Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen, recognized internationally as a child soldier, who has been held in Guantanamo Bay for 10 years. He was 15 years old when he was taken into custody. In 2010, he pled guilty to war crimes as part of a plea agreement which included eligibility to serve part of his sentence in his home country.
In February of 2010, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that the government’s inaction on the Khadr file was a breach of the boy’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The government, having sought their own legal opinion, decided not to listen to the Supreme Court ruling.
The government abruptly changed its position in November of 2010, with then Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon saying they would honor the request of the American government – “Our friend and closest ally.”
In April of this year, U.S. officials approved Khadr’s transfer to Canada and now his file sits on the desk of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews waiting for some kind of action. American ambassador David Jacobson is keeping the situation cordial, saying that there is a process that will be respected.
Meanwhile, Khadr’s legal team held a press conference on June 21 in Ottawa telling the national media that Ottawa has had plenty of time to act on the file. At the beginning of June, the UN Committee Against Torture has reviewed Canada’s response to Khadr’s case and found that the federal government (Liberals before 2006 and Conservatives since) were complicit in his torture.
In the House of Commons, the government has repeated the same lines every time Khadr has come up – that he committed a very serious crime, reacting as though the opposition was suggesting that Khadr be repatriated and set loose, rather than transferred to a Canadian prison.
Whether Canadian voters are paying real attention to the Khadr case remains to be seen, but it is a case that should have send a chill through the spines of all Canadian citizens. You are only worthy of help, you are only allowed your Charter rights, if the government decides you are, even if you were born in this country.
Photo Credit: Howl Arts Collective