Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Omar Khadr's Settlement

The case of Omar Khadr has created a lot of upset in certain circles in Canada. As a teenager, Khadr was spirited off to Afghanistan, by his father, to take up the fight against the US military in that country. Clearly brain washed, Khadr was a 15 year old left by his father to fight a grown man's war. During a fire fight with American troops he stands accused (and convicted in the US) of throwing a grenade that killed a US combat medic. He was captured barely alive and, after having sustained severe wounds, including the loss of an eye, was spirited off to an the Bagram Air base. Here he was treated for his wounds, extensively interrogated, and then extradited to the infamous Gitmo prison in Cuba. That's the gist of the story that most Canadians associate with him.

That back story is not the reason Khadr just received $10.5 million dollars from the Canadian government, along with an official apology. It has absolutely nothing to do with it at all. The reason Khadr was compensated so lavishly in an arbitration settlement by the Canadian government was not to "reward a terrorist", as some politicians and self-interested groups are putting it. Far from it. The reason he received what he got was a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that the Canadian government had violated his Charter rights by using agents of CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Agency) to interrogate him in Cuba, who then passed that information to their US counterparts, which resulted in him remaining in a situation that not only violated the Geneva Convention, but also the Charter. The reason it violated the Charter was the participation of the Canadian government, against its own citizen, in a process that involved torture and suspension of any and all human rights.

This is from the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2010:


 "Canada actively participated in a process contrary to its international obligations and
contributed to K's ongoing detention as to deprive him of his right to liberty and security of the
person, guaranteed by section 7 of the Charter, not in accordance with the principles of     fundamental justice.... The Charter applies to the participation of the Canadian officials in a regime later found to be in violation of fundamental rights protected by international law....There is a sufficient connection between the government's participation in the illegal process and the deprivation of K's liberties and security of the person.

The interrogation of a youth without access to counsel, to elicit statements about serious criminal charges while knowing that the youth had been subjected to sleep deprivation and while knowing that the fruits of the interrogation would be shared with the prosecutors, offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth."

 I found it insightful, given the Supreme Court of Canada's finding in favour of Khadr, to view Khadr's submissions to the Court, which included a very disturbing excerpt from an interview conducted with him by CSIS agents. I place this in here to give the story some balance, and because it sheds a light on why the Supreme Court made the decision it did.

CSIS:  You look tired. Okay, so I brought you a burger. It’s very hot though. What’s
 happening?
OMAR:  [indiscernible]
CSIS:  Pardon me?
OMAR:  … something that’s very important, but I’m afraid to say it.
CSIS:  Okay, take your time and could you do me a favour today while we’re talking? Just
 make sure you talk nice and loud, so I can keep that air conditioning on so we’re cool.
OMAR:  There’s something that I’m scared to say.
DFAIT:  You don’t have to be scared of anything from us.
CSIS:  What are you scared to say?
OMAR:  Promise me you’re going to protect me.
CSIS:   Why don’t you just tell us what it is you have to say?
OMAR:  Promise me you are going to protect me from the Americans.
CSIS:  From the Americans?
OMAR:  Yes.
CSIS:  Okay, what’s going on with the Americans?
OMAR:  Promise me that you are going to protect me if I tell you.
CSIS:  Well we can’t protect you if we don’t know what it is that you have to say directly.
OMAR:  Promise me you’re going to protect me if I tell you.
CSIS:  Well, the only thing I’ll promise is that I’ll listen to you, and I’ll talk to the
 Americans for you here.
OMAR:  And after you go?
CSIS:  Pardon me?
OMAR:  And after you go?
CSIS:  And after I go, then I’ll listen to what you know, then I’ll come back and talk to you
 again. Make sure everything’s alright. Tell me what’s changed from yesterday.
OMAR:   I’m scared to tell you.
CSIS:   Well, I’ll tell you, there’s not much we can do, unless I know what you’re talking
 about.
OMAR:  Everything that I said to the Americans was not right, I just said that because they
 tortured me very badly in Bagram. So I had to say what I said.

The conversation shows, quite clearly, a terrified youth. It is important to remember that.

Now the Conservative Party, and some veterans among others, have spoken out publicly against any financial settlement with Khadr - this group also includes former Prime Minister Harper. Ironically, the Supreme Court found that it was the deliberate actions of the Harper government that led directly, and profoundly to the violation of Khadr's Charter rights. It was the political decision of the then Prime Minister to align himself completely and without hesitation to the American invasion of Afghanistan and other US military foreign interventions. The attitude that prevailed was that when it came to "terrorism" there were no boundaries restraining the western powers and how they responded. The Khadr story is simply a footnote of that policy. Essentially, the Harper government's policy was the end justified the means. That was the US policy as well, which resulted in torture being used against prisoners.

Bottom line is this, the ends do not justify the means. The Charter of Rights enshrines that very view. Our governments in Canada, federal and provincial, have their hands tied by the Charter so as not to violate the freedoms and rights we as Canadians take for granted. Those rights and freedoms are so much a part of who we are as a people that any violation of them is really a violation of us - or that is how it should be treated. Unfortunately, during the ongoing wars in the Middle East, Canadians have become numb in many cases, and fail to respect that people from the areas of war are just that - people. A really good example of this was the recent "celebration" of a Canadian soldier's sniper shot that killed an insurgent in Afghanistan. I was left with the very disturbing impression that Canadians viewed this "achievement" in the same way one might view the killing of an animal in a hunt. It is a reoccurring theme that has somehow permeated our core beliefs since the start of all these Middle Eastern wars - that people from this area are somehow "inhuman" and not viewed with the same humanness as say the soccer mom down the street. The Harper government's treatment fit that billing, and the Supreme Court of Canada saw it in that light.

As Canadians we've been here before. It wasn't that long ago that all people of Japanese ancestry were herded into concentration camps for the duration of the Second world War - in Canada. It wasn't that long ago that Aboriginal people were herded into residential schools - in Canada. We are not as Lilly white and pure as we like to see ourselves. We have a history of sacrificing other peoples rights to suit our own agendas - as ugly and disturbing as that is to admit. Omar Khadr is just the latest case of the ends justify the means. The latest victim. Luckily for Khadr we now have the Charter, which we did not back in the aforementioned cases, and he had recourse. He used that recourse. The Supreme Court of Canada agreed with him, and wholly condemned the federal government's actions.

Mr. Harper, and the rest of the people who believe the end justifies the means, and justice is allocated based on the colour of your skin, have been served a message by the highest court - the days of the ends justify the means are over. Nothing can be more serious for a citizen, other than death, than to have their dignity stripped from them by a government that violates the very code meant to protect them from such actions. It is the social contact of all humans across the planet - we agree to be governed by you within these limits. It's often referred to as a constitution. The federal government violated Khadr's and it paid the price for it. Not enough Canadians stood up against their government to stop it from happening, and so we will all pay that bill. No matter who you think you are, or what you think of another, you are only ever their equal, and the Charter ensures it stays that way. Thank God.    


8 comments:

  1. This is an excellent analysis. Very thoughtful. Good information, as well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Are there no boundaries then, for losing one's rights as a citizen? Kadhr was trained to use weapons and build IEDs for the side that the Americans (and we, as part of the coalition) were fighting. Is that not considered treason? The Harper government (albeit grudgingly) repatriated Kadhr. He is still a Canadian citizen. Is that not reward enough? The SCC ruled that his rights were violated, but did not in anyway suggest that he had to be compensated for that.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Excellent analysis - a couple of corrections worth noting. Khadr was taken to the Middle East by his father he was 10, not as a teenager. His trial was a kangaroo court which by international standards has been called a sham AND he was forced to make a guilty plea. Evidence presebted to the Court, verified by the SCC, indicates this was the only way he would be extradited to Canada. Failing which Khadr would have continued to rot in Guantanamo, tortured and etc.

    ReplyDelete
  4. In so stating,"Ironically, the Supreme Court found that it was the deliberate actions of the Harper government that led directly, and profoundly to the violation of Khadr's Charter rights." you imply, better yet, assert that Harper and his government consciously abrogated Kadhr's rights under The Charter. How could this be if Harper wasn't elected PM until January 2006, but the interrogations of Kahdr took place in February 2003 and the lawsuit initiated by Kahdr's grandmother in March 2004, with a Federal Court deciding against the Canadian government in Aug 2005? In other words, this matter was well underway under the direction of the Liberal government, although so many (politicians and bloggers alike) would like to pin it all on the Harper regime. Such assertions are disingenuous, to say the least.

    Secondly, the question remains, when does a citizen, by his / her actions, give up their rights as a citizen? This is the crux of this controversy, and reasonable people very well can disagree.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Every Canadianight should read this to get a more balanced perspective of the circumstances surrounding this situation.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Politics = Divide and Conquer.....remember this!

    ReplyDelete
  7. It was not just the US forces he and his father were fighting. Canada and other allied forces were also the target. Therefore, I proclaim that Khadr was attacking his own countrymen in an act of terrorism. This is a treasonous offence in my opinion and thus receive servers punishment. In my opinion our so called Charter is a worthless piece of parchment and our Supreme Court with all their "textbook" experience have a gross lack of understand of "real life" events!

    ReplyDelete

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