5.14.2008

dallaire: canada is "slipping down the slope" towards losing its moral standing

Catching up on some news from while we were away, I was moved and impressed by this youth activism.
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?

32 comments:

briz said...

Omar Khadr certainly deserves a fair trial, but he does not deserve the celebrity status he has received. I do not approve of bad people being made out to be heroes because America's wrongdoings are greater. Had he not been sent to Guantanamo, he would have likely been ostracized for what he did (or even more likely, we would have never heard much on the topic at all). The entire Canadian government is to blame, not only for Khadr, but the whole Afghanistan mess.

L-girl said...

The point - on this blog anyway - is not celebrity status. He should be treated like any other Canadian citizen, any other child soldier. And for that matter, like any human being should be treated - with fairness and respect.

he would have likely been ostracized for what he did

We don't know what he did or indeed if he did anything. I'm sure you know that so-called evidence is tainted at best, fabricated or nonexistent at worst.

L-girl said...

Perhaps by "celebrity" you mean highly publicized? But without that publicity, he would languish at Guantanamo indefinitely. The publicity may be saving his life.

briz said...

By celebrity, I mean people chanting his name on parliament hill, and yes, the publicity. This issue should not be so much about the individual, but more about the situation, and the Canadian government removing their citizens (and criminals) from illegal detention centres (or at least making an effort to do so).

L-girl said...

To me this is a very clear case of the individual case illustrating the larger issues, which, as you say, are more important.

When I blog about Jamie Leigh Jones, for example, it's not only her that I'm concerned with. It's violence against women, corporate accountability, government cover-ups, etc etc.

When blog about James Burmeister, it's not only his case I'm interested in, it's all war resisters.

Same for Omar Khadr. I believe the majority of people who care about Khadr's case understand it the same way. His case is important for more than just itself.

briz said...


We don't know what he did or indeed if he did anything. I'm sure you know that so-called evidence is tainted at best, fabricated or nonexistent at worst.


We do know this much: he left with his father to fight a war against America, while the rest of his family stayed behind and collected welfare right here in Toronto. This alone is enough to warrant my deep resentment, but certainly not enough to justify his imprisonment in Guantanamo (considering Guantanamo itself is completely unjustifiable).

briz said...

But I do understand what you mean by using the individual to expose larger issues. I think this case in particular is so politically sensitive that our government is too afraid to do anything about it.

L-girl said...

We do know this much: he left with his father to fight a war against America,

A war against America, what a funny way to characterize it, since the US invaded Afghanistan.

but certainly not enough to justify his imprisonment in Guantanamo (considering Guantanamo itself is completely unjustifiable).

Right, and that's the main point, which I'm glad we agree on. I have no resentment of Khadr, especially since he was not even an adult when he left Canada. But the main point is the illegal prison at Guantanamo and what goes on there.

L-girl said...

I think this case in particular is so politically sensitive that our government is too afraid to do anything about it.

Translation: it involves the US. If it were any other country, Canada would know what to do. That's the terrible shame of it, IMO.

L-girl said...

Briz, just curious, what brought you to wmtc?

L-girl said...

Excellent post on the same subject on the M@blog.

briz said...

Well, I'm a Canadian born of American parents who moved here in the 70's, so I was immediately intrigued when I stumbled across your blog. I'm also a male in my mid-twenties who is politically confused, and I like to explore opinions from all corners of the political spectrum. I hope that I haven't irritated you too much with my comments, since I do tend to play the devil's advocate. You are very good at defending your views and opinions, and respond so quickly to comments, that I find it hard to resist... ;-)

neutron said...

"We do know this much: he left with his father to fight a war against America ..."

You missed one key point - child soldier! You know, when kids are forced, coerced and/or otherwise convinced to fight. Anyway, I'm just glad we can all agree that Guantanamo (north and south) = bad

neutron said...

Addendum: Dallaire for president!!! (i know it's prime minister but president sounds cooler).

L-girl said...

Well, I'm a Canadian born of American parents who moved here in the 70's

Vietnam resisters or protesters, by any chance??

I'm also a male in my mid-twenties who is politically confused, and I like to explore opinions from all corners of the political spectrum.

Good for you.

I hope that I haven't irritated you too much with my comments, since I do tend to play the devil's advocate.

You are very perceptive on the irritation question. :) I generally dislike devil's advocate type of discussions, because I don't like to have to defend my viewpoints and debate for no reason. (See my recent "why I blog" post.)

If you are generally interested and curious, stick around and ask questions to learn, by all means. But if you're purposely taking an opposite point of view just to "stir the pot", I seriously wish you wouldn't.

You are very good at defending your views and opinions,

Thank you, that's because they come from a lot of thought and a very clear understanding of my core values and political world view.

and respond so quickly to comments,

That's because of your irritating devil's advocacy. :)

So by all means hang out, but please go easy to avoid an oncoming collision. Thanks.

L-girl said...

Thanks Neutron. :)

briz said...

If it is truly a case of him being a child soldier, perhaps his mother should be prosecuted. She is still alive and living in Canada, and did not stop her husband or son from leaving to fight and eventually forfeiting their lives, in one way or another. Just throwing it out there...

L-girl said...

She probably had very little control over what her husband did, given their background. You can't prosecute someone for failure to stop another custodial parent from doing something. (Well, there might be neglect involved, but as Omar was with a parent, it would be a tough sell.)

briz said...

if you're purposely taking an opposite point of view just to "stir the pot", I seriously wish you wouldn't.

This is definitely not the case. I typically have "middle of the road" views, which typically causes me to somewhat disagree with everyone. When I post a comment, you can be assured it is a reflection of my own opinions, and done to stimulate discussion, not to get a rise out of someone. That would just be childish.

Vietnam resisters or protesters, by any chance??

Hippies, yes. Draft dodgers, no. My dad was lucky enough to be in college at the time of the draft, but witnessed many of his friends get sent to war. My dad's simple explanation for leaving was that he had the "love it or leave it attitude". So he left.

kim_in_to said...

Not only is the evidence tainted or fabricated, but the media spins it in such a way as to feed Islamophobia. I've watched the way the media has covered "Project Thread" (the 25 Muslims students falsel accused of terrorism in TO), the 5 Muslim Security Certificate cases, Khadr, and now the "Toronto 18" (or "Paintball 18", or "Toronto 11", as "evidence" against them has once again evaporated, resulting in cases against 7 of them being stayed). In every case the media publishes incendiary stories which make the cases sound open-and-shut; months or years later, check again, and there has been no real evidence and no conviction (and in most cases no charges). We really don't know anything about what Khadr might have done.

Does anyone think he has a hope in hell of getting a proper trial, let alone a fair one? I mean one in which there are actually lawyers for both sides, and real evidence?

kim_in_to said...

Incidentally, I've just come from a small demonstration demanding to put a stop to the torture in Canada that is endless solitary confinement. The Muslims accused of terrorism are often put in solitary confinement for years. I believe solitary confinement for more than 2 months is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Both Canada and the US are guilty of violating the Geneva Conventions. And yes, both our conservative and liberal governments are complicit.

impudent strumpet said...

I was just thinking, when I was a teenager, my parents would take me to other countries and make me do things I didn't want to do. (It was for family vacations rather than to overthrow america, but that's not terribly relevant to my point.) Even thinking back on it from the experience of adulthood, I don't know how I could have unilaterally gotten out of that situation and gotten home. I didn't have much money on me, I didn't have a credit card, I didn't always have my passport on my person, my parents were always around and even if I physically fought them to the death they can both kick my ass. And if I'd managed to run away from them, I still couldn't have bought a plane ticket without a credit card even if I could have figured out how to buy a plane ticket. I was stuck and completely at their mercy, and they didn't even have guns.

Even now, the only way I can possibly think of a teenager to escape from a foreign country is for them to call a taxi to take them to the Canadian embassy (assuming taxis are available and they can convince the driver that someone at the embassy will pay the fare and they can convince the embassy to pay the fare and assuming the embassy is within reasonable driving distance) and then hope the embassy will help them. And that's assuming a 15 year old would be familiar with the concept of consular assistance and would have the presence of mind to call a taxi (I wouldn't have at 15 because we never used them IRL) and would be brave enough to run away from their parents in a foreign country.

L-girl said...

When I post a comment, you can be assured it is a reflection of my own opinions, and done to stimulate discussion, not to get a rise out of someone. That would just be childish.

Indeed it would be, and that's exactly what many commenters try to do! I'm glad you're not one of them. :)

L-girl said...

In every case the media publishes incendiary stories which make the cases sound open-and-shut; months or years later, check again, and there has been no real evidence and no conviction (and in most cases no charges).

Exactly. This includes everyone being held in Gitmo. And by the way, it includes the perpetrators of 9/11. We have seen exactly no evidence of who planned and carried out those attacks. We've seen 10 or 12 different - and ever changing - stories, but not a shred of evidence.

Does anyone think he has a hope in hell of getting a proper trial, let alone a fair one? I mean one in which there are actually lawyers for both sides, and real evidence?

Of course not. And the fact that Canada treats it as such, because it's the US, is disgusting.

L-girl said...

I was just thinking, when I was a teenager, my parents would take me to other countries and make me do things I didn't want to do.

Impudent Strumpet's comment is excellent - and important.

redsock said...

Re "evidence" of terrorist activity:

A recent Rolling Stone article showed that all of the cases of supposed terrorist cells planning evil in the US (the more famous ones being in Miami and Chicago) have had government informants at the center of the "plots" manipulating these hapless "terrorists" into saying things, buying things, drawing things, etc.

Without the pressure and suggestion from government informants, these idiots would not be doing a single thing. But they get railroaded into a trial and possible life in prison so the government can show it is fighting terrorism. Yay!

Turns out at least one Canadian informant was among the Paintball 18, too.

kim_in_to said...

Thanks for that comment. I didn't know the same thing was happening in the US.

M@ said...

Turns out at least one Canadian informant was among the Paintball 18, too.

As far as I understand it, absolutely everything they were planning had RCMP or CSIS involved as fake "suppliers" of material.

The day the story broke, I called shenanigans. I upgraded that to bullshit long ago.

(Btw, thanks for the link!)

L-girl said...

Thanks for that comment. I didn't know the same thing was happening in the US.

All of these are happening in the US much, much more than they are in Canada. Which by no means excuses what's going on here, but it's gone much further there.

redsock said...

Kim: Rolling Stone story here. Should have put it in the comment.

redsock said...

Click here for a quick "what they said" and "what was actually true" rundown of many reports

kim_in_to said...

Thanks for the links. It's actually not that I didn't expect the same things were going on down there; I just didn't expect to see so many parallels.

It's also great to see that some people are not being fooled by the bullshit.