Monday, February 02, 2009

On welcoming back Khadr

This clip is actually from last week and the question period in budget day. Obviously things were overshadowed a little then, but I did still want to post it. In it, Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae questions Conservative foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon on Omar Khadr, the Canadian being held at Guantanamo Bay whose case before a legally-questionable military tribunal was stayed last week at the request of US President Barack Obama.

Rae also wrote an op/ed on the Khadr case that was published on Thursday in the National Post:

Prime Minister Harper seems determined to go down in history as the last defender of Guantanamo on the world stage. He is letting us down in the process. Canada was the first country to sign the Optional Protocol on child soldiers. The treaty still binds Canada, and we agreed at that time, among other things, that "armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a State cannot recruit or use in hostilities persons under the age of 18 years." Canada agreed to rehabilitate and reintegrate these children.

He is also missing the political boat. It is one thing to be narrowly ideological, it is quite another to be oblivious to the changing circumstances in foreign affairs. The Obama administration is telling the world that torture is wrong, that secret jails are wrong and that tribunals have to comply with constitutional principles. It is asking other countries for help in providing for the resettlement of detainees. Failing to read these signals from Washington is a serious political blunder that risks getting Ottawa off to a bad start in our relations with our most important ally.
As Cannon and other Conservative critics have fairly (in a sense) brought-up the position of the previous Liberal government, here's an excerpt of what former Prime Minister Paul Martin had to say about Guantanamo and the Khadr case in his autobiography, Hell or High Water:
I am under no illusions as to the danger that terrorism poses, and I share the view that we must fight terrorism with every legitimate means at our disposal. That being said, I also believe that the courts are an important compass, especially when events threaten to make a democratic society lose its bearings with regard to human rights. In the United States, the courts have proved to be the only check on the misconceived policy of detentions at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

And speaking of Guantanamo, with the benefit if hindsight, given the revelations about events there, I must say that I now regret that the government did not intervene in the case of Omar Khadr and bring him back to face Canadian justice.

I say fairly in a sense because it's kind of pathetic the Conservatives are hiding behind the policies of a past government they agreed with very little on. Did the Martin government drop the ball? Yes. Absolutely. That said, we also know more now than we did then, and I'd like to think we'd have reconsidered our position over time, as Martin has belatedly done. And particularly with Obama's move to end the tribunal process, it is past time for Canada to reevaluate its position.

A new poll out today from Harris Decima shows Canadians want Khadr repatriated to Canada:
Most Canadians believe accused terrorist Omar Khadr should be returned to Canada, but a healthy plurality want him to face justice here rather than simply being turned loose, a new poll indicates.

Fifty-four per cent of respondents to the Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey said Khadr, held by U.S. authorities for more than six years at Guantanamo Bay on murder and other charges, should be brought back to Canada.

That included 38 per cent who said he should face the courts in Canada, while 16 per cent said he should be released and placed in a monitoring and rehabilitation program.

Twenty-nine per cent of those questioned said Khadr should be dealt with through the U.S. court system.

My feeling? While the case against Khadr is increasingly suspect, given the revelations we've seen coming out of the military tribunal, these are serious charges he faces. His age, time incarcerated in Guantanamo, and possible torture are also important factors. The military tribunal process is illegitimate, and he is a Canadian citizen. Given all this, the Canadian government must demand his immediate repatriation to Canada, and the accusations against him dealt with through the Canadian justice system.

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1 comment:

Barcs said...

"suspended"... not stayed.

The accusation and the trial are still there, they are just on hold until the process that Obama will have developed for dispersion of (some) of the gitmo "guests" is developed.

Once that process is developed we will know what will happen to Kahadr.... And how long it will take to get him back to Canada (read: a possible released without conditions into our country)