Thursday February 05, 2015

Christian university in Edmonton offers spot to Omar Khadr

Listen 6:16

Omar Khadr. CP/HO-Bowden Institution

The King's University in Edmonton, Alberta, describes itself as a college that "equips followers of Jesus Christ." And the institution's president says its mission is precisely why it is offering a spot to former Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr.

"We seek to serve community and society to bring about reconcilation," university president Melanie Humphries tells As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch. "We really feel that society increasingly has become about retribution and fear." She adds that about 30 per cent of the university's students don't identify as Christian

Humphries says most students and faculty are behind the decision to offer Khadr, 28, a spot if and when he is released from prison. 

In 2010, Khadr admitted to killing an American soldier when he was 15 years old. The U.S. military commission that he appeared before has been widely criticized for its procedures. Khadr has been behind bars almost half his life, and is presently serving his sentence at a medium-security prison in Alberta. 

He is also seeking bail while his conviction is being challenged in US courts. He'll be eligible to apply for parole in June.

Humphries, who has spent time with Khadr, says he has been wrongly portrayed in the media -- and by the federal government -- as a terrorist and a jihadist. "My impression of him is that he's an articulate, thoughtful, non-radicalized individual," she says.

Faculty from The King's University in Edmonton first began working with Khadr at the invitation of the US military while he was still a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, she points out.

Even if Khadr is released from prison, and accepts the university's offer, he's a long way from attending classes on campus, Humphries says. His body is still riddled with shrapnel and he's losing his eyesight, she adds. "He's going to take some time getting back to community life. He has some catching up on life to do."