When the Prime Minister won't explain himself - Macleans.ca

When the Prime Minister won’t explain himself

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Chris Selley finds someone willing to attempt an explanation of Stephen Harper’s position on Omar Khadr.

That wasn’t so hard, was it? It doesn’t change my opinion about Harper’s statement, mind you, or about Khadr. Since there is no hard-and-fast definition of child soldier, there’s nothing about the army or not-army status of the group Khadr was fighting for that would preclude Canada from treating him as a child soldier if it decided it should do so, which I think it should, because prohibitions against child soldiering don’t strike me as things governments should strive to interpret as narrowly as possible. But Harper brought it up, not Anglin. I merely asked if he could make the legal case, since the PMO wasn’t so inclined, and there it is. I present it here in hopes of furthering honest debate on the subject, a cause in which the Prime Minister seems to have little interest.

In February 2007, Canada participated in the Paris conference on children and armed conflict that resulted in Paris Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated With Armed Forces or Armed Groups. A consolidated version of the commitments made is here. The full extent of the agreement is here.

Included in those commitments is the following.

In particular, we commit ourselves … to ensure that children under 18 years of age who are or who have been unlawfully recruited or used by armed forces or groups and are accused of crimes against international law are considered primarily as victims of violations against international law and not only as alleged perpetrators. They should be treated in accordance with international standards for juvenile justice, such as in a framework of restorative justice and social rehabilitation.