It was ten years ago today that Omar Khadr was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan during a firefight. A few months later, he was sent to Guantanamo Bay prison, where he remains today. In 2010, the Harper government made a deal with the U.S. for his repatriation, provided he serve one more year at Guantanamo. To date, the government has not asked the U.S. to transfer Khadr to Canadian custody. Liberal Senator Roméo Dallaire has launched a petition to pressure the Canadian government to do so.
If he does return to this country, Khadr will continue to be imprisoned for at least the next six to seven years. In 2010 he pleaded guilty to war crimes in connection with the 2002 firefight that killed U.S. Sgt. Christopher Speer. In return, Khadr was given an eight-year sentence, with one year to be served at Guantanamo, along with written assurances from the Canadian government that it would consider his return to Canada to complete the sentence.
Dallaire's petition urges Public Safety Minister Vic Toews "to authorize the repatriation of Omar Khadr without delay". It has received over 27,000 signatures so far. In a release, Dallaire says "it is a simple fact of fulfilling a promise; you either sign the deal and you implement it, or you go against the deal and lose your credibility as being a fair negotiator with your closest ally".
As for why the transfer hasn't happened yet, some Canadian government officials have claimed that they were "duped" into making the repatriation deal. They say they were not made aware of evidence that could prove Khadr is a risk - namely a videotaped interview between Khadr and a U.S. psychiatrist, and a report from another psychiatrist.
A U.S. official (speaking on condition of anonymity) had a strong response: "Duped my ass ... Ottawa knew about this and the fact is, if they're worried, they'll have plenty of time to observe him while he serves out his sentence in Canada". Both the video and the report were discussed at various pre-trial hearings in early 2010, where a Canadian government observer was almost always present.
Dallaire says he hopes "by using this petition, and leveraging social media, we can engage with Canadians everywhere to help build a tidal wave of support for Omar Khadr's return".
Senator Dallaire was in the red chair last season, talking about his book 'They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children'. Check out that interview below:
Related stories on Strombo.com: