New PC leader’s Khadr comments incredible
When I was a young man in Alberta, I enjoyed campaigning for the Progressive Conservatives in federal and provincial elections. The PCs stood for principles that mattered to me: telling the truth, no matter how much explanation is needed, and the rule of law. It takes gumption to stand up for such principles, because they often require taking a stand contrary to popular opinion.
I know of very few PC leaders in 2017 who still have that courage to stand up for such principles.
Take federal Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer, in his July 27 op-ed piece about Omar Khadr in the Toronto Star. It is full of misinformation, first advanced by the Stephen Harper government even after the Supreme Court — with a majority of Conservative appointees — unanimously ruled both in 2008 and 2010 that Khadr’s rights had been egregiously violated both by the illegal (according to the U.S. Supreme Court) “courts” in Guantanamo Bay, and by Canadian officials who interviewed Khadr.
The Khadr situation is complex and hard to explain to those who simply want what appears to be a strong response to the world’s evils. The easier course is to go with the flow to get votes from those you’ve helped to misinform.
Scheer writes that Canada’s top court never ordered the government to pay for Khadr’s illegal imprisonment and torture. But compensation was not the issue before the SCOC. It was whether Khadr’s rights were violated (they were) and whether he should be repatriated (he should’ve been). In spite of the court’s strong recommendation that Khadr be repatriated in 2010, the Harper government refused to repatriate him.
Scheer’s statement that “the previous Conservative government accepted the finding (and) Omar Khadr was brought back to Canada” is an outright lie. After the 2010 Supreme Court decision, the Harper government refused to repatriate Khadr.
As a result, Khadr was given the option of spending the rest of his life in a cage in Guantanamo, or accepting a plea deal in which he would lie about his culpability, but have the right to serve an eight-year sentence in Canada. Khadr took the plea deal.
The Harper government was forced to repatriate Khadr in 2012, and they did their best to keep him in prison. The feds continued to insist that Khadr was not a child soldier who deserved rehabilitation, but a terrorist. Canadian courts disagreed, and Khadr was released from prison in Canada in 2015, given the likely success of an appeal in the United States.
Scheer never mentions that Canada, under Harper, neglected its international obligations to treat Khadr as a child soldier, nor that there is no credible evidence that Khadr was responsible for the death of U.S. Delta Force soldier Sgt. Christopher Speer. In fact, it is just as likely that Speer was killed by friendly fire. Because much of the evidence has been destroyed by the illegal regime in Guantanamo, we will never know.
Nevertheless, Scheer refers to Christopher Speer as “Khadr’s victim.”
Finally, Scheer claims the current government had a choice not to pay Khadr, and it would have been more sensible to fight the liability battle in court. I have not read of a single lawyer who claims that, under such a scenario, Khadr might have received less than the $10.5 million (half of which went to pay legal fees).
Most lawyers who have written on the subject estimate that a prolonged lawsuit would likely have resulted in a settlement significantly higher than $10.5 million, not counting the additional millions the government would have spent fighting such a case. Yes, the government had the choice to keep fighting a clear losing battle in court. Some choice.
In a vibrant democracy, we hold our politicians to account to tell the truth, no matter how inconvenient, and to act honourably to correct false narratives. It is clear that Scheer has neither the honour nor the integrity to do either. So much for a principled Conservative movement in 2017.
However challenging, we need to hold such unprincipled politicians to account, lest we succumb to the “fake news” epidemic south of the border.