Dennis Edney, the lawyer who has represented Omar Khadr for more than a decade, says if Justin Trudeau wants to signal a shift away from Stephen Harper's approach to civil liberties, the incoming Liberal government should drop its appeal of an Alberta judge's decision to grant Khadr bail.
"If they did that, that would be a very strong message," Edney said.
- Omar Khadr granted bail, but federal government to appeal
- Conservatives spent more than $4.7 million fighting 15 losing court cases
No date has yet been set for that appeal of the April ruling that saw Khadr, now 28, released into Edney's care while awaiting his own appeal of his U.S. military court conviction for war crimes.
Edney, in Montreal Wednesday to give a talk at McGill University's law faculty on the theme "The Rule of Law in an Age of Fear", told CBC's Daybreak the approach of the Liberal government under Jean Chrétien was no better back in 2002.
He said the Chrétien government should have stepped in on the teen-aged Canadian's behalf when he was arrested and charged with war crimes while fighting in Afghanistan as a teenager.
"Instead of intervening with the Americans when [Khadr] was 15, they abandoned him. And that was followed by the Harper government," Edney said. "So there is an obligation for the new government to take a different approach."
Toronto-born Khadr, now 28, spent 13 years behind bars, including a decade in Guantanamo Bay. He is now living with Edney and his family at their home in Edmonton.
Here are other excerpts from Edney's interview with CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty:
You said before that the Harper government doesn't like Muslims. Do you stand by this?
Yes. We saw that in the past election, in the way we invite Christian refugees from Syria, but not Muslims, in the treatment of a boy who was locked away in place that's beyond rule of law and known as a torture place.
Harper did nothing to help, even though he's obligated under international law to speak on behalf of Canadian citizens.
Why are you drawn to Omar Khadr?
The first time I saw him, I never thought in my life I'd be in a torture centre.
I never thought that when I walked into that cold windowless cell, I'd see a child chained to the floor with all kinds of injuries in a cell so cold you might as well sleep in refrigerator.
I went in as a lawyer and left as a sad father. My children were at home with their mother in security, and here was a child abandoned by everybody.
What's he like to live with?
He's delightful. He said that he wants to be a doctor. He wants to make sure no one is abused the way he's been abused.
Your legal costs are huge. Where can people go if they want to help?
There's the FreeOmar site. It's run by wonderful people who have stepped up to assist me in a variety of ways. It's been a long and sometimes lonely journey, and these are the people to speak to.