Tories feeling heat from base over Khadr

- November 3rd, 2010

In this Pentagon-approved photograph of a sketch by artist Janet Hamlin, Omar Khadr, listens to closing arguments on October 30, 2010. The Toronto-born detainee pleaded guilty to five war crimes, including murder for the death of U.S. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer.

It will be interesting to see how individual Conservative MPs react to the Omar Khadr story as they head into their weekly caucus meeting this morning.

Caucus meetings are a chance for MPs in each party to hear from their leader and vent their problems or concerns. I’m willing to bet that Khadr is an issue that Conservative MPs have been hearing about from the voters back home.

We’ve already heard about the fight in cabinet, the full caucus discussions should be fascinating.

As Ipsos-Reid showed earlier this week Canadians aren’t that crazy about Khadr coming back to Canada. The polling firm gave people three options and asked which they preferred.

“Do you think that Khadr should serve all, some or none of his sentence in Canada:”

The results: 25% of Canadians said Khadr should serve all of his sentence here, 26% said he should serve some of his sentence here and 49% said none.

By far keeping Khadr out of Canada is the most popular of the three options. Support for that option is highest in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia – all areas of Tory strength at the moment. By agreeing to let Khadr back into Canada the Harper government is angering it’s base.

I spoke with Liberal MP Dan McTeague about the process involved in exchanging diplomatic notes. As the man who used to play point on any file involving Canadians in trouble overseas, McTeague is acutely aware of how the system works.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has tried to claim all along that Canada was not party to any deals, last week he denied that Canada had sent diplomatic notes assuring Khadr he could come back to Canada – Cannon even scoffed at the thought of saying the government could not speak because this was a legal issue before the courts.

So is it possible that Cannon didn’t know the notes were sent?

“Diplomatic notes are considered the official position of the Government of Canada,” McTeague told me. “Minister Cannon would have had to sign off on the note, he would have known what was in there.”

It is possible that Cannon and his foreign affairs department didn’t keep Prime Minister Stephen Harper fully briefed on how far the note went in assuring Khadr and some Conservatives have strongly hinted at that. The note was sent on October 23rd while Harper was travelling in Europe but McTeague doubts that Harper would have been kept out of the loop given the high profile nature of this file.

Some of this will remain a mystery for years to come but we know already that the Conservatives are feeling heat on the Khadr issue from those that don’t want the convicted terrorist back in Canada.

Late Tuesday an Info-Alert was sent out by Conservative Party HQ hitting at Michael Ignatieff for comments he made about Khadr and human rights during a speech in Montreal.

Sent: Tue Nov 02 18:00:11 2010
Subject: A disturbing gaffe, even for Michael Ignatieff / Une gaffe gênante, même pour Michael Ignatieff

A disturbing gaffe, even for Michael Ignatieff

Today in a foreign policy speech, Michael Ignatieff said “For four years, the Conservative government did nothing to protect Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen and child soldier…The Conservatives can’t claim to defend the human rights of people around the world, if they don’t defend Canadians at home and abroad.”

This is a shocking statement.

Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to murder in violation of the laws of war, attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism and spying.

Khadr has also publicly acknowledged that he was a member of al-Qaeda, that he planted roadside bombs and that he knew he was attacking civilians.

Michael Ignatieff’s suggestion that Omar Khadr is an individual whose human rights require defending is an insult to the victims of Khadr’s crimes.

It is also an insult to those around the world who are real victims of human rights abuses – people like Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in Iran – an individual our government is standing up for by urging Iran to live up to its human rights obligations.

This is more than just a regular Ignatieff gaffe.  It is proof that Michael Ignatieff will stoop to any low when trying to score political points, including minimising the pain and suffering of real victims of terrorism and human rights abuses.

This is further evidence that Michael Ignatieff isn’t in it for Canadians, he’s only in it for himself.

Categories: Conservatives, Khadr, Liberals

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