Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 10

Thursday, February 12, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Foreign Affairs

Canada-United States Relations—Status of Omar Khadr

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. U.S. President Obama is moving quickly to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison, and is reshaping how his government prosecutes and questions al Qaeda, the Taliban or other foreign fighters who pose a threat to Americans. Emptying Guantanamo Bay of its 248 prisoners will be a large, overwhelming job. Does the minister not think that Canada should step up to assist the U.S. by offering to look after Omar Khadr, the only Canadian detained at Guantanamo Bay, especially in light of trying to further our friendship with the U.S.?

Americans do not want Guantanamo Bay detainees brought to American soil. We have an excellent justice system and the ability to look after our own. Why do we not agree to look after our own problem and make this offer next week to President Obama?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, my answer remains the same.


As we all know, the U.S. administration has recently taken the decision to proceed with the closure of Guantanamo Bay, to halt the judicial process and to evaluate each case. That was a decision everyone was expecting, no matter who won the election in the United States, because both Senator McCain and President Obama made that commitment during the campaign.

We, as the government, will await the outcome of these decisions of the American government, which were recently put forward by President Obama.

However, honourable senators, let us not forget that Mr. Khadr has been accused of serious crimes including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, material support for terrorism and spying, all in violation of the laws of war.

I do not anticipate that this matter will be high on the agenda of either leader. There is a judicial process in the United States and the government, and I, as a member of the government, cannot comment on a judicial process taking place in another country. If I were to do that, the honourable senator would be demanding that we apologize to the United States government for interfering with their judicial process.

Senator Jaffer: I agree with the leader that there is a judicial process, but it is my understanding — and I would like clarification from the leader — that the U.S. is trying to find ways to deal with this problem and is looking to its allies for assistance. Why can we not just look after our own problem and deal with Mr. Khadr? I agree that he has been accused of serious offences, but let us not forget that he was a 15-year-old child soldier. I am not suggesting that we set him free when he comes here. I am saying that we can deal with him within our justice system. Why do we not step up and do that?

Senator LeBreton: For clarification, honourable senators, Mr. Khadr was a child soldier when the Liberal Party formed the government. He is no longer a child.

The honourable senator claims that the U.S. government is seeking assistance from its allies. I do not know on what information the honourable senator bases that remark. They made a decision with regard to Guantanamo Bay, and it was not unexpected. Many people at Guantanamo Bay had never been charged, which was not the case with Mr. Khadr.

It is only reasonable that this government await the outcome of the processes taking place within the government of President Obama before taking any action. We must let their processes work and decide after that how to proceed.