Military veterans at Halifax protest call Omar Khadr payout 'a slap in the face'
Protesters say settlement payment would be better used to compensate veterans struggling financially
A group of Canadian military veterans in Halifax is protesting the government's decision to award Omar Khadr millions of dollars for past violations of his charter rights, saying that money would be better spent on issues facing Canada's veterans.
On Friday, the Liberal government confirmed it's apologized to Khadr, but said the amount of the settlement is confidential. Sources have told CBC News the payout amounted to $10.5 million. The wrongful imprisonment civil suit Khadr's lawyers launched against Ottawa was seeking $20 million.
Gathered around the cenotaph outside of city hall in downtown Halifax, the veterans said the payout is a "slap in the face" to military members because many veterans in the region are struggling financially.
"My son who served over there is now released with PTSD. He gets support from VAC, but not enough. He didn't get $10.5 million," said veteran Jay Tofflemire.
Khadr, 30, was 15 when he allegedly threw a grenade during a firefight at a suspected al-Qaeda compound in Afghanistan, killing an American soldier and injuring another. He was captured by U.S. soldiers.
Since Khadr was so young at the time of the firefight, interrogation techniques used to acquire his confessions of guilt violated UN conventions Canada had signed — specifically those against torture and the rights of the child.
During his prison sentence at Guantanamo Bay, Canada's Supreme Court ruled in 2010 those rights had been violated.
"The Canadian government should have gone down there and dragged him out of Guantanamo Bay, but it's not worth $10.5 million. I don't care what anybody says," said Wayne Finn, who spent 30 years in the Canadian navy.
'Disgusted to be a Canadian today'
Veterans said the federal government's decision in the Khadr settlement has angered them. They're hoping that a lawsuit filed against Khadr by the families of the soldiers hit by the grenade is successful.
"We get nothing but an uphill battle dealing with Canada and I'm actually disgusted to be a Canadian today over this," said veteran Lee Mercer.
Veterans Affairs Canada didn't comment directly on Friday's protest in Halifax. In a statement, the department said it continues to take steps to improve the financial security of veterans.
"The care and well-being of veterans and their families is a priority for Veterans Affairs Canada, and we are committed to ensuring veterans have access to the services and benefits to which they are entitled," the email said.
Friday's demonstration in Halifax lasted about an hour.