Oh, Canada. What are you doing?
February 19, 2009 § Leave a comment
This morning, Le Devoir informed me that Canada is the only western nation not re-patriating its citizens who have been rotting in legal limbo at Guantanamo Bay. In fact, Canada is the only western nation that still has a citizen in Gitmo. There is only one Canadian there, the rather notorious Omar Khadr. Now whatever you may think about young Mr. Khadr is irrelevant. What is relevant is that he is a Canadian citizen, full stop. He was born in Toronto. He is Canadian. And yet, our government here in the Great White North has done exactly nothing to aid young Mr. Khadr, who was all of 15 years of old when he was captured. That would qualify him as a child soldier, I might add, under international law.
All other western nations (France, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Australia, and Belgium) have repatriated their citizens from Gitmo. Not Canada. No sir. Not under the Liberal government in power until January 2006. And certainly not under the Conservative government since then. This is, plain and simple, wrong. Khadr should face justice for his actions in Afghanistan, true. But he should not be facing a kangaroo court, which is what the military court charged with trying him in Gitmo seems to have been. The rules of trial kept changing. And when US President Obama signed the decree to close Gitmo, according to Khadr’s military lawyer, Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler, the military commissions in Cuba were effectively ended. Thus, there is no court anymore to try Khadr. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper says that the country cannot interfere in the American judicial process. If that was truly the case, I have yet to see Harper’s explanation as to how those French, British, Danish, Swedish, Spanish, Belgian, and Australian prisoners found their way home.
Khadr has two Canadian lawyers, Dennis Edney and Nate Whitling, who visited him in May 2007. They accuse Canada of abandoning Khadr and the Americans of mistreating him. Edney argues: “You have a gutless country called Canada where the government has not been able to extract even the most meagre of concessions from the U.S. My client is a boy who was shot twice and is blind in one eye, but they won’t even let an independent medical person in to visit him. Out of all the cases I have done, Khadr is the one that gives me nightmares. He has been completely abandoned — and we in Canada have done this.”
I’m afraid that about sums it up. Whatever one things of Khadr, and he is a polarising figure, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Canada is not standing up for one of its citizens abroad. And that is wrong. Plainly and completely wrong.