I’ve always found the Omar Khadr story infuriating.

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That $10 million smile.

Khadr is, of course, the Canadian-born former child soldier (just 15 at the time) who was forced to join al-Queda by his despicable parents. His upbringing could be described as child abuse. His father was a pal of Osama bin Laden, and the family spent a lot of time in Pakistan and Afghanistan. One of his brothers told the CBC: “We are an al-Qaeda family”. A nice ‘thank you’ to Canada for taking them in.

Khadr was captured (and seriously wounded) in a fight in Afghanistan which killed an American soldier and gravely wounded another. Despite his age, Khadr was sent to the notorious Gitmo prison, and held for years after all other prisoners from other countries were returned to their homes. Khadr was subjected to brutal interrogation (without a lawyer) that amounted to torture, eventually confessing to throwing a grenade that resulted in the soldier’s death. (He later recanted the confession.)

There is no doubt that the Canadian government was complicit in violating Khadr’s rights. The Supreme Court said so, twice. And taking into account the fact he was only 15, legally a child soldier, there’s no doubt in my mind that Khadr was handled in a disgraceful manner by the government. Remember, had Khadr been charged with murder in Canada, as a 15-year-old he might have been charged as a juvenile, and there would have been a publication ban on his name.

Khadr’s lawyers sued the government for $20 million, a fanciful figure they certainly just pulled out of thin air. The Trudeau government this week settled for $10.5, and an apology. This is where things go off the rails.

Trudeau will carry the can for this, even though of all the politicians involved in this shameful episode, he is the least culpable. Khadr was captured and interrogated during the Jean Chretien/Paul Martin years, and he was deliberately kept in Gitmo, and demonized out of all proportion (the word “heinous” was used repeatedly) by Stephen Harper, for naked political reasons. Trudeau, in fact, is just cleaning up the mess left by previous governments; the Trudeau government had no choice but to respond to the suit, which was launched well before Trudeau took power.

Khadr and his lawyers saw a big payday in the offing with the suit, and it worked. Khadr deserves some compensation for this treatment post-capture, but $10.5 million?The figure seems to me to be grossly inflated; would a jury have given Khadr $10.5 million? Somehow, I doubt it, but the government’s lawyers clearly felt they could lose more in a trial, so they settled. Khadr now says he just wants to get on with his life, which is great. But if he really just wanted to put the whole thing behind him, why sue? The right thing to do would have been to drop the lawsuit, fade into the background and go on with his life, which most Canadians seemed willing to go along with. But the suit, and the $10.5 million, changes the equation. Now there is plenty of outrage over the settlement, and I’m not surprised. I hate the fact that Khadr (and his lawyers) are cashing a big cheque, but the government(s) messed up badly, for political reasons, and someone has to pay.

Turns out, it’s us.

Justin Trudeau, Superstar

The bloom may be off Justin Trudeau’s rose here in the Great White North, but clearly the prettiest PM is still hot stuff overseas.

Trudeau is travelling again, this time at the G12 summit. He stopped first in Dublin, where some members of the press swooned like love-sick school girls.

Columnist Jane Last wrote (apparently not tongue in cheek) “the Canadian prime minister appears to be, well, the perfect man.

“He makes politics look glamorous – and anybody standing next to him, basks in his glow.”  If that wasn’t enough, she wrote that Trudeau “is the kind of guy everyone wants to hang out with.”

He has charmed the socks off other world leaders. Donald Trump said Trudeau is doing “a spectacular job. Everybody loves him and they love him for a reason. So congratulations on the job you are doing.” As Donald Trump himself would say: FAKE NEWS!

But wait, there’s more.

“For the Canadians, you are all so lucky to have this man as prime minister. He has brought an incredible breath of fresh air, directness, commitment to the issues,” gushed World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Indian President Narendra Modi praised Trudeau’s interventions during a discussion on terrorism saying, “I’d also like to express my happiness in your interventions in the sessions we just had. The wavelength was the same, yours and mine.” And as the only youngster in the group, he was called upon to help figure out how to use their headsets and microphones during the summit. “Just ask Justin, Justin can show you,” German chancellor Angela Merkel told the leaders.

The Irish columnist may think Trudeau is a guy everybody wants to hang with, but there are a lot of people in Alberta who would just like to hang Trudeau, not hang out with him, after he forgot to mention Alberta in his Canada Day shout out to all the provinces. He immediately corrected himself, and apologized, but the damage had been done and a lot of Alberta trolls (and politicians, of course) immediately went into full umbrage mode. The only people who should be really angry are Alberta’s Liberal MPs – Randy Boissonault, Darshan Kang, Kent Hehr and Amarjeet Sohi.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Return of Stuff Happens, week 25: Khadr’s big payday a big pain for Trudeau

  1. I think you’ve summarized the government responsibility factor regarding the Omar Khadr saga accurately in noting that “of all the politicians involved in this shameful episode, he [Justin Trudeau] is the least culpable”. But should it turn out that the settlement arrangements were made such as they were in order to assist in shielding the payment to Khadr from claims arising from the US judgements, Justin, whether deservedly or not, will end up wearing the blame and ignominy for the whole stinking mess. Elements of his political opposition will make sure of that. And it’ll be easy. They’re already drooling at the prospect.

    I also concur with your assessment that Khadr should have forgone the opportunity of a lawsuit and faded out of public attention, or at least just sought an amount sufficient to cover what’s owed to his lawyers and limited to fees associated with the Charter issue. Moreover, in a recent interview he stated that it was his wish that one day he could walk down the street without attracting any notice. I’m afraid he’s blown that one. This war is never going to end.

  2. Khadr won 3 times in the SCC, not two. His constitutional rights were abrogated and harper in particular demonized him. I feel this summary of the situation published by the Toronto Star in March explains why hus lawyers launched the lawsuit and request for apology:

    https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/03/19/omar-khadrs-lawyers-say-its-time-for-the-government-to–apologize-to-him-and-settle-suit.html

    I’m not impressed at all with your conclusion that Khadr should just fade away like a good little polite Canadian boy and disappear from sight, so we won’t have to be ashamed at the way we treated him. If he doesn’t get a settlement, how’s he going to live? Nobody will hire him because frankly the Canadian public at large is so woefully underinformed on him and even basic news in general that our minds are made up. Guilty. Ten years in Gitmo with abuse and torture, feeling forced to confess to end the pain? Plus he’s brown and Muslim and we’re racists at heart, look at the Indigenous file; that’s why we just want him to go away so he doesn’t remind us what an uptight country we really are. Does carding exist in Edmonton? The police go through gyrations justifying it. Hah If Khadrhad been white, no problem.

    For those who do follow events, I’d point out that the US invasion of Iraq was illegal, based on wooooh WMDs the UN weapons inspectors said were not there, and proved not to be. The US has not formally declared war against anyone since WW2, but invades all the time just because, and then we get the US media assault and forget the basics because the constant droning of US propaganda dulls the mind.

    If the US had formally declared war on Iraq, then they might, just might, have been justified in laying war crime charges against Khadr, but as a child combatant? No. That goes against UN policy. As it was, an illegal invading force, paid mercenaries in effect, rampaging around killing over a million people in the end, has the sheer effrontery to charge someone who killed one of their illegally present soldiers. They did it because they were just a big bully and could – who was going to stop them? They also set up an extra-judicial nightmare in Gitmo.

    So what should we compensate Khadr? A buck 29, and go away and be happy? Sheer hypocrisy if he isn’t given the apology and compensation for the fact that we let the US arrest a child, incarcerate him, torture him and our government sat on its hands the whole while and disowned him. We’re paying, yes, because Mr Tougas, the government is us. And the SCC found us in the wrong. All you’re saying is, it’s too much.

    Rubbish.

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