A child, but apparently not a child soldier


Stephen Harper explains his stance.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday he rejects the premise that Omar Khadr was a “child soldier” because the young Canadian was not a member of an army when he was accused a lobbing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier…

Harper’s assertion that the government’s “legal position” is that Khadr was not a child soldier is bound to anger supporters of Guantanamo’s youngest and only Western detainee.

“My understanding of international law is, to be a child soldier, you have to be in an army,” he said in the pre-taped interview.

This, interestingly enough, would seem to finesse the position of this government’s own lawyers.

Indeed, Mr. Harper’s position would also seem to finesse that of his own government. Consider this from Laurie Hawn, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Defence, during debate on June 9 of last year.

In light of the fact that Mr. Khadr was a minor at the time of his alleged offences, we have continuously demanded that the U.S. government take his age into account in all aspects of his detention, treatment, prosecution and potential sentencing, in particular, demanding that he not be subject to the death penalty.


A child, but apparently not a child soldier

  1. Un-freakin’-believable.


  2. “My understanding of international law is, to be a child soldier, you have to be in an army”


    • …and correct.

      • Not according to the international community:

        The international Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and UNICEF have broader definitions than Harper does of what it means to be a child soldier..The coalition acknowledges on its website there is no “precise definition.” The international group, however, considers a child soldier to be anyone under 18 “who is a member of, or attached to, government armed forces or any other regular or irregular armed force or armed political group, whether or not an armed conflict exists.”

        UNICEF also defines a child soldier as anyone under 18 “who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity,” including cooks, porters, messengers, and minors forced into marriage or recruited for forced sexual purposes.

        Harper and his Conservative government’s “legal position” is his version; apparently the international version is entirely too uncomfortably compatible with Omar Khadr’s, so he’s disregarding it.

        • The international position is entirely clear. Harper is refusing its recognition because it does not fit with his arcane personal ideology. Further, it is clear that we treat children who commit crime differently than adults (18>/). There is no legally rational room to maneuver here. His ‘legal’ position is akin to Bush’s on water boarding. Forced and fabricated to serve a particular ideological world view.

      • The definition is not clear. I suppose in some circles this lets Harper off the hook. This is an arguement over semantics and SH is determined to allways invoke what he sees as the letter of the law, but never its spirit. Harper’s idea of generousity seems to only extend to those he deems deserving of it.

    • So what do we do with kids who are trained to hate and kill?

  3. Canadian war cemeteries in France are the final resting place for many “child soldiers” (16 and 17 years old) who fought and died for Canada in two world wars.

    • And your point is…?

      • My point is that “child soldier” is a loaded term that is meaningless without context. Look at the horrible plight of child soldiers in Africa, which in my view does not get enough attention from the West. I don’t think that Omar’s experience is comparable to the millions of innocent African children abducted from their families and turned into killers.

        • Do you have any children?

          • Why do you ask?

          • Why do you ask?

            Because I’m nosy.

            Never mind.

      • That he’s responsible for his actions.

        • A kid is “recruited” (see brainwashed) at 13 and captured at 15 is responsible for his actions?

          • Technically, Omar was brainwashed by his family since birth. When he was ten years old, he even played with Osama Bin Laden’s kids at the OBL compound in Afghanistan in 1996, after his father, Ahmed Khadr, moved the family there.

        • According to Harper, a 15 year-old isn’t even responsible enough to have sex.

          I love how Conservatives can interpret reality to support whatever argument they’re making.

  4. Is there anything that isn’t a political football to this man? Can there be any doubt that if there was any chance of a political advantage Khadr would not now be sitting in Cuba!

    • Rest assured that If Maher Arar had been renditioned to Syria while Harper was in power, he’d still be there, with no effort to get him back. The comments of the then-Alliance Party by Harper, Day and others calling Arar a “terrorist” when he hasnt even been charged with anything, and their willingness to take the US at its word is more then ample evidence of that.

      • yeah, iv’e always thought that liberals had a patent on self- righteous, but they were rank amateurs compared to these guys. I’ve always believed that fanatics are not fire-proof and sooner or later they torch themselves. I guess we’ll see.

    • What do you mean? Harper’s position on Khadr has never changed. What you are describing is the typical Liberal. Harper’s foreign policy has been consistent from day one. There is no basis in Canadian law, international law, or American law for returning a terrorist to Canada.

      I can assure you that any other 15 year old who happened to travel around the world in order to kill people on a foreign battlefield would be treated the same way.

      • Don’t forget that you only become a terrorist on your 18th birthday. Before that, you’re an victim.

        • Assuming you’re being ironical, when, pray, do you become a terrorist? Are you a terrorist if your mother packs your lunchbox with TNT at age 7? 10? 12? When does the sarcasm kick in?

          • I have no idea when you become a terrorist. It really is a morally grey area, as are many areas of criminal law involving children.

            The 15-year old version of myself would have had no problem with the idea that the 15-year old Khadr was responsible for his actions. Now, I ‘m not so sure.

        • “a” victim. Sheesh.

      • I don’t believe that , not anymore. SH’s record is that every thing is political. if there was a political advantage for him Kadr would be outa there. My main issue is not political but comman, human decency. Why can’t you or H concede that a 15yr old may not be as fully responsible for his actions, especially if he had the kind of father Omar had, as say a 20yr old who makes the same choices?
        Sf, would you automatically condemn the child of an alcoholic for whatever. This isn’t an excuse, it’s just the way the world is.

        • I refuse to agree with your assertion that he thinks everything is political. If that were true, the leftists would not be frothing at the mouth all the time. Harper is a conservative. He is a politician to achieve his conservative ideals, just like any other politician attempts to reach his ideals (whether for principles, money, power, whatever).

          Harper, like any other leader in a minority government, is willing to compromise to get what he wants. He is willing to strategize, to give up one thing to get another, to use procedure, to change tactics. All of this is to achieve what he believes in.

          He is not willing to compromise on Khadr, because
          1- he does not believe in returning terrorists to Canada and
          2- there is no benefit to be had compromising on the position he believes in.

          For the sake of argument, would he return Khadr to Canada in exchange for world peace and an end to all famines on earth? Of course.

          Does he have the slightest inkling that returning to Khadr is the right thing to do? Not the slightest. It is the wrong thing to do, that is what he believes and that is what I believe.

          • Sf
            Take a look at yr pt 2. If that isn’t political, i don’t know what is. There is no benefit because his base support doesn’t want Khadr back. It’s that simple. In a nutshell it’s why i despise all pols. Occasionally a real leader comes along who does the right thing for the right reasons, not political. Harper is not that man.

      • I can assure you that any other 15 year old who happened to travel around the world in order to kill people on a foreign battlefield would be treated the same way.

        On what evidence do you base this assertion?

        (I start asking that when the rightwing blowhards go completely off the spool. I’ve yet to have that question answered).

      • I can assure you that any other 15 year old who happened to travel around the world in order to kill people on a foreign battlefield would be treated the same way.

        Actually, sf, I wager that against any other target besides the US/NATO/Aussie military, a 15-year old who happened to travel around the world in order to kill people on a foreign battlefield, and was seriously wounded on same, would soon be wondering why reality was 72 short of the promise.

        • would soon be wondering why reality was 72 short of the promise.

          72 what? Shrimp?

        • I agree, good point, he might consider himself lucky.

  5. This… man makes me ashamed of my country.

    • Yeah, but remember…most of us didn’t vote for his squalid party. He’s really the Accidental Prime Minister.

    • The same man makes me proud of my country. Funny how democracy works.

      • Chretien made me feel ashamed of my country.

        • Oh come off it. You types are incapable of real shame. It’s just that passive-aggressive way of being extremely insulting without having to reference anything specific.

          You can’t tell me you’re proud of how Harper stood in the House of Commons and recited a plagiarised speech in support of the illegal, immoral invasion that Chretien kept us out of? Now that was shameful.

          • funny how you leftys jump all over the place to try to make your limp wristed point…no we are on about speeches…i have an idea ti-guy…why dont you call harper and tell him the little terrorist can live with you?

  6. Law is one of Harper’s weaker prime ministerial points (remember, he is the first PM since Clark to not be a lawyer). He doesn’t really have a grasp of it beyond the Calgary School approach, which is mainly political science than an actual approach to real jurisprudence. He was also mistaken about the nature of gay marriage in comments he made soon after the court’s decision.

    • Law is now tied with economics in areas where Harper is weak on. While he studied one but failed to make a living at it, the other he’s just in charge of sketching out new ones. Like set-election dates.
      Perhaps Harper can preface his next prattling on this subject with a “it’s a good time to buy” prompt…

      • And you preferred “Da proof is da proof”?

    • I really respect the Liberals’ grasp of the law, in which funneling payments to politicians and individuals through ad agencies is ok as long as there are separatists to be beaten. Or funneling money to hotel operators bordering really, really important golf courses. Good thing Chretien was a lawyer.

  7. SH is like the annoying guy who insists on a specific definition of a rule long after everyone else has ceased caring. You know what i mean. Most reasonable and rational people would by now conclude, like Spock, that a difference that makes no difference, is no difference. Khadr was a child soldier because he was under 18 at the time of the incident. Whether he was in a formal army is purely incidental. It doesn’t change his age or the fact that he was used and brainwashed just like many other such victims all over this sorry world. And yes he was a victim too – the sins of the fathers and all that fine stuff. It only matters in Harper’s eyes because it’s a political out for him. No uniform, no case, no political problem. We know by now that that’s all there is to this man, no firm principles, everything is subject to the law of expediency. And no heart!.

    • Don’t believe me re: the poliics? Then consider that this plays almost entirely to his base. It has nothing to do with any principle that this PM may have once held, you know, back when he used to be a conservative. Mr Harper would once have skerwerd say Martin for playing this sort of political game. But then he did come into politics to change it; seems like it’s him did the changing. We need a new broom.

  8. That’s like saying a child prostitute is not a child prostitute unless the child is in a brothel. Come on…a kid is a kid.