Cannon off base in stance on Khadr’s rights

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by admin on November 4, 2010

The Editor,

Omar Khadr was a 15-year-old, wounded Canadian child-soldier when he was captured by American forces in war-torn Afghanistan.

After seven years behind bars in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, he has been tried and found guilty of terrorism and war crimes in a American military court, with an American military judge and an American military jury.

Contrary to every international standard, he was not recognized as a child-soldier when captured, and confessions obtained under intimidation, mistreatment and possibly torture were ruled admissible in court.

Last August, my Wakefield doctor colleagues and I wrote a letter to express our concerns to Pontiac MP and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon.

Very politely, he wrote us back this month to defend the government’s more-or-less explicit approval of Khadr’s treatment. In particular, the minister said, “Canada has constantly assured itself that M. Khadr benefits from a regular application of the law.”

This is simply untrue. The Supreme Court of Canada said it very clearly in its January 2010 judgment: “Canada actively participated in a process contrary to its international human-rights obligations and contributed to Khadr’s ongoing detention so as to deprive him of his right to liberty and security of the person, guaranteed by s. 7 of the Charter, not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

Whether Khadr is, indeed, guilty or not is beside the point. Our MP’s stance is puzzling. High-intensity, back-room political manoeuvrings seem to be going on.

As a foreign affairs minister of Canada, Cannon obviously cannot do as he pleases in the administration of American military justice. But he should at least demand that Khadr’s status as a child-soldier be recognized.

As the Supreme Court of Canada stated, it is a question of fundamental justice.

Morency Duchastel

Wakefield, Quebec