Omar Khadr’s return to Canada “ought to be imminent and
certainly should be,” but decisions need to be made at “high
levels” on both sides of the border, according to one of the Canadian lawyers for the youngest
prisoner at the U.S. naval base at
But a legal observer openly
questions whether conservative
politics are also weighing on the
decision to be made by Stephen
Harper’s Conservative government; meanwhile, another observer
says Ottawa owes “no favours” to
the convicted terrorist.
Toronto criminal defence lawyer John Norris said in an interview that he expects senior officials with a variety of branches of
government in the U.S. and Canada are involved in determining
when Toronto-born, 25-year-old
Khadr comes home.
As of November 1, he was eligible to serve the remainder of
his eight-year sentence in a Canadian prison under the terms of a
plea deal with the U.S. government. However, on the very day
Khadr could have left the Guantanamo detention centre, where
he has spent nine years, Public
Safety Minister Vic Toews told
the House of Commons that
Khadr had “voluntarily” pleaded
guilty to the charge of murdering
an American medic.
Toews said the decision to
bring Khadr back to Canada
under the International Transfer of Offenders Act (ITOA),
which came into force in 2004,
would be made in “due course,”
while “ensuring that public
safety is maintained.” There
have been reports Ottawa could
take up to 18 months to decide
on Khadr’s future.
Some have raised concerns
that his fate may be affected by
the federal government’s omnibus crime Bill C- 10—the Safe
Streets and Communities Act —
which would amend the ITOA
to give the minister of public
safety the ability to deny a Canadian offender the right to
JANET HAMLIN / THE CANADIAN PRESS
In this courtoom sketch from Oct. 31 2010, toward the end of his sentencing
trial, Omar Khadr listens to taped testimony.
return if it would “endanger
University of Ottawa law pro-
fessor Errol Mendes fears the
Harper government may play to
its conservative base, for whom
Khadr is “hugely unpopular,” and
let him “rot in hell” before
allowing his return to Canada.
“This is a government that
cares about keeping their base
happy more than anything else.”
Mendes “wouldn’t put it past” the
government reneging on an
arrangement reached with the
United States in two diplomatic
notes exchanged between the
State Department and the Canadian embassy in Washington in
October, 2010, in which the U.S.
states that Khadr would return to
Canada after completing “no less
than one additional year” in U.S.
custody, which he has now done.
In reply, Canada stated that,
“it is inclined to favourably consider Mr. Khadr’s application to
be transferred to Canada to serve
the remainder of his sentence,” or
that he would be eligible for full
parole after serving one-third of
it as long as he met certain condi-
His [Khadr’s] spirit is
very strong. He’s a
serious young man
who’s working very
hard on his studies
in Canadian literature,
history. He’s also
Omar Khadr’s defence lawyer
tions— and that the U.S. government would approve his transfer.
Public safety “is the paramount consideration in all decisions,” both notes said.
Last year, Khadr pleaded
guilty to five charges under the
2009 U.S. Military Commissions
Act, including “murder by an
alien unprivileged combatant”
and “providing material assist-
ance to terrorism”— offences cre-
ated after his capture by Amer-
ican forces in Afghanistan and
applied ex post facto, and which
did not exist previously under
international laws of war.
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Judge worries people will be shut out of court
Continued From Page 8
of proceedings at trial and on
appeal is that ordinary people
cannot afford to go to court.
“The cost of the legal pro-
ceedings may well exceed what-
ever is at stake in the litigation.”
Still, Justice Finch said, the
cost of legal services remains an
issue partly addressed through
legal aid and pro bono or “low”