In Thursday’s Globe and Mail opinion piece Margaret Wente asks: “Would you apologize to Omar Khadr?”
My answer: Yes.
This wasn’t a particularly hard decision to make. Yes, the Khadr family used Canada as a country of convenience. Yes, I believe that Khadr understood what he was doing during the firefight where he was wounded. And yes, I believe him responsible for his actions, and believe he should be held responsible for his actions. But none of these factors give us Canadians (and by extension, the Government of Canada) the right to:
- Allow his detention in Guantanamo
- Implicitly condone his torture
- Deny him a fair trial in Canadian courts
- And, refuse to repatriate him until forced to
The rights granted by the Charter count most when people act in ways that offend us, use us, and hurt us; it’s in those moments we know our quality as a nation. If we truly believe that circumstances demand curtailing rights – and those should be extreme – then that should take place in public, in Canadian courts. What’s wrong is to abrogate someone’s rights and do so on the sly, without giving them the opportunity to challenge that decision.
By allowing the US to hold Khadr in Guantanamo we outsourced the violation of human rights and torture to another nation, and then attempted to ‘forget’ the entire incident happened by leaving him to rot in an American jail. None of this is defensible; none of this speaks highly of us as a nation – and that is why we must apologize.