Omar Khadr offered a seat in McMaster class by professor

A McMaster University professor has written to the school's president with hopes he'll hold a seat for Omar Khadr, saying universities have an "important role to play in fostering justice and affirming peace."

A McMaster University professor has written to the school's president with hopes he'll hold a seat for Khadr

Omar Khadr is seen in an undated photo taken before his arrest in Afghanistan in 2002 at age 15, left, and in a recent undated photo released by Bowden Institution in Innisfail, Alta., where he is serving the remainder of his eight-year sentence. (Bowden Institution/Canadian Press)

A McMaster University professor wants to teach Omar Khadr and has written to the university's president, asking that he hold a spot for Khadr to demonstrate Canadian universities' role "in fostering justice and affirming peace."

The school, however, would not comment on the letter, instead saying the school has an "open application process" and that it is not their practice to hold spots for anyone.

It strikes me that an extraordinary way to move forward would be to make this offer to him.- Dr. David L. Clark, McMaster University

"He has, in effect, served his sentence, he's out on bail and I think what matters now is moving forward," Dr. David L. Clark, a tenured professor in the school's English and cultural studies program told CBC News. Clark would welcome him in his first year class. "It strikes me that an extraordinary way to move forward would be to make this offer to him."

It may be a moot point, as Khadr's lawyer told CBC News his client already has teachers in Edmonton, whom he has been working with for more than five years.

The letter was written by Clark to McMaster president Patrick Deane. It asked that the Hamilton university hold a spot for Khadr, who pleaded guilty to war crimes in 2010, a move he later said he only did to get out of Guantanamo Bay and be returned to Canada.

Prompted by Khadr's first public comments since he was granted bail last week, in which he renounced violent extremism and says that he will prove that he's a good person to the Canadian public, Clark said offering a seat to Khadr would publicly answer the question if universities stand for peace.

"It strikes me that an exemplary way in which we might answer that question strongly in the positive is publicly to offer or to hold open a spot for Mr. Khadr in our first year undergraduate class," writes Clark. He said he would work around Khadr's bail conditions, teaching him one-one-one, or remotely, if necessary.

McMaster University spokesperson Gord Arbeau said it's not their practice to hold seats, and that there is an "open application process" to enter the school's undergraduate class. He said McMaster president Patrick Deane will reply to the "personal" request by Clark in due time, but at this time, "it's a bit of a hypothetical" situation.

If the request was granted, McMaster would be the second university to offer Khadr a post-secondary opportunity. King's University in Edmonton, Alta., offered a seat once he was out of prison in February, although the Christian university has previously said they would have Khadr as a student as far back as 2012.

Arlette Zinck, an English professor at the university, has been tutoring Khadr since 2010. His bail conditions restrict Khadr movements to inside the province of Alberta.

Khadr's lawyer, Dennis Edney, said it is a "wonderful offer."

"This offer, as gracious as it, is one of many examples of people from all over Canada who have expressed their delight in Omar's release and wish to a include him in Canadian society," Edney said in an email. "We are a society of compassion and inclusion as reflected in the various outpourings from Canadians from all over Canada. Hover, Omar has his own teachers from Kings University in Edmonton."

Clark, however, told CBC News he wrote the letter because he sees this as an "opportunity" for the university to promote peace and social justice.

"I think that Mr. Khadr deserves to be welcomed, I think he's endured an enormous amount, I think whatever everyone feels about what happened on that battlefield, all those years ago in Afghanistan, I think by any measure he's suffered a great deal," Clark said.

"And now that he's been repatriated to country, and he is after all a citizen of Canada, and granted bail, I think it's important Canadians certainly do everything possible to welcome him. I also feel that public universities in Canada, have an important role to play in fostering justice and affirming peace. And it strikes me that this is a unique and important opportunity to do just that kind of good work."

He is sympathetic of Khadr, saying he has felt that way since he heard a speech by a former counsel for Khadr, Rebecca Snyder, "From whom I heard all sorts of stories about his brutal incarceration in that prison complex."

Clark also pointed towards previous comments by Deane, a former classmate from Western University in the 1980s, on the university's role in social justice.

"(Deane) has said publicly and on several occasions how important it is for the universities to be involved in social justice and affirming peace, and his inaugural lecture (at McMaster) several years ago, he told a rapt audience about his experiences as a young man in Apartheid South Africa where he learned the importance that universities and university administrators and scholars can play in affirming social justice and peace. He's precisely the person therefore to whom I can appeal or any of us can appeal to welcome Mr. Khadr to McMaster."

Clark said he's received support from his colleagues, but has yet to hear back from Deane and McMaster administration.

"My colleagues have been quite supportive, people on the ground have been quite supportive," Clark said.