Mr. Trudeau: It’s Not Just About Omar Khadr

APOLOGY OVERDUE - Pointed questions for the prime minister about the child Canada abandoned at Gitmo.

Dear Mr. Trudeau,

Canada is haunted by our collective responsibility for the monstrous injustice suffered by Omar Khadr. Our shameful failure to apologise and award him remedy further erodes confidence in our legal system and has profound implications for a country where democratic rights should be universal.

Canadians have a few questions for you.

In April, when Canada celebrated the 35th anniversary of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, you reminded us that “we have no task greater than to stand on guard for one another’s liberties. The words enshrined in the Charter are our rights, freedoms, and — above all — our collective responsibility.” Your words are inspiring but your actions are not.

The Free Omar Khadr Campaign and Quebec’s Pour Omar Khadr have exercised “our collective responsibility” to draw your attention to the injustice Omar has suffered and why he must receive remedy.

Despite a letter writing campaign, a parliamentary petition, visits to MPs, newspaper articles and editorials, and endorsements from prominent Canadians, we haven’t heard from you. Stephen Lewis, Yann Martel, Senator Kim Pate, Maher Arar, Elizabeth May, Rudy Wiebe, Michel Tremblay, Nancy Huston, Dr. Frédéric Bérard, Monique Proulx, Monia Mazigh and other distinguished Canadians endorse our campaign and are waiting for an answer.

Prime Minister Trudeau, when will you respond to their request that Canada fulfill our long overdue obligation to offer Omar a formal apology and redress?

In 2013 you stated that Omar should be treated like “any Canadian who has been incarcerated outside of the country.” Do you know of any other Canadian child who was shot in the back by the U.S. military, captured, detained and abused for a decade in Guantanamo, subjected to and sentenced by a corrupt, extrajudicial military tribunal, and, when finally repatriated, was forced to spend another three years of incarceration in Canada?

“Injustice is contagious. If we allow the wrongs that were done to Omar Khadr to lie unredressed, it does not just affect him, but our whole social fabric”

As you know Omar was not treated like “any other Canadian.” If rights and freedoms are awarded to some and denied others, we are all at risk. Omar was abandoned by Canada and denied the rights and protection to which all Canadians (especially children) are entitled.

Like others in the international community who monitor state human rights violations, Noam Chomsky views Canada’s appalling behaviour with criticism and consternation:

“The imprisonment and shocking treatment of Omar Khadr has been a scandal from the first moment, running right through the disgraceful trial and his subsequent detention. The crime should be ended at once, with sincere apology and compensation. I hope someone is compiling a full record of this story, not only out of respect for Omar, but also to reveal the utter savagery of our culture, both the monstrous acts of the U.S. government and the craven cowardice of Canada — and the fact that so few cared.”

Mr. Trudeau, when will you take action to end this shameful and ongoing chapter in Canada’s record of human rights violations?

Almost a decade ago, in 2008 and again in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that Omar was entitled to remedy because Canada’s participation in the illegal process in place at Guantanamo Bay clearly violated binding international obligations, fundamental human rights, and deprived Omar of rights guaranteed by the Charter. Almost a decade later, like your predecessor, Stephen Harper, you choose to ignore Supreme Court rulings and instead continue to deny Omar justice and remedy.

Distinguished Canadian author and Man Booker Prize Winner, Yann Martel, shares the belief that it is urgent you take action: “Injustice is contagious. If we allow the wrongs that were done to Omar Khadr to lie unredressed, it does not just affect him, but our whole social fabric. It coarsens our relations with others, increases our suspicion and fear, shackles our minds and hearts, lessens our humanity. So this business with Omar is not just about Omar; it’s about you, me, everyone.”

Mr. Trudeau, when will you abide by decisions of Canada’s highest court, maintain respect for our judicial system and follow through on the Supreme Court ruling that Omar is entitled to remedy?

Like Stephen Harper, you continue to ignore the 2012 recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture to “ensure that Omar Khadr receives appropriate redress for the human rights violations that the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled he experienced.”

In 2015, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group reviewed Canada’s performance regarding its obligations under the Convention against Torture and found that our government had contravened every aspect of its duties in this case. The failure to prevent, investigate, and punish his torture and ill treatment constitutes a continuing violation of Omar’s rights.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, like Professor Chomsky and others in the international community, continue to hold Canada to account for the abhorrent treatment of Omar:

“The case of Omar Khadr is an example of horrible injustice in a modern democratic state. Omar Khadr was not even tried in an open court and this is apart from the fact that when he was arrested he was only 15 years of age-a minor by every credible assessment. It is unconscionable that following a travesty of a trial,where he was treated as adult in a vicious kangaroo court, his own country was an accomplice in holding him in prison. It has been galling in the extreme to discover that those in other countries who even helped us overthrow our oppressive system of apartheid should have no qualms, it seems, to employ the same discredited methods as those of a system they purported to oppose.”

Mr. Trudeau when will you show respect for Canada’s international obligations and take action to address recommendations of UN Committee against Torture to provide Omar with appropriate redress?

The words of Yann Martel encapsulate the importance of this case: “So this business with Omar is not just about Omar; it’s about you, me, everyone.” Omar deserves remedy for the monstrous injustice he suffered and Canadians deserve reassurance of our Prime Minister’s respect for the universal application and enforcement of our Charter rights.

Mr. Trudeau, it’s not just about Omar.



Kathleen Copps is a retired B.C. Teacher and member of Free Omar Khadr Now.


Yann Martel endorses our Petition! – ‘Canada’s Obligation to Omar Khadr’

A sincere thank you to Yann Martel, internationally-renowned, best selling author and Man Booker Prize winner for ‘Life of Pi’, for endorsing our petition!

Mr. Martel actively supported Omar in the past with his English translation toPoem For Omar(Poème Pour Omar) written by a collective of Quebec writers and artists who expressed their outrage at the injustice Omar has suffered.

Yann Martel, so clearly states why the case of Omar Khadr has profound implications for all Canadians:

Yann Martel quote Omar Khadr

​Please sign the petition and remind the federal government of Canada’s moral and legal obligation to offer redress for the atrocious violations of Omar Khadr’s rights.

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The Free Omar Khadr Now Committee

Yann Martel is one of the prominent Canadians who have endorsed our petition. The list includes, among others, Stephen Lewis, Rudy Wiebe, Senator Kim Pate, Elizabeth May, Michel Tremblay, Nancy Huston, Monia Mazigh, Maher Arar, Gar Pardy, Monique Proulx. Our international endorsers include Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Noam Chomsky.

Rudy Wiebe endorses our Petition! – ‘Canada’s Obligation to Omar Khadr’

A sincere thank you to Rudy Wiebe for endorsing our petition.

Mr. Wiebe (Professor Emeritus University of Alberta Department of English 1967-92, and Officer of the Order of Canada) is one of Canada’s most respected and prolific writers and recipient of many prestigious literary awards including the Governor General’s award for fiction (twice) and the Charles Taylor Prize for Literay Non-fiction.

“I support, as strongly as I am able, this petition regarding Omar Khadr. Like most Canadians, I had followed Omar’s sad history in the media since 2002, but I first “met” him in 2013 when he wrote me a personal letter from Guantanamo Prison after reading my novel Peace Shall Destroy Many (1962) as part of his Alberta high school English course. During Omar’s imprisonment in Alberta we met five times for 2-3 hours each visit,

In January 2015, I provided a statement to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench offering my unreserved support for Omar’s bail application and included the following observations:

‘…I have never heard Omar say one bitter or furious word about anyone or anything that was done to him. Rather, he insists there is enough badness in his past: he wants to focus on the present and possibilities for the future. So we discuss ordinary human things: our family histories (he’s as curious about my Mennonite history as I am about his Islamic heritage); Canada: driving to the hospital on Edmonton streets fills him with happiness at the ordinary life he sees. He would love to come to my church, and meet my friends around Christmas turkey dinner. When I probe more, I find him an insightful thinker, quick to laugh and highly intelligent, open to a great range of ideas, eager to ponder human complexity. He says, “I have to feed my mind and imagination.” And again: “A merciful Creator is watching over us, taking care of us all.”                

In my long lifetime, I have visited dozens of prison inmates (Note: the book Yvonne Johnson and I wrote together: Stolen Life: the Journey of a Cree Woman, 1998.) In all that time, I have not met an inmate more emotionally balanced, more intelligently sensible and warmly humane than Omar Khadr. I would be overjoyed to introduce him to my friends, my church, to have him come and stay in my home. ‘

Omar was released on bail 2 years ago. Now I urge the Canadian government as strongly as I can to fulfill our moral and legal obligation to award him remedy.”

​Please sign the petition and remind the federal government of Canada’s moral and legal obligation to offer redress for the atrocious violations of Omar Khadr’s rights.

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Thank you for your commitment!

The Free Omar Khadr Now Committee

Aisha Maniar endorses our Petition! – ‘Canada’s Obligation to Omar Khadr’

Aisha Maniar set up the London Guantánamo Campaign in 2006, which has campaigned tirelessly since for the closure of Guantánamo and other similar US-run facilities, an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition, and in particular the return of all remaining British residents to the United Kingdom. The campaign has worked with the families of prisoners and other torture victims of the war on terror and has focused on the case of Omar Khadr since his 2010 trial.

“The injustice of Omar Khadr being the first person to be ‘tried’ under President Obama’s kangaroo court military commissions was difficult to conceive. It was a case tainted by torture evidence and as Omar was tried as an adult for ‘offences’ allegedly ‘committed’ as a minor it was sending out a dangerous message to others in his position. At the very same time, in Europe, an octogenarian former Nazi prison guard was on trial in a youth court for crimes he was alleged to have committed more than half a century ago.

That Canada and the rest of the international community would just sit back and let the US act in this way was beyond wrong. Before Omar Khadr became a cause célèbre in his native Canada, we were demanding his rights outside the US Embassy in London. We continued to demand that Canada then seek his repatriation after it refused to initially.

Our faith in supporting Omar Khadr’s case and our continuing support for his right to justice were vindicated with his release to Canada, and later on bail. He has proved himself to be a friendly and respectful young man and an asset to any society. He works hard to make up for lost time in the education he missed out on and is pursuing a career that cares for and helps people regardless of who they are.

Canada should be proud of Omar Khadr and ashamed of itself and its inability to redress some of the wrongs it has done to Omar after so many years. Taking positive action would be a small but decisive step for Justin Trudeau.”

​Please sign the petition and remind the federal government of Canada’s moral and legal obligation to offer redress for the atrocious violations of Omar Khadr’s rights.

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Thank you!

The Free Omar Khadr Now Committee

Adel Safty endorses our Petition! – ‘Canada’s Obligation to Omar Khadr’

Dr. Adel Safty, Egyptian-Canadian, Professor Emeritis, former head of UN Mission, and columnist for Gulf News (Middle East) endorses our petition. Dr. Safty helped to bring international attention to Canada’s abusive treatment and denial of fundamental justice to Omar Khadr.

The Khadr case is a shocking example of the systematic undermining of the rule of law — a basic foundation of democratic governance. A U.S. judge ruled that ‘evidence’ obtained during interrogations was admissible. This essentially meant that evidence obtained through torture, cruel and inhuman treatment was admissible in court — a travesty of the judicial process in democratic countries and its safeguards to protect the rights of the defendant. Even more shameful, after all this time, Canada has refused to acknowledge the sacrifice of a vulnerable citizen, a child, to the horrors of Guantanamo. And all to satisfy the goals of the U.S. the War on Terror”
For a review of “the cruel and inhuman nature of the treatment meted out to Khadr by his US captors and by the government of his own country” please see Adel’s 2013 article: “When the Rule of Law is Subservient to the Rule of Man”

​Please sign the petition and remind the federal government of Canada’s moral and legal obligation to offer redress for the atrocious violations of Omar Khadr’s rights.

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Thank you!

The Free Omar Khadr Now Committee

Gail Davidson endorses our Petition! – ‘Canada’s Obligation to Omar Khadr’

Gail Davidson - executive director Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada​ endorses our petition.

​From the very early days of Omar’s capture and illegal detainment in notorious U.S. military prisons Bagram and Guantanamo, Gail Davidson and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada ​were critical of Canadian government policy and advocated for Omar’s immediate repatriation. For many years Gail and LRWC have worked with the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group to hold Canada accountable regarding our obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and ongoing violations in the case of Omar Khadr. Another contribution from Gail has been her critical examination of the mainstream media which provided biased and inaccurate information about the case:

​”​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 against the Geneva Conventions.

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.​”​

​Please sign the petition and remind the federal government of Canada’s moral and legal obligation to offer redress for the atrocious violations of Omar Khadr’s rights.

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Thank you!

The Free Omar Khadr Now Committee

Nancy Huston endorses our Petition! – ‘Canada’s Obligation to Omar Khadr’

A sincere thank you to Nancy Huston for endorsing our petition!

Ms. Huston, a Calgary-born author and essayist, winner of Governor General Award for French language fiction, officer of the Order of Canada in 2005 and chevalier of l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France believes Canada has an obligation to remedy Omar for the suffering he endured:

“Omar Khadr is one of several people whose stories have shocked me to the core.
I’ll mention just two other examples - Mourad Benchellali, also mired down in a legal morass after having been unjustly detained for yearsat Guantanamo (see his “Le piège de l’aventure”, Editions Laffont,Paris, 2016), and Maher Arar, a Canadian national arrested, detained and tortured simply for having travelled to see family in Syria (seehis wife Monia Mazigh’s book “Hope and Despair”, McClelland& Stewart,Toronto, 2008).

We teach our children to apologize when they make mistakes that have harmful effects on others. Apparently, we’re not supposed to make the same demands for basic morality on our political & legal systems as on our kids.

The miracle is the beautiful light in Omar Khadr’s face.I don’t know who lit the fire of intelligence and compassion that burns there, but it’s obvious that this young man’s energies could find a better outlet than fighting endless legal battles to be acknowledged as the innocent person he is.We can never right the wrongs that were done Omar Khadr … what we can do is clear the way to give this amazing man the future he deserves.”

Please sign and share our petition. Call on the federal government to write the wrongs that were done Omar Khadr.


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The Free Omar Khadr Now Committee