Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lawrence Cannon and the Omar Khadr Case

It's an understatement to say that the Omar Khadr case has been mishandled, yet this government continues to use every legal loophole imaginable to keep him detained, even after President Obama has suggested he be returned to Canada.

But if they are using every legal loophole, they are also using every loopy something else hole, and Lawrence Cannon is definitely one of the loopiest.

He has made himself judge, jury and executioner, standing up in the House of Commons and pronouncing that Mr. Khadr is 'guilty'. And why? Because he saw it on TV.

Lawrence Cannon aspires to be ... Richard Nixon?!?
By skdadl,
April 25, 2009

Mr. Cannon's comments in the Commons yesterday also strayed from the usual Conservative talking points on the file - namely, that Mr. Khadr faces serious charges, including murder, and that Ottawa will not interfere with continuing legal proceedings in the United States.

"As a matter of fact, last night we were able to see television footage of Mr. Khadr's alleged building and planting of explosive devices that are actually planted in Afghanistan," Mr. Cannon told the House. "Those devices are the devices that basically have taken away the lives of young Canadian men and women."

Mr. Cannon was apparently referring to footage that was previously leaked, in violation of court rules, to the news show 60 Minutes. Mr. Khadr's defence lawyers have so far been unable to prove who leaked the video.

"There's never been any allegation that Omar conspired to injure Canadians," said Nate Whitling, one of Mr. Khadr's Canadian lawyers.

"This is clearly an attempt to prejudice our client on spurious grounds." I am not a lawyer, so I don't know the grounds on which a court or the Speaker could censure Mr Cannon for remarks made in Parliament, but that statement is surely deserving of censure. The odd reference to viewing a video "last night," a video that has been around for a long time and about which there is much prior intelligent comment, suggests that Mr Cannon is simply clueless on this file, as does the cover-up conflicting statement from his communications director.

But it seems to me a terrible abuse of power that government ministers (or even little spokespersons) should be able to make insinuations about the criminal guilt of individual Canadian citizens, especially when no legitimate prosecutor has ever raised such charges and when Omar Khadr is still, under any legal process, however suspect, as the U.S. military commissions are universally considered to be (well, except by the Harper cabinet), entitled to the presumption of innocence.

As Foreign Affairs critic, Bob Rae was appalled at Cannon's actions.

Rae on Khadr
by Aaron Wherry
April 24, 2009

Question: The statement by Mr. Cannon today introducing new elements, the death of Canadian soldiers. What do you make of this? What’s going on?

Bob Rae: Well first of all, I mean I think it’s extraordinary to conduct a trial on the floor of the House of Commons. If the Government of Canada has new evidence with respect to Mr. Khadr, whether he was, when he 12, 13, 14 or 15, I would hope that they would think that that was even more reason for Mr. Khadr to be brought home and tried in Canada.

Question: Are you suggesting that they’re suggesting new evidence or new (off microphone)?

Bob Rae: I don’t know what Mr., I don’t know what Mr. Cannon is doing. You better ask him. He’s the one who introduced this. He’s the one who in response to a question about the decision of Justice O’Reilly referred to footage that he’d just seen on television, a Minister of the Crown carrying out a one-man prosecution against Mr. Khadr on the floor of the House of Commons. We have courts for this kind of thing in Canada. We don’t try people on the floor of the House of Commons. We have courts that do this job and Mr. Justice O’Reilly of the Federal Court has said that the court that Mr. Khadr should be facing is in Canada, not in the United States because of the mistreatment that Mr. Khadr has received in Guantanamo.

You know, this government is essentially trying to wag the dog and change the story and trying to rile up opinion against Mr. Khadr because of some footage that they’ve got and then bring in the name of the, of the young woman who was killed last week in Afghanistan as if Mr. Khadr had, you know, what, what are they saying? What is Mr. Cannon doing? It’s a classic McCarthyite tactic. And it is not the way we do, should be doing business or politics in Canada and I take, if Mr. Cannon says well, all I was saying was these are serious charges, you say fine, they’re serious charges that should be faced in Canada.

No one’s denying that the charges against Mr. Khadr are serious. What Mr. Justice O’Reilly is saying, what the Federal Court is saying is that the evidence of mistreatment in Guantanamo is such that he should be brought home. And that seems to me the argument that Mr. Cannon has to face and hasn’t faced that argument. He’s decided not to face up to it.

Back to: The Lawrence Cannon Story: Intelligent Incompetence

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