Posts Tagged ‘Khadr

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.

Cabinet fighting over Khadr deal

- November 2nd, 2010

Prime Minister Harper was away when the Khadr deal was agreed to. Did Cannon keep him in the loop? PHOTO: Derek Ruttan

There’s an old saying that while the cat’s away the mice will play and that may very well be what happened in the Omar Khadr case.

Conservative cabinet ministers are not happy with the Khadr deal and the reality that he will be returned to Canada next year and free shortly thereafter. On Monday when cabinet gathered to prepare for question period tempers flared.

According to sources at the meeting and those close to cabinet ministers, there was yelling and accusations.

Top Conservatives are also not happy with the way the Khadr deal was handled.

The deal appears to have been sealed while Prime Minister Stephen Harper was travelling in Europe and there is the suggestion that foreign affairs officials used this time to offer and accept more than Harper was willing to. Diplomatic notes were exchanged with the Americans on October 23rd in the middle of Harper’s trip to Switzerland and the Ukraine. The question now is, was Harper fully aware?

Finally there is the way the communications were handled.

As noted here on the blog Sunday night, the government denied they offered Khadr any assurances he would come back to Canada. Then the deal became public showing they had put those assurances in writing.

Questioned about why the government acted the way it did, one senior official threw their hands up in disgust. The way the government denied a deal they clearly had signed off on has been called “bewildering” and “a lie by any other name” by people close to the government.

Khadr’s ordeal ended the only way it could

- November 1st, 2010

In this pentagon-approved photograph of a sketch by artist Janet Hamlin, Canadian detainee Omar Khadr looks on during his trial in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Oct. 27, 2010. (Supplied)

It really couldn’t have played out any other way.

Omar Khadr was never going to come back to Canada under a deal with the United States unless his trial had either acquitted him or convicted him. Last Monday Khadr plead guilty, Sunday he was sentenced to 40 years and will serve eight years under his plea deal.

Much of the criticism of this situation will be laid at the feet of the Harper government but we should all remember that Omar Khadr was a resident of Guantanamo Bay prison camp for eight years, more than three of those years were served while Canada was governed by the Liberal party.

Why did the Liberals no lift a finger to spring Khadr?

My theory has always been that Khadr was a very personal and political issue for Jean Chretien who was still in office when Khadr was arrested and transferred to Gitmo. Chretien you may recall sprung  Omar’s father Ahmed Said Khadr from Pakistani custody by appealing directly to the then Pakistani prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

Ahmed Khadr was released and went on to finance Osama bin Laden. After that I doubt Chretien would do much to help the Khadr clan.

When the Paul Martin Liberal government took over they stuck to the same line. Even with human rights heavy weights like Irwin Cotler in the cabinet, Martin’s government changed nothing in relation to Canada’s official stand on Khadr. In fact it was under the Martin government that the Canadian government violated Khadr’s rights.

The CSIS interviews that the Supreme Court of Canada found to be a Charter violation happened during the Martin government.

In a 2008 interview with CBC Radio, Cotler was asked what he had personally done about Khadr’s situation. The answer in essence was that he had done nothing.

“As I say, I mean, you abide by Cabinet’s decisions and, you know, the government took the decision it did,” he said.

Cotler wasn’t alone in defending that decision.

Speaking with various media outlets in November of 2005 Liberal MP Dan McTeague who was still in charge of Canadian abroad had this to say:

“The charges against Omar Khadr are very serious and they come after nearly four years in incarceration in detention in Guantanamo Bay. Our take on this of course is to ensure that he is being treated humanely.”

Now of course McTeague has a different take on the matter. Here’s what he told Post Media right after Khadr’s sentence was announced.

“He should be returned to Canada and the case reviewed under the kaleidoscope of Canadian law, not by a special military tribunal at a remote military base on some island in the Caribbean.”

Other leading Liberals have had interesting views on Gitmo that don’t square with where they are now. Consider what Michael Ignatieff thought of the prison camp back in 2002 when he was speaking with Macleans.

“What I would say is missing from that debate is two facts. One is that if these prisoners weren’t in Guantanamo, and if they had been in the custody of the Northern Alliance, they would probably be dead. Secondly, these are dangerous individuals. I don’t regard their treatment as some example of the basic brutality and immorality of the American empire.”
There have been several attempts to claim that Omar Khadr is a child soldier and therefore should not have been incarcerated at all. Of course had Khadr been captured in January 2002 instead of in July of that year Canada would not have recognized him as such at all. It was only in February 2002 that Canada signed the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child that changed the definition of child soldier from under 15 to under 18.

If you accept that Khadr was a child soldier and should have been released from Gitmo and returned to Canada the question then was, what to do with him?

The normal course in dealing with child soldiers is to return them to their parents so they can reintegrate into society. Well, judging by Khadr’s family the only reintegration that would have resulted in was with al-Qaeda.

Khadr’s parents turned him into the boy that was found bloody, wounded and willing to die for his cause. Giving him back to her was never an option if you had Omar’s best interests and the best interests of Canada at heart.

There was a laughable plan promoted by people that should know better to get Khadr repatriated to Canada under certain conditions including restrictions on where he could live, work and worship. The backers of this plan promised that a nice couple would take him in, that he would get a job, that he would attend a nice progressive mosque.

From a Charter rights perspective I fail to see how this would have been an improvement.

Since Khadr could never have faced any charges here the government would have no right nor ability to tell a free man where he could live or worship and to attempt to do so would have been a major rights violation against Khadr.

Has the Harper government done any better on the Khadr file?

If you view Khadr as a victim the honest answer has to be no, they haven’t done any better nor have they done any worse.

And in the end, it couldn’t have played out any other way.

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On Khadr, Harper government pulls a Clinton, debates meaning of “is”

Harper government pulls a Clinton, debates meaning of “is”

- October 31st, 2010

Bill Clinton famously defending lying to his senior staff about an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton’s staffers asked him, “Is there anything going on between you and Monica Lewinsky?” He said no and later defended this when he was quizzed under oath by saying, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

This past week it seems the Harper government pulled a Clinton and told the world they had no part in any plea deal between Omar Khadr and the U.S. government. They denied diplomatic notes, they denied making any assurances about Khadr coming back to Canada.

Sunday we discovered the Harper government was channeling Clinton.

Over the next few days it will be interesting to see how they parse words, as they are doing already. See the comments from the press secretary for  Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon in a story from my Sun Media colleague Bryn Weese.

For the most part I spent last week assuming the government was parsing words or lying outright but assumed there were legal reasons they could not or would not speak about assurances to Khadr that he would get to serve out his sentence in Canada. At a press conference last Thursday I gave Cannon an out. Rather than ask him to comment on something he clearly wasn’t ready to comment on, I used my questions late in the news conference to ask why they couldn’t comment. Cannon didn’t bite and just dug deeper.

He and the rest of the government can claim they only said they were not a party to the plea deal. Fine. Legally accurate if only in a “truthiness” kind of way. But when Cannon said point blank that Canada did not intervene. We know that’s not true and now Cannon and the rest of the government need to explain why.

Here’s the transcript of part of the news conference just for the record. It starts with me following up other questions where Cannon said he could not comment.

LILLEY: Why?  The – at Guantanamo right now, we have had Khadr’s Canadian lawyers, they have been talking openly about the deal, Canada’s involvement in that deal for several days, the American prosecutor in front of the case has talked about Canada providing assurances and this is part of what led to a deal. So I understand you can’t say anything. Can you tell us why…

Hon. Lawrence Cannon: No, the…

LILLEY:             … you can’t say anything when everybody else involved in the sentencing, in the trial, is speaking about it?

Hon. Lawrence Cannon: I speak in the name of the government of Canada and what I can tell you is that any plea bargain was between Mr. Khadr’s officials, his lawyers as well as the American government. And the government of Canada is not involved in that.

LILLEY:                    So essentially you are accusing the U.S. prosecutor and the other lawyers of lying because they have said..

Hon. Lawrence Cannon: I’m not accusing anybody, I’m saying that we are not involved in the plea bargain between Mr. Khadr and his lawyers and the government of the United States of America. This is an internal matter that is dealt with in the judicial system in the United States of America. The government of Canada does not intervene in that issue.

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Khadr’s ordeal ended the only way it could