, etc. Why? Because of where I live.
The town of Caledonia was left unprotected during the 2006-2009 land dispute, abandoned by the OPP and both Harper and McGuinty. And it wouldn’t have been any different if Justin Trudeau were in charge at the time. I can understand a road blockade when people feel they are not being heard but abusing innocent families? Caledonia residents with homes adjacent to the protest site and the Six Nations went through hell. During these violent events it became clear that the government sets the agenda and then picks and chooses whose rights it protects — or not.
Now, if you don’t know what I’m talking about I can’t really blame you. The media coverage of the events was sparse, mostly in the local press only. Caledonia was, and still is, Canada’s dirty unmentionable.
I guess what should follow is me saying that Khadr should have been left to rot in Guantanamo. Actually, that’s not the case at all. First and foremost, Omar Khadr is a survivor of abuse by his own parents who brought him to a training camp in Afghanistan where he was brainwashed and turned into a child soldier at the age of 11. If that is not child abuse then I don’t know what is. Under those circumstances there was no way he could have acted any differently even if he did throw that grenade several years later.
By now we all know what happened after his capture. He deserves compensation, although the actual number seems to have been pulled out of a hat in a hurry. As well, one cannot help but think of how many disability benefits for Canada’s veterans $10.5 million could pay for. Or, of Steven Truscott, Donald Marshall, David Milgaard, Robert Baltovich …
There is more. Whenever I hear Khadr’s name I recall one particular evening in 2003, I think. (You have to excuse my being a little hazy on the details; it’s been a while.) I remember being glued to the TV as two women ranted about how much they hate Canada, the U.S., the West in general. The women turned out to be Khadr’s mother and sister. There is nothing shocking or unusual about a mother’s rage over the mistreatment of her child but that’s not what it was about. I watched in disbelief as they condemned our way of life, our morals, our very existence. And I wonder if the family is still in the picture and will they benefit in any way from the settlement?
Nothing is black or white. I was hesitant to bring up the Caledonia land dispute for fear of being accused of comparing apples to oranges, or worse. After all, the townspeople were not holed up in Guantanamo and tortured. They were only subjected to threats, property damage and an occasional assault. Some lives and livelihoods were ruined and some developed health issues due to stress and sleep deprivation. It is a bit hard to get a good night’s sleep with ATVs roaring behind your back door. Or drumming. Or perhaps even guns on site. All this while knowing that there was no point in calling the police who were under strict orders to not intervene. And for that reason and because so many Canadians believe in law-abiding society I think the two issues are related after all.
Omar Khadr should have been compensated for his suffering and given enough help and resources to put his life back together for compassionate and humanitarian reasons.
As for equal protection for all under the law? Questions remain. Sadly, until there is at least an open debate it will remain a myth, a crock, a delusion.
I watched in disbelief as they condemned our way of life, our morals, our very existence.