Even by the surreal standards of the Omar Khadr saga - one that has seen allegations of doctored evidence and arguments over whether the detained Canadian is allowed to read a Lord of the Rings screenplay - the scene in Ottawa yesterday was striking: About 50 teenagers dancing and demonstrating on Parliament Hill, chanting “Omar! Omar!” and demanding Mr. Khadr get a fair trial.A group of students from Quebec and Ontario descended on the nation’s capital to demonstrate against Mr. Khadr’s now-six-year detention in Guantanamo Bay.
Mr. Khadr faces multiple charges, including murder, before a U.S. military tribunal. The charges stem from an Afghan firefight in 2002 during which Mr. Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier. He could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted. At the time of the alleged incident, Mr. Khadr was 15 years old - the same age as many of the students demonstrating on his behalf.
Yesterday Romeo Dallaire said that Canada has lost its moral standing in the world by failing to act on Khadr.
Canada has sunk to the moral equivalent of al-Qaeda by failing to treat Canadian Omar Khadr the same way it treats other child soldiers, Liberal Senator Roméo Dallaire said Tuesday.
Dallaire, who appeared before a foreign affairs committee on international human rights, said Khadr is clearly a child soldier who shouldn't be prosecuted by an illegal court system at Guantanamo Bay but reintegrated into society.
Canada is heading down a slippery slope by failing to obey the United Nations conventions on child soldiers to which it is a signatory, he said.
"The minute you start playing with human rights, with conventions, with civil liberties in order to say you are doing it to protect yourself . . . you are no better than the guy who doesn't believe in them at all," he said.
"We are slipping down the slope of going down that same route."
Now that Brenda Martin is in Canada, and free, the Harper government's shameful dereliction of duty towards Khadr becomes even more blatant. I'm glad Martin is out of the Mexican prison, but allowing a Khadr to be "tried" by kangaroo court is unconscionable.
But I don't know if it's fair to blame only the Conservatives. So far the Liberals are failing to act on US war resisters in Canada, ducking and hiding rather than taking what would be a moral - and politically popular - stand.
It's killing me that Canada is not doing the right thing on both these issues. Deportation looms for several war resisters and their families. How can Canada allow these people of conscience to go to prison?