5 questions about the future of Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr's return to Canada has raised questions as to what lies ahead for the 26-year-old.
Omar Khadr has been repatriated to Canada where he is now being held at a maximum-security prison in eastern Ontario.

Omar Khadr is currently being  assessed at the Millhaven Institute, a maximum-security prison in eastern Ontario. He returned to Canada over the weekend after being released from the U.S.-run detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Under a plea agreement in 2010, Khadr plead guilty to five war crimes, including the death of American Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer. As part of that plea agreement, he was transferred to Canada to serve out the rest of his eight-year sentence.

But his return to Canada has also raised questions as to what lies ahead for the 26-year-old.

Where will Khadr spend the rest of his sentence?

That’s still unknown. Khadr is in custody under a 23-hour-a day lockdown at Millhaven, where he gets an hour a day of exercise in the courtyard.

He is in the assessment unit where correctional officials are determining the appropriate level of security required for him and where he will be placed for the long term. That process could take weeks.

His lawyers have argued that while in Guantanamo Bay, Khadr was a model prisoner and does not need to be placed in maximum security, meaning he could be transferred to another facility. (Although, his lawyer Brydie Bethell told the Globe and Mail, it may make sense to be in maximum security for his own safety.)

The Toronto Star reported it is also possible that Khadr could be transferred to the Special Handling Unit. Also known as SHU, located in Sainte-anne-des-Plaines, Que., the maximum security facility holds others who have been convicted of terrorism offences.

Will Khadr undergo any rehabilitation programs while in custody?

Constitutional and human rights lawyer Paul Champ told CBC News that because Khadr is considered a child soldier, Canada would have an obligation to provide rehabilitation and counselling to him under international law.

Like all federal inmates entering the Correctional Service of Canada, Khadr will be provided with a correctional plan. In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for CSC said the department provides a number programs to "help offenders to address the factors that led to their offences and to assist in their safe reintegration into our communities."

CSC also states it offers inmates "meaningful rehabilitation programs" and employment activities.

But it's unclear whether the CSC has any specific deradicalization program and whether Khadr would partake.

When will Khadr be eligible for parole?

Khadr's eight-year sentence started on Oct. 31, 2010, meaning he has six years left. Khadr's previous lawyers believed their client should be released immediately upon his return to Canada because his rights were violated during his time in Guantanamo Bay. So far, his current lawyers have said they have not made any decisions yet regarding the application for parole but have said Khadr could be eligible as early as the spring or summer of 2013.

As Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said, ultimately it will be up to the National Parole Board to decide whether Khadr should be released and under what conditions. The NPB's decision will be based on a number of factors including his risk to society and likelihood of reoffending. If his application is rejected, he would be able to reapply every year.

It's possible that parole conditions could include parts of a 'deradicalization' plan mapped out by his then lawyers in 2008, based on DDR programs: disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

That plan would have included treatment for Khadr in a secure facility at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, where he would be psychologically assessed for risk of terrorist activity.

They had also proposed Khadr live with his maternal grandparents, who were said to have not been associated with radical ideologies, in a Toronto suburb for two to three years.

The final stage of that plan would see Khadr on a supervised release, lasting from one to three years, and under strict conditions such as forcing him to refrain from drug use, petty crime or interacting with specific individuals. He would also be involved in a religious deradicalization program with help from a prominent Islamic figure in the community. 

What will Khadr do once released?

Khadr’s sentence finishes Oct. 30, 2018, meaning at that point he will be released into the public without conditions, having served his time.

Khadr’s lawyers have said that Khadr wants to pursue education and become a health-care practitioner. Arlette Zinck, an English professor at Edmonton's King’s University College, has spent the past two years visiting and tutoring Khadr at Guantanamo Bay.

In an email to CBC News, King's vice-president of institutional advancement Dan VanKeeken wrote, "Once his prison term is over, if he decided to apply to King's we would treat him as any other applicant." In 2010, during his sentencing, Khadr said he would "be honoured" to attend the university and said he hoped someday to go into medicine.

But some have suggested that Khadr could be kept under close watch by Canada's security agency.

Are there any conditions placed on Khadr upon his release?

As part of his plea bargain, Khadr agreed to certain conditions. He said he would never enter the United States or take legal action against the U.S. in regards to his capture and detention.

Khadr also agreed he would not make money from his experiences and that he would hand over to the Canadian government any profits or proceeds he may receive in connection with the "publication or dissemination of information" relating to his crimes.

Khadr also said he would not assign the "rights to my story" that would provide financial benefit to him, his associates or family members.


Mark Gollom

Senior Reporter

Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.