Rae on Khadr


The shadow foreign affairs minister in an op-ed for the Post.

Prime Minister Harper seems determined to go down in history as the last defender of Guantanamo on the world stage. He is letting us down in the process. Canada was the first country to sign the Optional Protocol on child soldiers. The treaty still binds Canada, and we agreed at that time, among other things, that “armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a State cannot recruit or use in hostilities persons under the age of 18 years.” Canada agreed to rehabilitate and reintegrate these children.

Rae and the Bloc’s Paul Crete combined to throw four questions on the matter at Lawrence Cannon on Tuesday. Mr. Cannon notably avoided addressing Khadr’s status as a child soldier.

Full exchange after the jump.

Rae: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. President Obama has closed the prison in Guantanamo and suspended proceedings against Mr. Khadr. My question for the minister is simple. Mr. Khadr is a child soldier. Why is Canada not shouldering its responsibilities and bringing Mr. Khadr back to Canada?

Cannon: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Our position on Mr. Khadr remains unchanged. In fact, two previous Liberal governments took the same position. Mr. Khadr has been charged with serious crimes, including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism and spying. We are continuing to monitor the situation and the work of the American committee set up to consider the fate of the detainees in Guantanamo, including Mr. Khadr.

Rae: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Khadr was recruited at the age of 13. He was arrested at the age of 15. He has been incarcerated for nearly seven years. I wonder how the minister can, in all conscience, not recognize that while the position of the Government of Canada may be unchanged, regardless of the circumstances, the fact remains that the President of the United States, who we will be welcoming here shortly, has in fact carried out a whole series of changes. When will somebody turn the lights on over on that side of Parliament and recognize that the world is changing around them and that Canada needs to take its responsibility for one of our own citizens?

Cannon: Mr. Speaker, our position regarding Mr. Khadr remains unchanged. It is exactly the same position as two previous Liberal governments. The problem here is that no charges have been dropped against this individual, on the one hand. Where there is inconsistency is in the Liberal Party’s position. As a matter of fact, the leader of the Liberal Party would want to have this individual come back to Canada; whereas the hon. colleague who has just asked me the question, the member for Toronto Centre, would want to set up a special committee to look at this problem. So, what is the issue? In–

Crete: Mr. Speaker, this government’s lack of respect for the rights of young Omar Khadr, who is being held in Guantanamo, is despicable. The Prime Minister’s statement that in order to be a child soldier you have to be in a real army is not only ludicrous, but it is also contrary to international law. Will the government finally bring Omar Khadr ack to Canada, as numerous organizations such as Amnesty International and the Canadian Bar Association are asking?

Cannon: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. The Government of Canada has not changed its position. We have heard about and are well aware of the decisions that the new American president has made. We will continue to closely monitor any progress. We will not speculate on all of the aspects of the decisions that could be made by the American government as it continues its review. We are awaiting the Americans’ decision.

Crete: Mr. Speaker, the new President of the United States, Barack Obama, is going to close Guantanamo. Young Omar Khadr is the only western national being held in that prison. What is more, Canada has ratified the protocol on the rights of children involved in armed conflict. This government is losing credibility and continuing to say that the trial has to run its course, but the proceedings have been suspended. Omar Khadr must be brought back quickly. What is the government waiting for to bring this young man back to Canada?

Cannon: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Khadr was and is still charged with very serious crimes, including murder, attempted murder, spying and terrorism. The American authorities will be reviewing his case. Clearly, the wisest course of action is to wait for those authorities to make their decision.


Rae on Khadr

  1. Well – what do you know…the CPC / government hasn’t lost all its ideological principles after all…
    It seems it has retained some its high handed arrogance and my road or the high road principles

  2. Correct me if I am mistaken but didn’t we have a Liberal gov’t when Kahdr was over there fighting with Al Qaeda and picked up off a battlefield and shipped to GITMO then the policy was then handed over to the CPC who haven’t changed it as it was, is and will be the americans do their bit then when time runs out they will ask canada to pick up and pay for the mess – but now the LPC climb on their nice little high horse and make a political point or two. The absolute height of hypocrisy (in a way they should be ashamed of themselves using Khadr like this)

    • Wayne — spelled W-H-I-N-E.

      • Vescere bracis meis.

    • Yes, how dare Michael Ignatieff’s Official Opposition hold an opinion different from Paul Martin’s government. And how dare anyone who’s not a Tory EVER change their mind!

      I love how Stephen Harper can change his mind every five seconds, but no current Liberal MP is ever allowed to disagree with any former Liberal MP.

      THAT’s the height of hypocrisy.

  3. I think it’s abundantly clear that no decision is forthcoming. Apparently our government doesn’t think habeus corpus and due process are important.

  4. The lesson here is that the Tory government can change their minds at the drop of a hat and we should just except their pragmatism, but anything the Liberals thought three years ago when they were in government under a Prime Minster who’s now retired must continue to be the Liberal position until the Second Coming (and, also, anything the Liberals did while the Tories were in opposition was the right thing… they never really said so on many issues at the time, but in retrospect the Tories have decided that everything the Liberals did under Chretien and /or Martin was great, as long as that can be used as the justification (and often the ONLY justification) for them continuing in the former Liberal path).

    So Stephen Harper’s government can have a different position from Stephen Harper’s (slightly earlier*) government, but God forbid Michael Ignatieff’s opposition should hold an opinion contrary to that of Paul Martin’s government.

    (*by “slightly earlier” I mean, as little as “what he just told us last month…”)

    • I have tried to say this so many times. You summed it up well!

  5. Cannon is essentially saying “Clearly, the wisest course of action is to wait and see if the Americans are in favor of basic human rights and fundamental justice, at which point we can decide if we hold those values too.”


  6. To expect someone who has probably never experienced childhood himself, it would be as surprising to expect Harper to understand the insecurities of childhood as it would to expect him to be humble, warm and wise.