Khadr ruling angers Conservatives and divides House

Federal government uses judge’s ruling to highlight its fight against terrorism


On news that Omar Khadr had been released on bail, the federal Conservative government moved quickly to use the development to position itself as tough on terrorists—and portray the opposition parties as lax.

“We are in fact disappointed with today’s decision and regret that a convicted terrorist has been allowed back into Canadian society without having served his full sentence,” said Conservative MP Roxanne James, who serves as parliamentary secretary to Public Safety Minister Steve Blaney.

With Blaney away from the House, James was responding in question period to one of those set-up queries from another member of the government caucus. Tory MP Laurie Hawn, a former Air Force officer, set the tone by prefacing his question to her on the court’s bail decision by declaring that Khadr came from a family of “proudly admitted terrorists.”

James built on Hawn’s premise. “Omar Ahmed Khadr admitted to heinous crimes, including the murder of American army medic, Sgt. Christopher Speer,” she said. “And he has admitted that his ideology has not changed.” She suggested the Liberals haven’t ruled out compensating Khadr for time he’s spent behind bars and asserted that the NDP actually support compensating him.

But neither opposition party was talking along those lines today.  “We said from the very beginning that Mr. Khadr’s case should be dealt with in Canada by Canadian law,” said NDP MP Randall Garrison, his party’s public safety critic. “The courts have made their decision and we think that we should respect that decision.”

Asked about the way the Conservatives were framing the news, Garrison added, “I said from the beginning that the government should stop trying to score cheap political points off this case and respect the court.”

Liberal MP Marc Garneau not only said his party respects the judge’s decision to grant bail, but also that Liberals think that was the right one. “The Liberal party respects the decision with respect to Omar Khadr. There have been conditions imposed on his bail; he will have to follow those conditions,” he said. “But we are satisfied that in this particular case the judge has made the correct decision and we must respect that decision.”

However, Garneau was careful to distance the Liberal party from the comments of Khadr’s lawyer, Dennis Edney, who told reporters he views Prime Minister Stephen Harper as “a bigot” who “doesn’t like Muslims.”

Asked about Edney’s remarks, Garneau said just outside the Commons, “I think it’s very dangerous to make those kinds of comments.”

The timing of the Khadr bail decision was interesting on Parliament Hill, since it came just a day after the House passed Bill C-51, the so-called Anti-Terrorism Act. The Conservatives’ controversial law was supported by the Liberals, but opposed by the NDP. Among other things, it will give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service new power to not just gather intelligence, its longtime role, but directly intervene to stop suspected terrorist plots.

Some legal experts had argued the law oversteps what’s needed to truly combat terrorism and raised serious civil liberties and privacy concerns. The Khadr case offers the government another chance to underscore the brand of extremism Harper says Bill C-51 was designed to thwart.

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Khadr ruling angers Conservatives and divides House

  1. Whether the Conservatives like it or not, Khadr’s release was done within the law. The law us based on evidence not speculstion. The question is whether his detention was within the law. He was clearly a child soldier, and shoukd have been pitied and rehabilited rather than imprisioned and torturEd. What he has to say in few days will be of great interest given all the denials from both the US and CAN governments.

    • Might you be reminded that Khadr only came back to Canada under Harper’s watch. It was Chretien’s Liberals that let the US send him to Gitmo, and didn’t lift a finger to get him back to Canada. It’s actually kinda funny hearing the Liberals try to criticize the government for doing now what they never did, but say is the right thing.

      • Yes, there is plenty blame to go around and the Liberals don’t have anything to hold over the current government. This situation was mishandled from the get go. Naturally the US soldier is going to speak out against this, vivtims iften do. This us why we have an impartial justice system, and in this case, it is working.

    • Was it an American issue grenade that killed the combat leader “medic”? If so, how did Omar Khadr happen to acquire it? Just askin’. Say if somebody tosses a grenade into your house and you (rather bravely) grab it and toss it back outside where it kills someone, are you guilty of murder? Again, just askin’? I remain very interested in that grenade and how it ever came to be in that civilian compound in the first place.

  2. Tough on terrorism or persecuting child soldiers? Just because the US government is a bunch of vindictive SOBs, does the CRAP have to be as well?

    • Controversial, but I think a bad decision with too many bleeding hearts cheering him on. I give great credence to Sgt Morris of the US Army (Retired) who was there when it happened and was aired on CBC this morning. . You should hear that evidence before you reach a decision.

  3. Bail isn’t mentioned anywhere in the International Transfer of Offenders Act or the Treaty Between Canada and the United States of America on the Execution of Penal Sentences. Article 4 of the Treaty provides that the “Receiving State shall have no jurisdiction over any proceedings, regardless of their form, intended to challenge, set aside, or otherwise modify convictions or sentences handed down in the Sending State.” The ITOA states that a transfer may not have the effect “of invalidating a guilty verdict rendered, or a sentence imposed, by a foreign entity. The verdict and the sentence, if any, are not subject to any appeal or other form of review in Canada.”
    There is no constitutionally enshrined right to bail, only the right to a reasonable opportunity to seek bail pending appeal as an aspect of fundamental justice. Once convicted, however, there is no longer any presumption of innocence and the onus is on the offender to show cause for why he or she should be released.
    With respect, Justices Ross and Bielby got it wrong. Their interpretation of both the Treaty and ITOA leads to illogical results inconsistent with the clear purposes behind their enactment and the intentions of the legislating bodies.
    First, the U.S.-Canada agreement over Khadr’s transfer to Canada to serve out his criminal sentence was conditional upon there being no prospect of appeal, and on the mutual understanding that Canada has no jurisdiction over any proceedings intended to challenge, modify or in any way review his sentence. Yet the Justices’ consideration and evaluation of the competing factors in Khadr’s bail hearing necessarily involved a review of the original conviction expressly prohibited by the governing statute, especially on the third branch of the test for bail pending appeal.
    An appeal does not deprive the original conviction and sentence of its legal effect. Simply determining that an appeal is not frivolous (the first branch, not a particularly onerous standard) does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the appeal is more likely than not to succeed. This is the standard of proof an offender must meet in order to satisfy the third branch of the test, whether judicial interim release would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Where the crimes are serious, for example involving murder, as in this case, the threshold is much higher.
    As Justice Wakeling notes:
    “Section 515(10) of the Criminal Code, the provision governing judicial interim release before trial, directs the court to consider the “apparent strength of the prosecutor’s case”. I see no reason why Parliament would consider this an important consideration only in a pre-trial bail application and not in a post-conviction bail application[42]. No logical explanation for such disparate treatment is apparent to me. Given that the applicant no longer enjoys the benefit of the presumption of innocence and is presumed to be guilty, the merits of the appeal should be a consideration of greater significance post-conviction.”
    In my view, judicial consideration of the “strength of the prosecutor’s case” and evaluation of the likelihood of success of the appeal is equivalent to a “review” of the conviction itself, which is expressly barred by clear and unambiguous provisions of the ITOA. Further, where, as in this case, the offender has pled guilty to the offences, even entertaining such a review brings the administration of justice into disrepute and undermines the fundamental principle of comity that informs the Canada-U.S. Treaty governing transfer of Canadian offenders.
    The U.S. criminal justice system, and especially military courts, have essentially the same requirements for acceptance of guilty pleas as under section 606 of the Criminal Code of Canada. It’s called a “providency inquiry”. Khadr knew what he was doing when he pled guilty, but it obviously serves his interests (and the furthering of his $20,000,000 ccivil claim against the Canadian government) to now claim that he only did so under duress.
    Finally, this is not a case where the governing law is antiquated and/or pre-dates the Charter-era, and the primary presumption of statutory interpretation is that the government does not make unconstitutional legislation. That ought to have been the starting point in this case.

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