Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 144, Issue 20

Wednesday, December 5, 2007
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Foreign Affairs

United States—Release of Omar Khadr According to Provisions of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in regard to the optional protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Canada has not secured the release from Guantanamo Bay of Omar Khadr. The United States returned nine British nationals in 2004 and 2005. Mr. Khadr is the last remaining westerner among some 300 detainees in Guantanamo Bay, where he has been held for the last five years. Serious questions exist about the legality of the military process under which he is to be tried by the United States.

My question is: Will the Canadian government bring Omar Khadr home, as other countries have been able to do for their citizens, so that he can be dealt with under our justice system?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I will take the question as notice.

Senator Jaffer: This U.S. military trial contravenes the optional protocol on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The U.S. and Canada are both signatories. The U.S. ratified the convention on January 23, 2003, and Canada on February 12, 2002.

As a signatory to the convention, Canada has an obligation to ensure that the protocol is being applied to all its citizens. The UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict has raised concerns about the creation of an international precedent where an individual is being tried for war crimes with regard to alleged acts committed when he was a child. Omar Khadr was only 15 years old when he was captured by the U.S.

Can the honourable leader tell us what Canada’s specific obligations are under the optional protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and on what grounds our government is denying these obligations to Omar Khadr?

Additionally, what is the Canadian government doing to get the United States to honour this protocol with regard to this child?

Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for her question. As is well known, Mr. Khadr faces some very serious charges, and any questions related to plans for his release are premature. The legal process is unfolding as we speak.

With regard to the United States and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, I will take that question as notice.

Senator Jaffer: I ask the leader if she will brief us as to exactly what kind of help our government is giving to Omar Khadr to deal with these issues.

Senator LeBreton: I will take that question as notice as well.