|Photo of Omar Khadr, copyright released into the public domain by the Khadr family in Toronto. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The return to Canada of Omar Khadr puts into the spotlight the niggardly, churlish behaviour of our exalted Harper government and all its pathetic minions
It is not necessary to go into details of the case here: sufficient to say that to any reasonable person the Khadr case is a classic miscarriage of justice. What interests me here is the behaviour of the Harper government, which has been condemned by fair-minded people around the world. It resolutely refused to repatriate Khadr to his native country, the only nation to have refused that in relation to Guantanamo prisoners. Even the usually staid Canadian Bar Association appealed to the government to repatriate the young man, and when the matter was taken to court, two lower courts declared his treatment by the Canadian government to be in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and said he should be repatriated, and when the government appealed the case to the Supreme Court, it also declared his continued imprisonment and the government’s refusal to aid him to be in violation of Canada’s constitution.
Eventually Khadr was put on trial by one of the military commissions set up by the United States to try these prisoners, whom they declared to be outside the normal processes of American law. This commission was ready to impose a 40 year prison sentence on Khadr, at which point, having always declared his innocence of the charges against him, he entered into a plea bargain in which he admitted all charges in return for an eight-year sentence --- not taking into account the many years he had already served in Guantanamo --- which was to be served one year in Guantanamo, and then he was to be transferred to Canada to serve the rest of his sentence.
When the first year of his sentence was up, the Canadian government refused to agree to his transfer, niggling over this and that, until finally the deal was done this week, and the Americans, much to their relief, got rid of their embarrassing prisoner by flying him in a military plane to Toronto.
This is a case that makes one sick to one’s stomach, considering the appalling behaviour of the government. But it is not the first or only case of its kind. I was one of the many hundreds of Canadians who sent small sums of money to buy a ticket back to Canada for Abousfian Abdelrazek, an unfortunate man who visited his home country of Sudan to see his ailing mother, and was then arrested and tortured and held in that country for six years before he was able to make his return to Canada. Although both the government of Sudan, and the security authorities of Canada declared he had done nothing wrong, and he had never been charged with any crime, the Canadian government at first refused to facilitate his return to his home nation; then said they would issue him with a travel permit if he could find an airline willing to fly him (he had been placed on the UN no-fly list by the United States on incorrect information supplied by the Canadian government). But when he produced such an airline, Etihad, the government still refused to issue the travel permit they had promised, and at that point a number of Canadians contributed to the cost of buying a picket for his return. Once again, the courts intervened, ordering the government to facilitate his return.
This kind of behaviour by a Canadian government is so frankly embarrassing before the outside world that it almost beggars description. Under pressure from the courts, the government finally agreed to allow the man to return to his home country, but even after his arrival back, they have made it as difficult as possible for him to regain a place in Canadian life as a normal citizen.
It will be no secret to anyone who has read this blog over the years that I think this government with its medieval ministers, such as our supposed Justice Minister, our minister in charge of immigration and refugees, and many others, is beyond the pale, and I cannot wait for the next opportunity we have to get rid of them.
Meantime, it is said that Omar Khadr, under Canadian law, should be eligible for parole next year. We will have to watch to see that politics are not allowed to interfere with this decision.