The Khadr Settlement: An Embarrassment to Canada

Par Kevin Budning le 9 juillet 2017

If there has ever been a time to question the integrity and moral compass of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government, the time is now. A few days ago, news broke that Omar Khadr had reached a settlement agreement with the Canadian government that entails a formal apology and a $10.5 million payout. Apology and payout for what you may ask?

Well, Khadr - who at age 15 decided to move to Afghanistan to live with his father, a high-ranking Al-Qaeda member - believes he should be compensated for ‘wrongful imprisonment’ at Guantanamo Bay. In 2010, after allegedly being tortured, Khadr pleaded guilty to throwing a grenade that killed U.S. Special Forces medic, Christopher Speer, and for blinding another soldier, Layne Morris. It was this act that landed him in the notorious prison.

Since then, Khadr’s case has become infamous because of his Canadian citizenship, the fact he was 15 years old when he was arrested (argued to be a child-soldier under international law) and for what he contends was a plea under duress. 

Whether Khadr’s rights were violated or not, the fact that the Liberal government is willingly paying a convicted terrorist millions of dollars sets a dangerous precedent that truthfully makes me, and should make you, ashamed to be Canadian.

The most troubling aspect about this payout is that it is a settlement and not a legal ruling. Khadr is currently in the midst of appealing his murder conviction in the United States and negotiating his civil suit in Canada. While Khadr has sued the Canadian government for approximately $20 million, one can argue that a $10.5 million settlement is a good deal, right? Well, I certainly do not see it that way. 

Settling a highly controversial case like Khadr’s essentially means the Canadian government acknowledges and concedes to wrongdoing. While Trudeau may feel that way, it is inappropriate for Ottawa to make a decision of such gravity without an official ruling from the courts. 

There are compelling reasons for the government to allow the judicial process to play its course. Perhaps Khadr would be awarded less damages, or none at all! For example, a civil court in Utah ordered Khadr to pay $134 million for his actions in Afghanistan. However, instead of entrusting the system, Trudeau has decided to do what he does best; spend millions of taxpayer dollars with no regard to the implications.

While the case largely surrounds the treatment of Khadr and his status as a ‘child soldier,’ I do not have sympathy with this argument. Unlike many child soldiers in Africa who are kidnapped from their families, indoctrinated, and forced to fight for their lives, this is certainly not the case with Khadr. Instead, I think most Canadians would agree that he was old enough to make decisions for himself. Decisions that included moving to Afghanistan to live with his father, joining an Al-Qaeda training camp, and even reportedly spending some time at Osama Bin-Laden’s compound. 

All of this highlights the incongruity and hypocrisy behind this deal. Presently, under The Death Benefit, the Canadian government can provide a maximum of $360, 000 to the families of Canadian soldiers who are either killed or injured while serving. While Christopher Speer and thousands of others made the ultimate sacrifice, it appears that Khadr will walk scot free with $10.5 million in the bank. 

It is time the government takes a lesson from the Harper days where a terrorist was called a terrorist and a hero was called a hero. This deal is embarrassing, it glorifies the terrorist and it belittles the sacrifices of the hero. 

Kevin Budning is a graduate in Conflict Studies and Human Rights from the University of Ottawa and is pursuing a Masters Degree in Political Science at the University of Toronto.


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