Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
2nd Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 144, Issue 71
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Case of Omar Khadr
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, on April 15, I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Prime Minister personally received information from his officials about the conditions in which Omar Khadr was being held.
The minister told me that she would ask the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for the information and give me an answer. Given everything that is happening and how urgently we need an answer about the case of Omar Khadr — because the case is going to trial — can the minister confirm that the Prime Minister is receiving specific information about this case and making decisions about it?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I will have to check my response to the honourable senator because I have always been quite consistent, as has the government, in answering questions in regard to Mr. Omar Khadr.
Nothing has changed since I answered the honourable senator’s last questions about Mr. Khadr. While I did see the report last night on the CBC, I have nothing to add at this time.
It is true that the government is monitoring this case, as I have said in this place before. It was evident from last night’s report that there are some serious charges involved. Obviously, some people have a different view of the situation.
As the honourable senator knows, the Supreme Court made a decision, although from my understanding, Mr. Khadr’s lawyers were not totally satisfied with many of the other recommendations. The government will decide on any further action after it has had a chance to look at the decision and review what the court has said.
Senator Dallaire: I must come back to the Leader of the Government, who initially said that nothing has changed since my query. However, the judge who threatened to bring forward some of the information that was required for the trial was summarily fired and has just recently been replaced. The Supreme Court of Canada, to which I will refer more fully than my colleague did when he made his presentation, said that the process in place at Guantanamo Bay, where Mr. Khadr has been detained, violates U.S. domestic law and international human rights obligations to which Canada subscribes.
Then we have the Supreme Court of the United States for the third time taking on Guantanamo Bay as an institution, saying it is illegal and inappropriate and there should be due process.
With all of that, and given that it involves a child soldier, that we signed the convention, that there is international law, that there is some guy in front of the International Criminal Court who has been using child soldiers and that everyone else has agreed that we not put him through a judicial process but that we rehabilitate and reintegrate him, what is holding us back from implementing everything that we have agreed to historically, when in fact it involves a Canadian?
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for the question. He is citing actions of a court of law of another country. He would not expect me to comment on the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States.
The government is aware of the actions of the court. I was referring, of course, to the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada.
I must point out to the honourable senator that even prior to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, the government had provided approximately 3,000 documents to Mr. Khadr’s counsel, so there has been cooperation from the government to Mr. Khadr’s counsel.
How the United States eventually resolves the issue of Guantanamo Bay is for the United States to decide. That is not an issue for the Canadian government to decide.
Senator Dallaire: I take from the leader’s words that the Canadian government agrees completely with the process that is in existence in Guantanamo Bay against all references and conventions. The Government of Canada agrees that it is due process and that it is just that the U.S. has kept this boy in jail for six years. The Canadian government agrees that they extracted information from him in an illegal fashion and is proceeding with a process that has been deemed illegal in their own country. Even if we want to respect them, and in fact, their actions are going dead against conventions and rules of international law to which we subscribe, the leader still says we do not fiddle in someone else’s backyard.
He killed an American soldier, apparently, and that is in question.
Is it not the fact that it involves an ally, the United States, that we do not want to bring him home? Is it because we do not want to interfere with the war on terrorism, or are we putting that aside and letting ourselves be manipulated by a process that is illegal and ultimately will bring us down that same road of not following human rights, due process and civil liberties?
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator asks me if I agree; I totally disagree. It is very clear that Mr. Khadr is facing serious charges. He has been in Guantanamo Bay for quite some time. Under a previous government, according to reports, he was interviewed. They met him and interviewed him. It was a previous government that turned over the results of those interrogations to the Government of the United States; it was not this government.
“So what,” Senator Dallaire says. Where was the honourable senator when —
Senator Dallaire: Don’t you dare ask me where I was!
The Hon. the Speaker: Order.
Senator Dallaire: I could ask you where you were too.
Senator LeBreton: I was here, actually. I do not remember ever hearing the honourable senator asking a question about Omar Khadr when he was a member of the governing party.
However, as I have said before, this is a very serious case. There are very serious charges. The government is being very careful in the handling of this case. The government is monitoring the situation. As people have met with Mr. Khadr, we have every reason to believe that he has been properly treated and the process is under way in the United States.
I am well aware of the judge being removed from the case. I am not familiar with the ins and outs of the U.S. justice system, but this matter is before the U.S. courts and I would say that we should let these legal processes and appeals that are under way proceed and hopefully come to some resolution on this matter.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I will tell the leader where I was. I was in this house and I did not ask questions because I felt that the U.S. government was dealing with Mr. Khadr fairly. In the last few years that has not been the case. We know that all Western governments have brought their citizens back to their countries. Why can we not bring Mr. Khadr back to this country and have him suffer the consequences for his actions here in our country and rehabilitate him? He is our child soldier.
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for her question. When she states that she was here and she understood that Mr. Khadr was being treated fairly by the U.S. government, nothing much has changed in terms of the charges against him. Certainly, as I mentioned a few moments ago, the government, even before the Supreme Court decision in this country, had turned over 3,000 pages of documents to Mr. Khadr’s counsel.
I do not know what transpired between the time that Mr. Khadr was sent to Guantanamo Bay and now, to all of a sudden have people say that for four years, from 2002 to 2006, he was being well treated or not being mistreated by the American authorities, and then after 2006 something changed and that he is being mistreated.
I do not follow the honourable senator’s logic. There has been much work done on this case by Mr. Khadr’s counsel, but the Canadian government — and it is the case with this government as with the government before — is satisfied that Mr. Khadr is being humanely and properly treated. There is an appeals process under way under the U.S. justice system. There is a serious charge involved. I do not think anyone denies that. Therefore, nothing much has changed except that it appears Mr. Khadr’s case has been getting more attention and seems to be working its way through the system.
Senator Jaffer: I wish to tell the leader what has changed.
We have found out that Mr. Khadr has been tortured; we have found out that the judge on his trial has been removed; and we have found out that Mr. Khadr is suffering ill health. Most importantly, all other Western countries have brought their citizens back to their countries. Why are we letting this young man down?
Senator LeBreton: There have been many reports on both sides. Some make the accusations of mistreatment; others counteract that. We as a government have a process in place for monitoring and checking on the well-being of Mr. Khadr, as had the honourable senator’s government before us. The show on CBC last night presented arguments on both sides. Some people thought he did not murder the American soldier and others thought he did. That is not for us to decide; that is for a court of law to decide. In this case, we should let the courts decide.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, the Leader of the Government in the Senate has raised the issue of logic. It seems to have been established in the trial that the action that took place during which Mr. Khadr is alleged to have committed homicide was a firefight. Do we agree that when there is a firefight between two opposing military forces that the forces who succeed in killing someone on the other side are to be charged with murder?
Senator LeBreton: I will not answer that question. In a conflict such as the case here, and in a condition of war, I will not comment. The fact is that this matter is before the courts of the United States. There is not much I or anyone can say. We should not be prejudging or commenting on a case that is presently before the courts. There are stories on all sides of this issue. Everyone can draw their own conclusions. The only people who can really sort out what is fact and what actually happened are judges in a court of law.