47

The Commons: ‘This is a joke’

What happened in the House when the debate shifted to Omar Khadr


 

The Scene. After the House had finished discussing the American President’s upcoming visit, environmental regulations, funding for the arts, the aerospace industry, military contracts and the rights of women to fair and equal pay, the Bloc Quebecois’ Paul Crete rose to once again press the case of Omar Khadr.

“We are talking about a child soldier,” he said, “imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for more than six years and subjected to torture.”

Would the Prime Minister, Crete asked, commit to discuss the matter when he meets with Barack Obama next week?

Mr. Harper remained in his seat. The chair to his right, usually occupied by Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, was empty. So to address this serious matter, the Conservatives sent up Deepak Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs and a voracious reader.

“Mr. Speaker, our position regarding Mr. Khadr remains unchanged. Mr. Khadr faces serious charges that include murder, attempted murder and terrorism,” he said as he has said so many times before. “We continue to closely monitor this situation, including the work of the American committee formed to study the fate of the detainees, including Mr. Khadr. Any speculation is premature at this time.”

Though some will suggest that the handling of Mr. Khadr long ago descended to the level of farce, it was at precisely this moment that things turned from simply ridiculous to kind of sad.

Crete came back up, this time with a question about the International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, a pact entered into by some 96 countries, including Canada, in 2007. The United States, Crete reported, had so far declined to sign on. Would this government, he wondered, pressure President Obama to do so?

Mr. Obhrai stood with the response. “Mr. Speaker, let me say it again,” he said. “Our position regarding Mr. Khadr remains unchanged. Mr. Khadr faces serious charges, including murder. We continue to closely monitor the situation, including the work of the American committee formed by President Obama to study the fate of detainees, including Mr. Khadr.”

The Bloc benches descended into hysterics. Gilles Duceppe laughed uproariously.

Liberal Dominic LeBlanc stood and complimented Mr. Obhrai on his diction. The prospective attorney general, speaking in French, then laid out his question. Canada, he noted, had committed itself to the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In that regard, he asked, did this government believe that the American government had met the standards of the protocol in its treatment of Mr. Khadr?

Mr. Obhrai was ready with the answer. “Mr. Speaker, as I have stated, we continue to closely monitor the situation, including the work of the American committee formed by President Obama to look at the detainees, including Mr. Khadr,” he said. “Our position has not changed. Omar Khadr faces serious charges including the murder of a medic. We are aware. At this time any speculation is premature.”

“This is a joke!” chirped a voice from the Liberal side.

Perhaps concerned, given Mr. Obhrai’s earlier misunderstanding, that something was being lost in translation, LeBlanc switched to English.

“Mr. Speaker, perhaps I asked the wrong question,” he began.

The Conservatives mockingly cheered.

The Speaker called for order. “Whatever question the member is going to ask,” he said, “the parliamentary secretary has to be able to hear it.”

LeBlanc began again. “Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary did not answer the question,” he said. “Canada ratified the protocol on the convention of the rights of children. Does the minister believe the American government has respected the requirements of that protocol? President Obama believes they have not. Does the parliamentary secretary agree with President Obama, or does he still agree with President Bush?”

Obhrai managed here to summon a few of his own words. Granted, they didn’t make much sense when strung together, but still. “Mr. Speaker,” the parliamentary secretary huffed, “he should be asking the American government that question.”

Then back to the script. “Let me state the position of the government of Canada, not the government of America,” he continued. “The government of Canada continues to closely monitor the situation, including the work of the American committee formed by President Obama to look at the detainee issue, including Mr. Khadr’s issue. Again let me remind the member, Mr. Khadr faces serious charges including murder of a medic.”

The Conservatives jumped to their feet to salute Mr. Obhrai’s effort.

“You read it better the first time!” yelped a voice from the Liberal side.

The parliamentary secretary sat back down with a smile and a chuckle. From a couple seats over, Maxime Bernier leaned over and gave him a thumbs up.

The Stats. Arts funding, six questions. Aerospace, five questions. Canada-United States relations, the economy and military contracts, four questions each. Omar Khadr, three questions. The environment, forestry and pay equity, two questions each. Foreign affairs, the Olympics, Aboriginals, railways, Chuck Cadman, immigration and Bill Casey, one question each.

Stephen Harper, nine answers. James Moore, Tony Clement, Peter MacKay and Deepak Obhrai, four answers each. Stockwell Day, Denis Lebel, Vic Toews and Peter Van Loan, two answers each. Jim Prentice, Jim Flaherty, Leona Aglukkaq, Pierre Poilievre, Jason Kenney and Rob Merrifield, one answer each.


 

The Commons: ‘This is a joke’

  1. Know what would solve this problem?

    A single, national securities regulator.

    • This is nothing new in our parliament system. The liberals have done the same thing when they were in power. I’ve listened to Q.P.this afternoon,those questions were to trap the government in saying something they don’t want to say. So they just repeat the answer. I would much rather see what goes on in our parliament, then to see the fights that happens in other parts of the world.

      • ISSUE: Liberal PM lies to Canadian people.
        CONSERVATIVE RESPONSE: The Liberal Party is immoral!

        ISSUE: Conservative PM lies to Canadian people.
        CONSERVATIVE RESPONSE: The Liberal Party did the same thing!

  2. OK I’ll bite.

    “In the middle of an economic crisis, synchronized global recession, a crisis in some of the financial systems of the world, this is not the time to create new global entities, which would take months to get up and running, if not years,” Flaherty told reporters.

    The dwarf wasn’t talking about the single securities regulator but the quote still seems appropriate.

  3. Why does the Opposition bother to show up for QP? I know it’s been a joke for years but the Tories are now laughing at the very idea that the Government is accountable to Parliament.

    • What else can the Opposition do to earn their wages?

  4. Yes Yes QP is a joke…canned answers and faux outrage in the questions.

    This is news?

    The fact that Khadr wasnt and isnt a child soldier according to the trial of Charles Taylor has not made it to the Bloc yet.

    Back to QP…I do like the wrinkle used in good old Westminster. I believe every Wednesday is PM Questions….he will attend and spends the hour on his feet doing just that. Tends to be just the senior parliamentarians that get at him. Level of Q and A is higher.

    • Agreed about the level of discourse in the UK’s PM’s Questions. What I don’t understand is why it’s expected that the British PM will prepare for his grilling and offer substantial (or witty) answers, whereas our QP operates at such a low level. Any theory about the difference?

      • Perhaps the UK media would be more likely to run tape of the encounter described above. On a loop. For at least a day. Until the parties involved are, at the very least, embarrassed. Most of the Canadian public are unaware of this nonsense, and so there is little accountability.

        • And those that are aware, don’t care.

          For shame.

      • I honestly think that politicians in the UK have more respect for the venerable institution of Parliament.

      • The size of the UK parliament means you cannot always control your backbench. Lifers on the backbenches know that they do not have to be so scared of the whip, and consequently the government does not have iron control. Therefore they have to take things a little more seriously or face a revolt. Just an idea. Off the top of my head.

        • Traditions of excellence can be self-perpetuating; having more population and power as a draw doesn’t hurt.

      • One answer may be that there’s no stigma to being a well read and rounded individual in B

        • {I reall must get a mouse] – British politics. We continue here with a colonial attitude to pubic intellectuals. Sadly we still have a lot of growing up to do.

          • Aye.

          • "Sadly we still have a lot of growing up to do. "

            Not necessarily, but we probably have a lot of reading to do to catch up with the Brits. Nothing to do with colonialism. Everything to do with using our grey cells. Personally I prefer a culture that respects thought and intellectuals.

      • I may be wrong but doesn’t the UK PM and the House there operate on a more wide-angle lens? People can see their individual MP’s comportment as they actually attend in the House.

        Time to put the whole House on 24/7 surveillance. If it’s good enough for ordinary Canadians to be watched over, it’s good enough for Canadian-elected Parliamentarians. Right?

        • That would require Canadians to actually care about parliament.

          Hey, at least I could then see myself on CPAC more often!

    • I’m interested in the Charles Taylor reference. How does the Charles Taylor trial address Omar Khadr and the child soldier status. Did a quick search but nothing came up.

      • Charles Taylor was convicted of recruiting child soldiers in the international criminal court. The statute used to convict him stated that Child Soldiers were under the age of 15.

        To be fair there are some who disagree and would like to see the definition changed, but thats no different than many “laws” that people would like changed. The point is, the only conviction about recruitment and use of child soldiers that I am aware of, it was defintiely the first, sets the age as under 15 not 15 and under. I believe it is considered a War Crime.

        Omar Khadr was not a child soldier. And if he was then his mother hould be in fron the International Criminal court for contriibuting to it and the ICC shoudl be issuing warrants for any one of a number of Al Qeuada leaders (don’t hold your breath on that one)

        Re the PM’s QP. I think all of the points above are valid but I think that because it is THE time for PM’s questions then the PM gets especially prepared and knows it is his time, since the media and public take particular interest on that day. I think it is is about rising to the occassion along with a long tradition.

        Mind you the questions that get asked in canada are equally terrible, this applies to any of the parties when they are in opposition, all emotion and not logic, because thats what gets on Canadian media.

        • Here is a reference to another case…this might be the first one. I can dig more if required to actually find the statute referenced in Taylors charges, but I think this covers off the point.

          Child soldier charges in the first International Criminal Court case
          The Hague, 28 August 2006

          ICC-OTP-20060828-157-En

          Situation: Democratic Republic of the Congo
          Case: The Prosecutor vs. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo

          Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a former leader of a militia group at war in the North Eastern Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has been formally charged by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court with enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities. A confirmation hearing has been set for 28 September. If the charges are confirmed at this hearing, Lubanga’s case will be the first trial before the International Criminal Court and the first time that an individual has been brought before an international court solely on the basis of these crimes.

          http://www.icc-cpi.int/press/pressreleases/174.html

          • Thanks Stephen, I will need to take the time to familiarize my self with it and the ICC.

            At first glance this related to the Rome Statute which you correctly indicate apply the designation of child soldier to those under the age of 15.

            It should be noted that Canada is a signatory to optional protocol:
            http://www.undemocracy.com/A-RES-54-263.pdf

            Noting the adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court and, in particular, its inclusion as a
            war crime of conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years or using them to participate actively in hostilities in both international and non-international armed conflicts,

            Article 1: States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities.

            [This clearly puts the age at which someone is considered a child solder at under 18 under this protocol]

            Article 4. Armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a State should not, under any circumstances, recruit or use in hostilities persons under the age of 18 years.
            [Unlike what Mr. Harper indicated people in armed groups can be considered soldiers; The fact that he was pressed into service by an enemy does not change the fact that we should treat him as a child soldier]

            Article 6.3. States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons within their jurisdiction recruited or used in hostilities contrary to this Protocol are demobilized or otherwise released from service. States Parties shall, when necessary, accord to these persons all appropriate assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and their social reintegration.

            [Though the US is not a signatory Canada would seem to have a moral obligation to seek the demobilisation of someone pressed into service under 18 as it is a signatory to the act]

            Furthremore, the Cape Town Principles and Best Practices (though likely not binding, sets the bar higher):

            http://www.unicef.org/emerg/files/Cape_Town_Principles(1).pdf

            – All persons under the age of 18 should be demobilized from any kind of regular or irregular armed
            force or armed group.
            – Special assistance and protection measures must betaken on behalf of children and those adults who
            were recruited as children.

            All said and told Canada has taken it on voluntarily to be held to a higher standard than the Rome Statute. I’m not sure what the legal implications of this would be at the ICC though.

    • Agree with you stephen…… but I don’t see much difference during the election during the debates either…. no matter the questions they use the talking points for whatever answer they feel like giving.

      So if we elect them (and they all do it) after they do it… why should QP be any better?

      And what value does QP actually have… its for soundbites… real accountability comes out of committees and meetings and votes.

  5. About the Kdahr issue..The fact of the matter is this kid is a Canadian. The manner in which he became a Canadian is of no consequence to me…. HE IS A CANADIAN.
    Bring him home and let us deal with his guilt or innocence. He is now held in an illegal detention compound in a foreign Country with no rights to a fair trial. No Canadian should be left behind. Americans don’t leave Americans behind and nor should we.

    Just imagine if this kid was your son, father, or close relative…how would you feel then about this kid’s situation. Canadians should not be leaving Canadians behind or to be left to rot in obscurity. If he is guilty of something let our courts decide his fate.
    As a matter of fact he, according to our laws, is not guilty of anything until proven otherwise.

    Even though it probably is a movie based on fact or not, you might want to view this movie. It is called “RENDITION” it might change your mind about things.

    • If he was my son, I would tell them to keep him. He is a fanatical terrorist and I would no longer consider him my son after such shameful acts.
      I would be saying the same thing if I was the father of the victims.

      • What would you say about this guy? Major Harry ‘Psycho’ Schmidt? Remember the story of the first 4 Canadians that were killed in Afghanistan? Friendly fire bombs were dropped on them. Terror comes in many ways and fashions. Just imagine the terror that existed among the adjacent soldiers and others when that occurred.

        Major Harry ‘Psycho’ Schmidt. The pilot who actually dropped the bomb – he escalates from one increasingly bizarre justification for his action to another, and he remains obstinately unrepentant to the end. (copied text)

        The bombs were dropped all the while circumventing the rules of engagement.

        However, this man had a fair trial in his own country. Have you anything intelligent to say about this?

  6. I’ll go one further than the random Liberal who shouted ‘This is a joke.’ This is a joke delivered by a comedy troupe that doesn’t recognise that, no matter how often you repeat the punch line, it’s just not funny.

  7. The Charles Taylor prosecution has nothing to do with the Omar Khadr case.

    The Child Soldier Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits all states from recruiting children under the age of 18 (eighteen) in hostilities, and indeed requires all states to actively prevent this from happening. Article 7 also requires states to assist in the rehabilitation and reintegration of child soldiers under 18. Further the CRC itself provides that :”No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.”

    In contrast, Article 8(2)(b)(xxvi) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court applied in the Charles Taylor case makes it a war crime to enlist or conscript children under 15 into the armed forces or to use them to participate in hostilities.

    There is a difference between the legal prohibition against recruiting child soldiers and convicting someone for a war crime.

    Omar Khadr was a child soldier. The law recognizes that he was a victim of the local militia groups, not a member of them, and Canada and the US both have obligations arising from that status.

    And BTW, Harper’s view that Khadr was not a child solider because he was not part of a regular army is laughable. Even the Charles Taylor example refutes this nonsensical idea. Harper either gets no legal advice or his “lawyers” are just politicians with law degrees.

    • The point of Taylor and Dyilo is that when there has been a prosecution the statute used to define Child Soldiers is under 15. That is the working definition being used fir conviction.

      So Khadr’s defenders waltz around saying he is a Child Soldier….well there are lots of attempted definitions, lots of different treaties. But lets use the one that people are actually convicted under, since that seems to be the one in force.

      You cannot have it both ways, he either was or he wasnt. If we go by the International Criminal Court then he wasnt. Imagine the argument, he was a child soldier, but then we go to prosecute whoever recruited and used him and the case falls apart because he wasnt.

      The US, which is the aggreived party in this case, has a law and has signed treaties for under 15.

      Khadr is a pitiable human being in a pitiable situation, but tell me why that makes any difference for him having to face his situation. The excuse used is that he was a child soldier and therefore deserved special treatment, if this were true I would agree, but he is not. He was captured on a battlefield and reasonably assumed to be a combatant….he certainly had been in the past if not in the specific situation where the US medic was killed.

      As soon as the US decides what to do with him, drop charges, proceed and then declare his innocence or guilt then Canada can take him back under those circumstances. Prior to that there is no reason to bring him back, the US has to make the decision. He gets visits from Canadian diplomatic staff, as is his right as a Canadian.

      And as for his rehabilitiation…..the idea that a moderate mosque would guide him….well I think maybe we might want to consider the possibility that the last thing this kid needs is more religon. I would rather let a secular psychiatrist make the assessment. His family have forfeited any rights to have any say over his treatment, given that they are the cause.

      • The Americans are willing to give him back to Canada. The only stipulation is that Canada must ask for him, which is not being currently done. That’s my understanding of it anyway.

      • You make a compelling argument, except that other western countries repatriated their citizens held at Guantanamo. I don’t know how/under what laws or anything, but it is clearly possible for Canada to do or have done that.

        Also, I rather like the idea of charging Omar’s parents (mother), although as you say, only if the law in force is the optional protocol, not the Rome Statute. Certainly without charges being laid against her, the Canadian government cannot impose restrictions upon her seeing her son. (Unless he is convicted of something and denied visitors, at least.)

        Can a moderate mosque not guide him while he is under the care of a secular psychiatrist?

  8. Omar was never a soldier – just the opposite – instead he is a trained terrorist – a cowardly bunch of outlaws who target innocent people. He is currently charged with killing a Medic, he belongs to a well known terrorist family, he has not given any indication that he will change his views on returning to Canada. There is no doubt in many Canadians’ minds that Omar must remain in the US to face justice.

    Pat

  9. Are your statements facts? or are your accusations personal perceptions?

    If the accusations you make can be substantiated then bring them to a court of law, if and when a trial is had. The point is he is a Canadian as much as you and I and deserves the same treatment expected by you and I. If your perceptions are wrong and this person is vindicated at some point, what would you say then?

    A lot of people were accusing Mr. Arar about a lot of things that turned out to be incorrect – until he was legally vindicated.

    • Good points. The statements I make about Omar’s charges are fact. However, these are charges, and I agree that these charges have to be proven. Thats why, like alot of Canadians, I’m just saying that Omar should go to trial to face the charges before returning to Canada. Thats the only way he can be legally vindicated.

    • That’s just my point…..he hasn’t had a fair trial and he has been rotting in a cell in a foreign country for 7 years now based on questionable charges. He (a Canadian) should be repatriated to Canada so that a trial can happen ASAP. Then let the cards fall where they may. That fact doesn’t seem unreasonable does it?

  10. Perhaps if the governement bothered to listen to the question, or even attempt to learn the other official language of this country (as should all allophones), we wouldn’t have this problem.

  11. The chances that Omar is guilty are slim. In all probability it was friendly fire that killed the medic and they looked around for some one to blame and found Omar buried under ruble. That’s American jusice.

    • “The chances that Omar is guilty are slim”
      Are you kidding? The pictures of him handling explosives is what….Taliban kindergarten?

  12. The truth is that this is not really about the fact that Khadr is a Canadian citizen. Why would anyone in their right mind want to provide support for a member of Canada’s First Family of Terrorism?

    What it is really about is the majority of Canadians who dislike the United States (which in some cases borders on hatred) want to get back in any way to give the US a hard time. They have more support in this matter for this family of admitted supporters of Terrorism than support for our neighbours to the south.

    • The truth is that you are utterly, completely wrong. The Khadr family is not my favourite Canadian family, to be sure, but that has nothing to do with anything.

      What this has to do with is Canadians standing up for laws they profess to believe in. It’s a lot like free speech. If you only allow free speech to speeches you agree with, there is nothing free about it. Like you and this post, I will vigorously defend your right to write such idiotic garbage. As I will do for any Canadian incarcerated without a trial. Because I believe in due process. Now, if the Americans had given him a trial this would be a whole other thing. I could concentrate on the child soldier aspect or the torture aspect of the story, for instance.

      And I don’t hate the United States, at all. I love Canada more than I love the U.S., but that is how it should be and my American friends will agree with me. In the same way that they love the U.S. more than Canada–I don’t take offense at that because they SHOULD love their own country the best. But our love for our respective countries doesn’t blind us when one (or both) of those countries do something wrong. As in this case, when both countries are offside.

      But it is interesting to know that if a state ever holds you without a trial, you won’t mind.

      • You point of view of course is different than mine, however I respect your opinion. I am not prepared to get into a discussion on your point of view as I do not have the time nor the patience.

        As you see I am residing in another country. I do this part of the year. It has nothing to do with my love of Canada it is for other reasons.

        As for suggesting that I write idiotic garbage is uncalled for. Obviously anyone who with disagrees with you is an idiot, so unlike me you have no respect for someone else’s point of view.

        It is obvious to me, that if what I have written is idiotic, it would be safe to assume based on what you have written that this person is not unique and that you would probably believe that any Canadian Citizen accused in commiting a criminal offence in any country should be brought back to Canada to face the legal sytem here as in all other juristictions they would not receive fair treatment.

        Interesting…..

        • Kody?

          Regardless of who you are, of course everyone who disagrees with my opinion is an idiot, in my opinion. I would not expect (nor do I require) those idiots to share that opinion. It can get embarrassing when I change my opinion, it is true. :)

          But you are right in the assertion that I believe any Canadian citizen, held in any country WITHOUT A TRIAL, should be brought back here to face justice. Of course I also think a Canadian citizen should think long and hard before leaving this country for any reason whatsoever because of that, and because my thinking a thing doesn’t make it so.

          If you choose to go to a country where flogging, removal of a limb, or capital punishment are practiced, for example, and you have been convicted of a crime carrying such a sentence, I will not help you. Do you not see the difference between due process and ‘guilty because we say so’? If the trial is a joke, such as the one of that journalist in Iran, where they killed her before the trial and then concluded she was guilty afterwards based on absolutely nothing, I agreed with our government’s pressure and objections. Sadly, it didn’t change anything but our government was right for trying. Why is that different from this? Because of who the players were? Who gets to decide which Canadian citizen has the rights to Canadian rights and which don’t? Would your opinion change if the ‘decider’ had some kind of grudge against white men?

          • I think you need to consult medical help for your obsession with Kody.

      • Right on Jenn……..well said

    • Some more right wing ideological crap. We’re talking about the application of the same rights that every Canadian enjoys – and should be without any distinction, or cherry picked selections

      Your “dislike” statement of the U.S. by Canadians is absurd. It was the governing regime that the majority of Canadians had a problem with.

      The majority of Canadians despised the right wing philosophy and comportment of the recent outgoing U.S. government much like the majority of the American people, and most of the world did, including Canada. Just have a look now at the Canadian love in and admiration with President Obama and his government, It’s not the people, it’s the government and the application of it’s policies that were so despised.

      Nobody in their right mind in this Country supports terrorism, what the majority of Canadians do support are the rights and freedoms of individuals and not to the exclusion of others.

      Your statement is ridiculous, biased and downright non-Canadian, as far as I am concerned.

  13. We knew it all along. We have joke for a parliament. Suggest we feature them on “americas funniest videos”. Hope the world does not consider them Canadians. Lol

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