Rae on Khadr

From Question Period this afternoon.

Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, to the minister, on the same subject, I hope the minister would agree that there is at least a chance that the American government will decide not to pursue the case again Mr. Khadr. In that case, would we not be wiser now to be negotiating with the United States for a supervised release of Mr. Khadr into Canada where he can be under supervision and under guidance rather than simply being released? Would that not be in the interests of the country?

Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I do not share my hon. colleague’s opinion on that. I think that what is in the interests of Canada is that we let the American government pursue the process that President Obama has commenced and when that process that is over with, we will be able to see what the outcome is.

Perhaps slightly more enlightening was Rae’s discussion with reporters after QP. Here are the English portions of that exchange.

Question: How do you think the Harper government should be preparing for the return?

Hon. Bob Rae: To me it’s an example of what’s wrong with ideological thinking and with narrow thinking and with partisan thinking.  The Conservatives have taken such a narrow position on this for so long that they don’t understand it’s in Mr. Khadr’s interest that he come back with some kind of supervision, some kind of guidance, within the structure of Canadian law.  And it’s in Canada’s interests that that happen as well. The risk, not the risk but the reality is, if we don’t do that Mr. Khadr will just come back.  We’re much better off having a legal framework in which that return takes place than not having a legal framework.

Question: What does that mean?

Hon. Bob Rae: Well, it means you’d have supervision in which you’d say the circumstances in which Mr. Khadr should be living, the kind of help that he should be getting.  I mean, he hasn’t been in school.  I mean, his whole upbringing.  There’s a lot of things that he’s missed completely.

He comes now to us as a 22 year old.  He’s blinded in one eye.  He’s got severe, he had severe physical injuries, also severe psychological trauma.  It makes a whole lot sense for us to be working hard to reintegrate Mr. Khadr in the framework of the law rather than just saying well, the Conservatives are playing the game saying we don’t want to touch this thing.  If he comes back, he comes back.  It’s not our political problem.

The fact is, it’s Canada’s responsibility to do this thing right and I don’t think the approach they’re taking is going to get it right.

Question : (inaudible)

Hon. Bob Rae: That doesn’t mean he’s not our responsibility or that one day Mr. Khadr won’t have a right to return to Canada.  He’s a Canadian citizen.  He was born in Toronto.  He’s going to return here.  We can’t just put our proverbial heads in the sand and pretend that the problem’s going to get better.  We have to take responsibility and we have to take the practical steps to make sure that we’re dealing with this in a way that is going to protect Mr. Khadr’s interests better and is also going to protect Canadian interests better.

Question: But how do you do that?  Mr. Khadr is a Canadian citizen.  If there’s nothing to charge him with then there’s no way for the government to hold him and therefore no way for them to force him to do anything.

Hon. Bob Rae: No-one’s talking . we’re talking about Mr. Khadr’s lawyers and Mr. Khadr at this moment, being very willing to enter into discussions with the government of Canada and being very willing to enter into other discussions with respect to his return.  Your point is well taken if you’re referring to what happens if he is simply, if the charges against him are simply dismissed or dropped or if the case takes another turn or twist in the United States.

We don’t know.  What I’m arguing is quite simple.  We’re better off and so is Mr. Khadr if we do this on a negotiated basis and do it now.

Question: But once he lands in Canada, I mean, he could turn around and say, Charter challenge.  You have no reason to force me to do anything.

Hon. Bob Rae: No.  This is part of a discussion that one would have with his counsel and with Mr. Khadr.  I have every reason to believe, having talked with his counsel today, that they’re very willing to enter into those discussions.

That last bit—about having spoken with Mr. Khadr’s counsel—are interesting given this news tonight.