Monday, November 8, 2010

Omar Khadr: With All Due Respect. Canadians do Care. We Just Don't Know It.

On April 24, 2009, in response to queries about Omar Khadr, Lawrence Cannon shocked Members of Parliament and the media alike, when he stood up and made the claim:
" ... 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. Those devices are the devices that basically have taken away the lives of young Canadian men and women."
Khadr was tried in the House of Commons, based on the American television show 60 Minutes.

In July of this year, Lawrence Martin wrote a column in which he criticized our government's decision to not repatriate Omar Khadr, but did not confine his anger to the Harper government, but also expressed displeasure with the Canadian people.
To avoid depression over the standards of justice in this country, here’s a tip: Stay away from opinion polls on Omar Khadr. If you ever thought Canadians were a progressive, fair-minded people who believed in equal rights before the law, these soundings tell a different story.

They say most Canadians don’t want the Toronto-born Mr. Khadr to be returned to Canada from Guantanamo Bay for a legitimate judicial process. All other nations have repatriated their Gitmo detainees. Led by our counterclockwise Justice Department, we are the lone heathen holdout. (1)
First off, most polls that I read, showed the Canadian people were split down the middle on the issue. But the problem with polls is that the headline that accompanies their publication, is often misleading. And for those who read only the headlines, if they are called the next time the poll comes around, they often base their judgement on the headlines and not the facts.

The Omar Khadr case is far too complicated to be condensed to a few, often leading questions. And I think that if the poll was conducted after first giving Canadians all the facts, the results would be quite different.

The question was, should Omar Khadr be allowed to return to Canada and be tried by his peers? But before presenting the question, it should have included the fact that Canada was the only country NOT to repatriate our accused, housed at Gitmo. The only one. That's important information.

And they should also mention the fact that Khadr was a "child soldier".

And that he had been indoctrinated from the age of nine.

And they should remind us that when in Afghanistan, his homeland was invaded and occupied. Many children worked with the French Resistance, fighting Nazi occupation. They were considered to be heroes. I'm not suggesting that Omar Khadr is a hero, but he's not a monster either. He was the victim of circumstance, and as a Canadian citizen, deserved the same rights afforded all Canadians.

Or at least that's the way it's supposed to work.

New Laws in Harperland
Traditionally, Canadian leaders had tried to be a moderating influence on the foreign policy of American presidents. But with Harper and Obama, the roles were reversed in some areas. One was Guantanamo. Aware that the prison's judicial standards, bordering on the medieval, were damaging the American reputation for human rights, Obama was bent on closing it down, as was the Republican candidate, John McCain. Harper differed. He had no such inclination. He gave the impression that it was fine with him.

Even to many Tories, Harper's stance on Omar Khadr was primitive. Khadr was fifteen when he killed a U.S. special forces soldier in the midst of a firelight in Afghanistan. From all appearances, the Canadian-born youth had been indoctrinated by his terrorist father and jihadists since he was nine. Accused of terrorist activities and spying, he had been incarcerated in a Guantanamo cell since 2002. He was the only citizen of a Western country to remain there; all other nations had demanded that their Gitmo detainees be returned to home soil, where they could face legitimate jurisprudence.

... In the case of Khadr, six former Canadian foreign affairs ministers, including John Manley and Joe Clark, wrote an open letter of appeal to Harper, but it was ignored. Canadian courts repeatedly ruled in favour of repatriating Khadr. Guantanamo, the courts ruled, represented a clear violation of Canada's international human rights obligations. The verdicts found that Khadr's Charter rights had been violated. Even the conservative National Post would headline an editorial "Bring Back Omar Khadr." (2)
So why was Harper ignoring even his loyal fans? According to Martin, Harper " put forward a political argument, saying that the government, not the judiciary, should be the final arbiter of foreign policy. In this instance, the Supreme Court, while declaring that Khadr's Charter rights had indeed been violated, refused to order his repatriation. It said it would be inappropriate to dictate the diplomatic steps necessary to address the breaches of those rights. On this issue, Harper won the case. In the conduct of foreign affairs, his powers were deemed pre-eminent. (2)

He wanted to make it clear that his voice and his voice alone, spoke for Canada.

No courts, experts or human rights advocates would have a say. In Harperland, only Harper matters.
Throughout, the Tories refused to give their reasons for not repatriating Khadr. Wesley Wark, an Ottawa professor and the past president of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence was appalled at the arrogant silence. "The Harper government's view that it does not have to explain its actions," he said, "is nothing short of breathtaking."

At the same time, the Harper government rebuffed requests by the Obama administration to help resettle dozens of Guantanamo detainees and close the prison. The recalcitrance was striking. It was a matter, in the case of Khadr, of supporting high standards of justice or not. Harper chose not.
A Matter of Opinion?

Facing renewed criticism, the pollsters are once again coming to his aid, creating the impression that Canadians agree with the anointed one.

I think the most ridiculous, is this one published in the Sun.

OTTAWA — In a showdown between terrorist Omar Khadr and serial killer Russell Williams, Canadians say Khadr is the bigger threat to the public. Ottawa’s Abacus Data asked Canadians which of the two men, whose trials have dominated headlines recently, is the greater threat to Canada’s public safety. About 34% of respondents chose Khadr, 24% chose Williams, and the rest chose neither man. (3)
OK. First of all, who is the biggest threat to the public, Khadr or Williams? Who dreamt up that ridiculous question? It's apples and oranges. Omar Khadr killed in battle, Russel Williams is a rapist and serial killer. It was obviously intended to create the impression that Khadr was dangerous.

So I read down a bit and saw that the poll was conducted by Abacus Data.

I know. I'd never heard of them either. But I have heard of their president David Colletto. Colletto is a colleague of Harper insider Tom Flanagan, both belonging to the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. And yet the Sun doesn't mention that.

The headline should have read 'Harper pal conducts country's most idiotic poll.'

And the information that Canadians should be privy to before answering any poll concerning Khadr:
The civilian populations are the first victims of contemporary armed conflicts. Over the course of the past decade, wars will have cost the lives of two million children and mutilated six million children. Many of them have been victims of sexual violence. Twenty-three million children are refugees or victims of forced displacement, often separated from their families or orphans. Each year, 10,000 children are victims of antipersonnel mines. Worldwide, there are more than 250,000 child soldiers at the heart of modern wars.
Omar Khadr was a child soldier and since 1999, the UN Security Council has adopted six major resolutions aiming to fight the phenomenon of child soldiers

But in July of 2009, Embassy Magazine reported that:
With subtle strokes of the pen, it appears the Conservative government has been systematically changing the language employed by the foreign service and, as a result, bringing subtle but sweeping changes to traditional Canadian foreign policy ... Among the changes identified [is]replacing the phrase "child soldiers" with "children in armed conflict."

... Striking Out 'Child Soldiers', while it might appear to be one of the least controversial language changes cited—changing "child soldiers" to "children in armed conflict"—sources told Embassy this may be related to the case of Omar Khadr... at the political level there is a sense that children involved with terrorists groups are not child soldiers, and that's simply not the case under international law."

Mr. Neve [ Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada] raised concerns about possible ramifications for the issues around Mr. Khadr. He said there is a very particular, legal reason to recognize him as a child soldier and to weaken that language could suggest an intention to avoid the legal obligations that come with it. (4)
If international law contradicts the views of Stephen Harper, Stephen Harper just changes international law, with a simple stoke of the pen.

In Harperland only one person's opinion matters and even legally binding international agreements mean nothing. Harper has spoken. End of.

Welcome to the new realities in the country formerly known as Canada.

Welcome to Harperland.


1. In the matter of Omar Khadr, shame on us, By Lawrence Martin, Globe and Mail, July 15, 2010

2. Harperland: The Politics of Control, By Lawrence Martin, Viking Press, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-670-06517-2, Pg. 199-200

3. Khadr a bigger threat than Williams: poll, By Brian Lilley, Parliamentary Bureau, Toronto Sun, November 3, 2010

4. "Gender Equality", "Child Soldiers" and "Humanitarian Law" are Axed from Foreign Policy Language, By Michelle Collins, Embassy Magazine, July 29, 2009


  1. On top of all that the war crimes charges against Khadr were invented by Bush, amounting to fighting the US military in a foreign country, and exist nowhere in international law which defines all the war crimes anybody ever heard of before.

    And, tens of thousands of soldiers, US and others, have been killed or wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq, and somehow the only one of their deaths or woundings that resulted in prosecution was in the case of Omar Khadr, a kid brought to Afghanistan at an early age by his parents and recruited into the war by his father for two months when he was 15!

    Every effort has been made to paint him as a monster including the fiction that he was charged with inexplicably killing an "unarmed medic" and engaging in all sorts of acts of terrorism. In fact, he did neither. His only crime was fighting without being part of a state army, like all the other people in Afghanistan who fought the Russians, each other, and then the Americans, and their original allies (Northern Alliance) with whom some of the American soldiers blended themselves by not wearing uniforms, not to mention the non-uniformed CIA drone operators who kill civilians along with their enemy targets, something Khadr was not even charged with doing.

  2. Thank you Diane. It's a very sad case.

  3. Stephen Harper is such an embarrassment.
    His son Ben will be 15 this year.

  4. Those kids have grown up haven't they?