Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 36
Thursday, May 14, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Case of Omar Khadr
Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Conservative government has taken the position that Omar Khadr should be tried in the United States and is taking no steps to bring him back home, even though he is a child soldier. However, I understand that the government has always taken the position that Mr. Khadr is entitled to counsel of his choice.
The notion of counsel of his choice is now in jeopardy. Lieutenant Commander William Kuebler, who was defending Mr. Khadr, has been fired by his boss, and the federal court asked that he be reinstated. What is the Conservative government doing to ensure that Omar Khadr receives a fair trial?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): My answer on Mr. Khadr has not changed, honourable senators. As has been well stated, he does face serious charges, including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, material support for terrorism and spying, all in violation of the laws of war. He is accused of killing Sergeant Christopher Speer, an American medic in Afghanistan.
As honourable senators know, the U.S. administration has recently taken decisions to proceed with the closure of Guantanamo Bay, halt the judiciary process and evaluate each of the cases. Mr. Khadr’s case is in the paper even today.
President Obama has started a process, and we are respecting the President’s decision. We have decided to appeal the federal court decision. As the matter is currently under litigation, I will not and cannot make comments in specific reference to the honourable senator’s question.
Senator Jaffer: I did not ask about the court case at the moment. I asked what the government will do to provide assistance to Mr. Khadr so that he has counsel of his choice in the United States.
Senator LeBreton: This matter is in the U.S. judicial system. I am not certain what more I can say, but I will take that specific question as notice.
Senator Jaffer: May I ask something that is within the jurisdiction of the Conservative government? Are consular staff being provided to young Mr. Khadr, and exactly what kind of help is he receiving from Canada at this terrible time?
Senator LeBreton: Not to mention the terrible time for the family of Christopher Speer.
I will also take that question as notice.
In the past, I know that Mr. Khadr was visited and received consular assistance. I believe that is still the case, but I will seek clarification.
Senator Jaffer: I am very concerned with the way the leader is answering. In our great country, a person is innocent until proven guilty, and in our country, we provide assistance to Canadians abroad. I want to know exactly what kind of assistance we are providing to this young man.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I am repeatedly on the record explaining that Canadian officials have visited Mr. Khadr many times. They assured themselves that he was being well treated, and I have no reason to believe that that is not the case.
I reiterate that Mr. Khadr faces serious charges. This matter is being handled by the U.S. government. This used to be blamed on the previous administration. President Obama has indicated that Guantanamo will be closed.
This is a process that is under way in the United States, and we respect that. We must let the new Obama administration and the American judicial system decide how they will handle the cases of these prisoners before we start second guessing what President Obama and his administration will do.
I believe it is their right to handle cases like this that involve incidents with regard to their military.