Ottawa Changes Stand on Omar Khadr

Reblogged from


Omar Khadr was shot and captured in Afghanistan several years ago when he was only 15 years old. The previous Liberal government barely fought for his rights as a Canadian and apart from the Department of Foreign Affairs requesting the U.S. government not to transfer the 15-year-old prisoner to Guantánamo Bay, the Liberals did nothing to help Khadr once he reached the notorious prison in Cuba.

Today Omar Khadr is 29 years old amid claims he spent a decade enduring repeated bouts of torture. In 2010, after eight years in custody, he pleaded guilty at a US military commission to five “war crimes,” including the battlefield murder of US Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer. The plea deal allowed Khadr an eight-year sentence and the potential to serve the bulk of his time in a Canadian prison system.

In September 2012 Khadr was sent back to Canada where he has since clarified that his confession was only given to receive a plea bargain so he could escape Guantánamo. Today, Khadr is appealing his convictions in the U.S. arguing that the offences did not exist on the day of the battle—and that even if he did throw that grenade, it was a legitimate act of war, not a war crime.

Even though the Americans assured Canadian officials that he was being treated fairly and humanely, Khadr’s lawyers claim that he was so badly abused, beginning as a teenager, that the U.S. forfeited the right to prosecute him.

In the years since Omar Khadr’s capture, many veteran Liberals have expressed regret over the handling of the file. Bill Graham, foreign affairs minister at the time, now concedes that he should have done more to push for the teen’s release while former Prime Minister Paul Martin, admits, “We should have repatriated him.”

The Liberal government recently announced that Khadr would remain a free man in Edmonton while he appeals his U.S. war crimes convictions at a special court in Virginia, a process that could take many more years.

According to a brief statement released by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, “The Government of Canada respects the decision of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta which determined that Mr. Khadr be released on bail in Canada pending his US appeal of his US convictions and sentence. Withdrawing this appeal is an important step towards fulfilling the Government’s commitment to review its litigation strategy.”

Even though the Trudeau government should be credited for dropping the Harper-era bail appeal, it did not mention that Khadr was horrifically abused at the hands of the U.S. government, and has suffered more than enough. And it did not say that the government should have lobbied harder on his behalf back in 2002 or come close to labeling him a victim.

Perhaps the reason for its muted stand is because Khadr is still suing the Canadian government for $20-million in damages. Since being filed in 2004, the lawsuit now seems unbeatable. Twice already, the country’s highest court has scolded Ottawa for violating Khadr’s constitutional rights—both times while the Liberals were in power.

When he was apprehended, less than a year after the 9/11 attacks, Khadr was held at a U.S. military hospital in Bagram before being transferred to Guantánamo. At the time his father, Ahmed Said, was a wanted by US authorities because of his connection to al-Qaeda (Ahmed was a reputed al-Qaeda financier with ties to Osama bin Laden). And although Washington considered Ahmed’s teenage son an “enemy combatant” out of reach of consular access, it did permit “intelligence” visits.

The $20-million lawsuit is proceeding while Khadr still lives at the Edmonton home of one of his longtime lawyers, Dennis Edney, while studying to become an emergency medical technician.

Also read:


Dennis Edney on French CBC: 24/60


Dennis Edney, avocat d'Omar Khadr


The Trudeau government announced this week that it was withdrawing the appeal launched by the previous Conservative government about the release of Omar Khadr. In an interview to Anne-Marie Dussault for the prime time show 24/60, on French CBC, lawyer Dennis Edney recalls the reasons that prompted him to defend Omar Khadr, imprisoned for 10 years in Guantanamo.

The entire interview:

The Government of Canada discontinues its bail appeal in Canada v. Khadr

OTTAWA, February 18, 2021 – The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, issued the following statement:

“Today, the Government of Canada announced that it will discontinue its appeal in the case of The Attorney General of Canada v. Khadr (Bail appeal) before the Alberta Court of Appeal. The Government of Canada respects the decision of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta which determined that Mr. Khadr be released on bail in Canada pending his US appeal of his US convictions and sentence.

Withdrawing this appeal is an important step towards fulfilling the Government’s commitment to review its litigation strategy.”


M​edia ​M​isinformation, D​emoni​z​ation of Omar Khadr​ and his Family Continues

At some point the Canadian media must be held accountable for the role they have played in legitimizing the government’s brutalization of Omar rather than challenging the blatant and ongoing violation of his rights.

We are grateful for all those who have written to hold the media accountable and would like to share “Tarred With Terrorism Brush” recently written by Matthew​ Behrens​ in response to the article by Star reporter Michelle Shephard. He presents a critical view of Shephard’s “Omar Khadr’s sister detained in Turkey​” and reminds us of “…the dangers of improperly labeling individuals with the terrorism brush​.” ​

Please see Matthew Behrens’ letter 01/02/16 and our thank you message 05/02/16 below:

Tarred With Terrorism Brush 

Countless human rights reports and two Canadian judicial inquiries have warned against the dangers of improperly labeling individuals with the terrorism brush. In her coverage of the Turkish arrest of Zaynab Khadr, Michelle Shephard falls into that trap twice.

She writes that Zaynab’s father, Ahmed Said Khadr, “was arrested in connection with the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad.” While it’s true that Khadr was detained, those charges against Zaynab’s father were dropped.

The story also suggests Zaynab was somehow connected to terrorism because she was “under investigation” for alleged offences by the RCMP in 2005, even though she was never charged. How is that relevant to the story now, 11 years later, unless the object of the story is to cast a whiff of suspicion over Zaynab as well?

If that’s really crucial to the story, why not mention that this “investigation” was carried out by an agency that was found shortly thereafter by two separate inquiries to have created false threat profiles against a series of Canadian Arab Muslims that led to severe consequences for those wrongly labeled?

Dear Matthew,

Your thoughtful response to Michelle Shephard’s recent article “Omar Khadr’s Sister Detained in Turkey” is much appreciated. The long history of media misinformation and demonization of Omar and his family has had profound implications ​for​ this appalling case of injustice. Thank you for your efforts to hold journalists accountable.

Our group has been advocating for fair and balanced media reporting on all aspects of Omar’s case and Michelle Shephard has frequently been​ a​ ​target of criticism​, especially since Omar’s release on bail.

While most reporters now include the term “widely-maligned” when referring to the Guantanamo process which “convicted” Omar, Shephard does not. Despite a long history with the case, she continues to mislead readers to believe that Omar’s ​”​guilt​y plea”​ ​before​ ​a​ U.S. military commission was ​the result of ​a legitimate judicial process-which it certainly was not.

We encourage the media to be aware of the following relevant information:

Omar Khadr did not “plead guilty”, was not charged with crimes or “war crimes” and was not sentenced. The terms, plead guilty, crimes and sentenced are all words understood to refer to known concepts within our criminal law system. Crimes are violations of statutory penal law; war crimes are serious violations of international humanitarian law; a guilty plea is the accused’s freely and voluntarily given confession in open court to the crime(s) with which he has been charged; statements not made voluntarily are inadmissible; sentencing is the judgement made by a court after an accused is convicted according to law. Imposition of sentence, as done by the Guantanamo Bay military tribunal, “without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people” is a gave breach (i.e. a crime) of the Geneva Conventions and a crime in Canada. In the Omar Khadr case there were no war crimes and no guilty plea and the imposition of sentence was itself a crime.

The ​use of these terms, invite ​readers ​to ​accept falsehoods which in turn legitimize atrocious violations of Omar Khadr’s rights, prevent the remediation recommended by the United Nations Committee against Torture and shield state authorities from accountability.

We very much appreciate your support.

In solidarity for truth and justice,

Kathy Copps
The Free Omar Khadr Now-campaign