Omar Khadr’s situation after years of legal challenges and extra-judicial confinement in Guantanamo is again in the news.
In this latest instance there are questions about whether Mr. Khadr has the legal right to receive a $10.5 million compensation package that the federal government has offered him. Jason Kenny, the former federal conservative cabinet minister, now leader of the Alberta Conservative Party, has challenged the compensation arrangement.
Two visions of Canada, I suggest, are behind this significant difference between the current Liberal government and the most recent Conservative government’s attitude towards Mr. Khadr.
While both governments had access to the same information about Mr. Khadr’s status as a child soldier and as an incarcerated detainee at Guantanamo, their perceptions of him were and are dramatically different.
While in power the Conservative government, chose to repatriate Mr. Khadr 10 years after he was incarcerated first in Bagram air base and then in Guantanamo, after many former detainees from Guantanamo had already been repatriated to their own countries.
He is the first person since World War II to be prosecuted in a military commission for war crimes committed while still a minor. Mr. Kenny recently described Mr. Khadr in unqualified terms as a terrorist, noting that Mr. Khadr had acknowledged killing a soldier.
Mr. Khadr has indicated that he had said he killed the soldier because it involved a plead bargain arrangement so that he could return to Canada. Interestingly the Supreme Court of Canada in 2010 found that then Canadian government’s interrogation of Mr. Khadr at Guantanamo Bay, “offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.”
If the Supreme Court of Canada is the highest arbiter in the land, why would anyone, including Mr. Kenny, challenge it’s unanimous opinion? Does Mr. Kenny’s vision of being a Canadian citizen involve an arbitrary judgement that emphasizes partisanship beyond the due legal process any Canadian citizen has the right to be protected by?