Omar Khadr and A Canada That Values Children’s Rights

We are reblogging a beautifully written post by our friend, singer-songwriter Justine Vandergrift. We recommend listening to the touching song “Bring Me Home” she wrote based on the time that Omar was unlawfully held in Guantanamo, and that is part of her first album.

Omar Khadr and A Canada That Values Children’s Rights

By Justine Vandergrift.

Over the past two weeks I’ve been getting several Google Alerts​ in my inbox with updates​ about my friend Omar Khadr. I’ve been following his case since I was studying at The King’s University in Edmonton in 2008. It all started when ​Dennis Edney, Omar’s pro-bono lawyer, spoke at the University’s​ semi-annual interdisciplinary conference on topic of human dignity. Edney​ outlined the history of the Omar Khadr case (then) and all the ways that the Canadian government had been complicit in this child soldiers’ abuse in Guantanamo Bay. After the​ conference I became very engaged in the case. I was deeply disturbed by the story.

For a lot of people this story is new because it’s bigger in the media now than it has ever been. I’ve been reading, writing and singing about it since 2008 when it should have been brought to Canada’s attention as a major human rights issue. I wrote “Bring Me Home” produced by Stew Kirkwood in Edmonton and released on yes alright ok my first album in 2011. I’m so glad Omar is home and free and has been given this long overdue apology in the form of 10.5 million from the Canadian government.

Omar Khadr was accused of having thrown the grenade that killed American Sergeant Christopher Speer in 2002 when Omar was 15. He was incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay for ten years. The Governments interrogation of Omar at Guantanamo “offend[ed] the most basic Canadian standards [of] the treatment of detained youth suspects,” according to a 2010 ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada. He eventually pleaded “guilty” to the “crimes” of which he was accused in exchange for an 8-year sentence and a transfer to a Canadian prison in Edmonton. A Canadian child who had been caught in war, captured, tortured and imprisoned in an illegal prison for 8 years coerced to take a guilty plea in order to have any kind of future in his country.

Omar is a Canadian citizen who is my age and our shared government was completely complicit of his torture and confinement in Gitmo. The Canadian government not only ignored him when all other Western countries had repatriated their citizens, Omar​ was also denied the protocols used for children in combat. This is ironic given that Canada played a large roll in writing those protocols. Instead, the Canadian government sent representatives to Guantanamo Bay to try and trick Omar into a confession.  With the help of his American captors, the Canadian interrogators tried to improve their chances of manipulating Omar by depriving him of sleep for three full weeks. According to one soldier, this sleep deprivation was usually enough to make grown men fall apart.

In 2008 I wrote several letters to politicians with the reasons why Omar should be repatriated and received empty responses back saying there was a “due process.”  So I wrote to Stephen Harper asking him to meet me for coffee when he was in Edmonton to discuss the Khadr case. I wasn’t surprised that he declined.

As I got to know Dennis Edney and others who were following the case, I was able to exchange letters with Omar while he was in Gitmo. From the letters, I got to know Omar as a gentle, kind, young man who loved to learn and grow and just wanted to be back in school in Canada. When Omar was finally brought to Canada after taking the guilty plea deal, I was able to visit him in the prison just North of Edmonton. I was so excited to finally ​meet him in person albeit​ through glass over the jail phone. We​ had a two-hour conversation that was light, serious and ​thought-provoking all at the same time. My memory of him being escorted away after that conversation is vivid and I cried about it on the drive home. It felt so unfair to me that eight years after the incident in (young man) Afghanistan, he was still​ literally ​trapped in this disgusting political game. And then the awful things people would say about a perfect stranger online, my friend who I admire, seemed​ unbearable.

​Dennis always said that Omar had nothing negative to say about anyone ​and as​ I got to know him​ I found that to be true. Considering all the terrible things done to him I was and still am fascinated and perplexed by Omar’s kindness and strength.

So when I woke at 1am on July 4 to this headline “Ottawa to offer Omar Khadr apology, $10.5-million in compensation” I was ​both​ surprised and ecstatic. I didn’t even think about the $10.5 million​, I just thought it was finally a step in the right direction by the Canadian go​vernment. Since then I​’ve been​ reluctantly reading the politically charged pushback opinions regarding ​the payout and apology. I can’t help but feel both discouraged and disgusted by the lack of compassion and understanding​ from fellow Canadians. There is an undeniable greed inherent in those opposed to the payout. My thoughts are:

That $10.5 million is just a number symbolic of a long overdue public apology.

  • Would people say the same awful things about Omar receiving money and an apology if they had the privilege to get to know him like I have?
  • And do they realize all the unpaid work that was done by fellow Canadians trying to hold our government accountable to the charter of rights and freedoms so that the same thing wouldn’t happen to one of their loved ones?
  • Contrary to the evidence of capitalism, one person’s financial gain does not always mean another​s’ loss. In fact, I think that well placed money can reverse the destructive cycles we see everywhere.
  • It’s a long overdue apology and clearly, based on the pushback, money talks.

​I recorded and released a song called “Bring Me Home” back in 2011 while Omar was still unjustly imprisoned. I wrote it in 2008, almost 10 years ago now, while thinking about his story. There will continue to be Canadians caught in unfortunate circumstances abroad and I want to continue believing I live and give to a country who stands behind the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and protects and values its citizens, especially its children, regardless of race or religion and brings them home. ​ 

I believe the ​recent statement by Lt. Gen Roméo Dallaire and Dr. Shelly Whitman on Omar Khadr describes the situation best:​

​”​An apology and compensation is just the first step in a long healing process that has only begun for this young man. An apology does not absolve Canada for its many years of inaction, but does give it an opportunity to finally lead once again on issues of children. When Khadr was finally released on bail on May 7th of 2015 he stated, “there is nothing I can do about the past, but there is something I can do about the future”.

​Canada can and should find resonance and continued action in these words.

We applaud the action of the Canadian government in issuing this apology as a critical step to demonstrate a children’s rights upfront approach. It is time for us to break the cycle of violence that so many children are vulnerable to around the world.

We have finally seen the light.”



Blog Justine Vandergrift:

Letter to Omar Khadr from a student hailing from Nova Scotia

On this website and on our Facebook-page we have been posting some of the letters of support we receive. This one, from a very thoughtful young Canadian, expresses so succinctly what many are feeling.

Dear Mr. Khadr

My name is Mathieu Rozier I am student hailing from Nova Scotia, a quiet rural community outside the university town of Wolfville. I was born and raised in this community and though the values and ideologies of myself and my neighbours differed, I was able to form deep and lasting friendships with them, whether it be with Winston, and old gentlemen with whom I pick corn for Dave, a local farmer, or Wesley, my dearest childhood friend. When I became older, I attended a more diverse school, meeting people with perspectives and values closer to my own, but I still retained my old friendships, because those people took the time to know me and judge me for what I did, not what was said about me. I believe you should be afforded the same opportunity.

I was fortunate. I was never discriminated against or humiliated for my identity. I’m not a minority and I have never faced poverty, or any great adversity for that matter. Unfortunately there are too many that do, and undeservedly so. I believe every person should be given a chance, and that before we judge an individual, we should take the time to know them, and unfortunately anger, suffering, and most of all fear interrupt this.

I grew up watching your story, and every time it broke my heart. I’m 18 now, but even 14 or 15 is a blur to me, and while my friends and I played war, it became a reality for you. I cannot imagine how I would’ve reacted in your position, a child caught in the middle of a terrible situation completely out of my control and dragged off to a reality worse than hell. I would have lost all my happiness, desire for life, and most importantly, my compassion.

But somehow you persevered, and look at the man you’ve become! I cannot claim to know you, as I’ve never met you, but watching you speak about your life I’ve been given such a strong impression. If I were in your position I would only feel anger, hatred, and contempt, but you’re filled with forgiveness, humility, and compassion, even for those that wish you ill. Your fortitude is more than admirable, you’re actions and demeanour are those which few in the world can claim, though most strive for. You’re a good person, never let anybody convince you otherwise.

I felt compelled to write you on this occasion because I feel I have a responsibility as a Canadian and a fellow human being to give you my support in this trying time. It seems you have undeservedly become the centre of a hateful ideological battle which no person deserves to bear. The world is filled with so much anger and fear, and those that attack you and your character are filled with these things. Frankly it breaks my heart. For they judge you not by your actions, but by propaganda and raw, misdirected emotion. If they would only get to know you, they would realize their error. What happened to you was a violation of Canadian and international law, as well as a violation of the Geneva conventions, and what happened is reprehensible. I just hope that it becomes a lesson to governments in the future.

The most important thing is that through all you’ve faced, you have miraculously, and thankfully survived. Though it may seem the whole world is against you, this is not so. Although those that oppose you are vocal, they are in the minority. Most people I have spoken with support you and believe in you, and though you seem to be a man of unparalleled fortitude, such hatred and negativity does get to a person, and I would like you remember that we believe in you.

I will not offer you my pity, as I know you would not want it, but I offer you this; my admiration, support, and most importantly my faith in you.

Remember: All things pass with time. It is exhausting to hate, and easy to love. A lesson that, from what I understand, you know well. In time you will find your own community, if you haven’t already. You’ll become friends with all sorts of people, and they will value you, for who you truly are; a kind, compassionate, and friendly person. In time your notoriety will fade and people will either forgive you or forget you, and you’ll be able to go about your life, truly free for the first time.

Good fortune and happiness to you, I can think of no one more deserving.

Hoping you are well

Mathieu Rozier

A Petition from Leadnow | ‘I Stand with Omar Khadr’

Dear Omar Supporters,

This spring, we sent you a request to sign our​ parlia​me​ntar​y petition calling​ on the government to fulfill our long overdue ​obligation to Omar Khadr by offering an official apology and appropriate compensation for the wrongs he has suffered.

​Thanks to everyone for your positive response.

As you are likely aware, earlier this month the Canadian government awarded compensation to Omar and issued a formal apology ​- a​ huge victory for all who respect our Charter, the rule of law and human rights.

An unfortunate backlash, primarily orchestrated by Conservative Party members, has been a cause of concern and deep frustration to those who have an appreciation of the facts of the case.

However, organizations such as the Vancouver District Labour Council, the UnitedChurch, Independent Jewish Voices and individuals: Elizabeth May, Senators Kim Pate and Wanda Thomas Bernard have already come forward to express support for the settlement. began to circulate a petition ‘I Stand with Omar Khadr’. If you would sign and help distribute, that would be much appreciated.

Leadnow petition link

If you belong to an organization or group, please ask the membership to express support for Omar’s settlement and let us know the result.

Posted ​here​ is a link to the 2013 Edmonton talk by Sam Morison, the Pentagon lawyer who is currently involved in the appeal of Omar’s Guantanamo “convictions”. Morison’s lecture shows that the evidence in the case points to Omar’s innocence rather than his guilt. A must-see for everyone who would like an in depth understanding of the evidence and events that took place on July 27th 2002-almost 15 years ago.


In solidarity for universal human rights,

The Free Omar Committee

FREE Omar Khadr Now Campaign 
E        [email protected]
FB      like us: Free Omar Khadr Now
TW     follow us: Free Omar Khadr Now
Some cases enshrine the defining moments of their time. Omar Khadr’s is one. Future generations will rightly judge our shocking dereliction of responsibility in this matter and our collective Canadian failure to extend justice and humanity - Constance Backhouse, Distinguished Professor of Law

Scathing responses from constituents on conservative MP Poilievre’s unsolicited email.

Our supporters are wonderful!

Please read these great letters from Deb Innes and Stephanie Gilman, both constituents in Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre’s Carleton riding. They are responding to his circulation of a letter encouraging constituents to sign a petition in protest of Omar’s settlement (see below). They state that his poisonous message reflects a disturbing ignorance of the facts and criticise his party’s shameful politicalisation of the recent settlement.

Both letters here:

Letter Deb Innes:

“I will definitely NOT sign the petition as I totally disagree. I do not think you should be using the term ‘confessed terrorist’ for a confession achieved through torture. I thought Canada was a better place that did not condone torture and the often false confessions it elicits. I have no idea if he threw that grenade or not, but I know he was a child stuck in a situation not of his own making. I have a 15 year old son and I can’t imagine the same for him. It horrifies me to think of what he went through before that battle and after.

I feel that the Conservative party is making this payment a political statement, which it should not be, and trying to gain votes as many people do not know the whole story. All people hear, from your party and others, is that the liberals are paying a ‘confessed terrorist’. I am ashamed to live in your riding when you send out emails like this.

Please spend your time trying to make the world a better place instead of wasting time writing emails like the one below,

Deb Innes”


Letter Stephanie Gilman:

Mr. Pierre Poilievre,

What I find completely unacceptable is your use of the words ‘confessed terrorist’. Omar Khadr was a tortured child soldier whose confession was achieved through means defined as torture by the United Nations Convention Against Torture, of which Canada is a signatory. Therefore, his confession is not to be given any credence.

Through UNICEF Canada, the Canadian government supports the rehabilitation of child soldiers who have done unspeakable acts in various sub-Sahara African countries. However, it seems that as Khadr is convicted of killing an American, various groups think he should be labelled a terrorist.

The Canadian government ignored its citizen, Omar Khadr, while he was tortured at Guantanamo. For these crimes, the Canadian government must pay restitution. I agree that payment is unfortunate, but it is the only way to make restitution for the government’s abhorrent treatment of Khadr. Acceptance of responsibility and an apology would also be a step forward.

Precedent has been set by the Canadian government for paying for its mistakes in wrongful conviction, eg. David Milgaard and Steven Truscott. Khadr lost 13 years of his life largely due to the Canadian government’s unwillingness to defend a Canadian citizen held illegally in a United States controlled facility. I think that Canada is getting off easy.

I would hope the government learns from its mistakes and does not further this debacle nor repeats its lack of support for other Canadian citizens detained abroad. Your email, however, leads me to believe that a Conservative government would be unwilling to learn.

I am forwarding your horrendous and self-aggrandizing email to as many of your constituents as possible. It is a continuation of the various bandwagons on which you have jumped in an attempt to further your own political interests. I hope that your constituents take the time to share their views with you.


Stephanie Gilman


Trudeau government quietly paid
$10.5 million to Omar Khadr

Dear Friend,

Last week, the Liberal government was caught quietly giving convicted and confessed terrorist Omar Khadr $10.5 million of taxpayers’ money.

This is reprehensible. Canadian taxpayers did not force Omar Khadr to fight for the Taliban in Afghanistan, nor did we imprison him in Guantanamo Bay. Additionally, Canadian soldiers who are injured or killed in combat receive a maximum Disability Award of $360,000 - or just 3.4% of what the Trudeau government awarded Khadr.

So why do WE need to pay him $10.5 million?

What is most amazing is that the Supreme Court did NOT rule that the government was required to pay Khadr - it was a political decision by Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal cabinet. Trudeau insulted the many Canadians who fought and died combating the Taliban.

If you disagree with Justin Trudeau’s decision to pay Khadr $10.5 million, click here to sign the petition.


Hon. Pierre Poilievre, PC, MP

Heart warming messages to Omar Khadr

We have been sharing some of the heart warming messages that we receive via email and forward to Omar. Here is one recently received from Irene O’Toole and posted here with her permission. Despite years of lies and misinformation, it is reassuring that so many Canadians can determine the truth.

“To you all I want you to know how grateful I and all those I know are for the many years of selfless hard work you have put in to bringing this final justice for Omar Khadr. I was there, in Toronto, outside the US Embassy probably eleven years ago protesting with others who value justice and yet, inside, we felt a diminishing sense of hope between George W and Stephen Harper.

But today, thanks to your work Omar Khadr has his apology and although it does not turn back the clock on the atrocities he suffered at the hands of the Canadian and US governments, hopefully it will give him some sense of recognition of the wrongs done to him.

To Denis Edney…..please tell him, he is a hero of humanity, a global role model and a wonderful guy, his wife and family also for their support. They are revered by many people in my community and I am sure across Canada and the world.

To Omar Khadr…….please don’t feel you have to answer any more questions, it is public service leaders who need to answer the questions and you are young and can now finally get on with finding your life.

To all you ‘backroom’ workers, thank goodness you had the tenacity to keep this fight for justice going, it feels good to know such great people are out there willing to share their time, skill and courage to fight for what is right,

Best wishes to you all, please forward this to Omar Khadr and Denis Edney for me, thx”




Heart warming messages to Omar Khadr

We are sharing some of the heart warming messages that we receive via email and forward to Omar. Here is one recently received from Robert Bradley and posted here with his permission.

Despite years of lies and misinformation, it is reassuring that so many Canadians can determine the truth.

“Please relay my message to Omar.

Have been following the goings on on television and in the media. As a proud Canadian, I’d like Omar to know I support him 100%. I would not think twice about hiring him if I was in the position to do so.

Tell him not to get down…hang in there and I am sure after all this present media attention passes, things will be improve for hIm.”



Garossino’s tweet questioning Omar’s ‘guilt’ goes viral!

Garossino Tweet - Omar Khadr

Former Crown Prosecutor Sandy Garossino’s tweet questioning Omar’s ‘guilt’ goes viral!

“If you’re convinced #Khadr killed Speer, please read this & then explain how he did it. …. I’ll wait.

Her article exposes the faulty arguments put forth during the military commission hearings - the only plausible explanation for the death of Speer completely exonerates Omar.

Garossino’s challenge to prove otherwise has so far been unanswered. ….







THIS is the kind of information that is required when assessing the Khadr settlement.

Exclusive TV interview with Omar Khadr |

Episodes 24 | 60, ICI radio Canada -

What if Omar Khadr isn’t guilty? |

By Sandy Garossino for the National Observer -

Ottawa failed Omar Khadr: That’s why he deserves compensation |

By Audrey Macklin | Special to The Globe and Mail -

By Romeo Dallaire and Alex Neve | Opinion  The Globe and Mail -

Omar Khadr fact check paints a clearer picture of the case and the incident underlying it |

By Michelle Shephard for the Toronto Star -

Who’s to blame for the Khadr payout? Stephen Harper, mostly | | This is what ignoring the rule of law costs: $10 million and change -

Omar Khadr and the Shame of the Canadian Press |

By Omar Aziz | The Walrus -

What 3 legal minds think about the Omar Khadr settlement |

By Aaron Wherry | CBC News –


Did you read this article about Omar Khadr that everybody is talking about?

Free Omar has always maintained that the only evidence presented by the sham Guantanamo process revealed Omar’s innocence not his guilt. This brilliant article exposes that the case has been dominated by the presumption of guilt. Yet the evidence tells a different story.

Read here > What if Omar Khadr isn’t guilty? | By Sandy Garossino for the National Observer



Federal government officially apologizes to Omar Khadr

July 7th 2017 - A day of great significance for all those who value justice and fundamental freedoms. The Government of Canada issued a formal apology to Omar Khadr. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould: ‘I hope Canadians take away two things today: Our rights are not subject to the whims of the government of the day, and there are serious costs when the government violates the rights of its citizens.’

With great poise Omar responds to questions in a CBC interview.