Opinion Editorial

Omar Khadr certainly is not a traitor 0

Peter Worthington QMI Agency
Omar Khadr is seen in this 2010 courtroom sketch.  (Janet Hamlin Sketch)

Omar Khadr is seen in this 2010 courtroom sketch. (Janet Hamlin Sketch)

First of all, get used to it - Omar Khadr is destined to come back to Canada, land of his birth, if not his affections and loyalty.

For nearly 10 years he has been a "detainee" at Guantanamo Bay, after being wounded and captured fighting for al-Qaida in Afghanistan as a 15-year-old in 2002. Canadian governments (Liberal and Conservative) have wanted no part of him.

But we're stuck with him and what's left of his family after his father, Ahmed Khadr, was killed in a 2003 ambush in Pakistan. Former PM Jean Chretien had appealed to Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto in 1996 to get Ahmed released from jail, only to see him killed later.

As a teenager, young Omar didn't have much of a chance.

He was enrolled in al-Qaida, believed in Osama bin Laden, fought the enemies of al-Qaida and the Taliban. In 2002 when U.S. troops attacked, Omar killed a sergeant and badly wounded another with a grenade - and he was shot in the chest.

In 2010 he pleaded "guilty" to murder, spying, conspiracy and terrorism. He was sentenced to eight years (most of it time served) and is now awaiting return to Canada.

Clearly he's not wanted here, but has become something of a folk hero to some human rights activists and the CBC.

The Americans want Khadr transferred to Canada, where a spokesman for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has said the possibility of criminal charges against Khadr "rests with police and provincial Crown attorneys."

This is an odd reaction - but not as odd as the Conservative Party's view that "any Canadian citizen ... who commits treason by taking up arms against the Canadian Forces (or allies) ... automatically invalidates his or her Canadian citizenship."

The suggestion is that Khadr should be charged with high treason for "assisting an enemy at war with Canada" or (assisting) those against whom the Canadian Forces are engaged in hostilities. Bafflegab.

To view Khadr as "treasonous," or even as "criminal" is wrong to the point of absurdity. He has done nothing against Canada. His "crime" of murder - to which he confessed in order to facilitate return to Canada - was fighting against an invader. America attacked Afghanistan and al-Qaida, to whom Khadr had pledged allegiance.

Canada wasn't involved and had no links nor interest in Afghanistan prior to 9/11.

Killing in a war is not usually considered "murder," and certainly isn't treason. Surely someone in authority in Ottawa can see the difference.

While we may not like the Khadr family, Omar has done nothing to warrant criminal charges in Canada.

It's also unfair to compare Khadr with Kanao Inouye, the only Canadian ever convicted of high treason.

As an interpreter and guard of Canadian soldiers captured at Hong Kong in the Second World War, Inouye was known to PoWs as the "Kamloops Kid," who consistently beat and abused Canadians.

Sentenced to hang by the British for war crimes, the verdict was overturned on appeal - he was re-tried by Canadians and in 1947 was hanged for high treason.

Ironically, Inouye's father served honourably in the Canadian army in the First World War and won the Military Medal for Bravery in the Field.

Omar Khadr is no Kanao Inouye, and really is an accidental Canadian who has done nothing criminal against this country.

Nor has he done anything for Canada.


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