What is this government's position on Guantanamo? - Macleans.ca

What is this government’s position on Guantanamo?

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Asked directly about it at today’s briefing, the Prime Minister’s Office declined comment.

Last June, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development tabled its report on Omar Khadr. Included in that were seven recommendations, as follows.

1. Recommends that the Government of Canada demand the immediate termination of Military Commission proceedings against Omar Khadr. 

2. Expresses its objection to the position stated by the United States that it reserves the right to detain Omar Khadr as an “enemy combatant” notwithstanding an acquittal or the possible termination of proceedings.  

3. Recommends that the Government of Canada demand Omar Khadr’s release from US custody at Guantanamo Bay to the custody of Canadian law enforcement officials as soon as practical.  

4. Calls on the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate, and, if warranted, prosecute Omar Khadr for offences under Canadian law. 

5. Recommends that the Government of Canada take such measures as are necessary to ensure that possible security concerns are appropriately and adequately addressed upon the repatriation of Omar Khadr.  

6. Calls on the Government of Canada to take appropriate measures that are consistent with Canada’s obligations under Article 7 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and with Canadian law.  

7. In particular, the Subcommittee calls on the relevant  Canadian authorities to ensure that an appropriate rehabilitation and reintegration program is developed for Omar Khadr, which takes into account legitimate security concerns. To the extent necessary, such a program could place judicially enforceable conditions on Omar Khadr’s conduct.

Attached to that report, though, was a dissenting opinion from the government. And at least one section of that seems particularly noteworthy under the circumstances.

Attempting to argue that Michael Ignatieff and Barack Obama are hardly well-positioned for future friendship, the erudite Tim Powers raises the former’s well-noted wrestling with the unruly matters of torture and civil liberties and terrorism.

Here then, from that dissenting opinion, is the government’s position.

Individual Liberties versus International Obligations to Security  

The government anticipated that the final report and recommendations of the Subcommittee would reflect both the legal considerations associated with the Khadr case as well as Canada’s obligations to the international community.  Canada is a proponent of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, a signatory on multiple anti-terrorism conventions, and a supporter of countless U.N. General Assembly resolutions condemning terrorism.  As such, it is important that a balance be struck between individual rights and national security considerations – not to mention obligations to the international struggle against terrorism. 

Compare and contrast that with this, from President Obama’s inaugural address.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake…

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.