Omar Khadr: The Politics of Settlement

By: Laura Steiner

There a couple of things we can agree upon when it comes to Omar Khadr.  One is that a settlement of some kind was unavoidable.  If it had gone through the courts, it might have been more than $10.5 million being reported by the press.  From that standpoint it was an incident of pragmatic politics.

The second is nobody wins by playing politics with this.  The fact is successive Canadian governments were complicit in torture.  The Liberals under Jean Chretien were in power when Khadr was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, and did nothing.  His successor Paul Martin  did the same. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government put up a fight to avoid bringing him back.  It took the Supreme Court two decisions to finally force the issue, and get him back. The Conservatives’ thought the issue finished with his return.  The moral high ground is a steep climb for both Andrew Scheer, and Justin Trudeau.  As a matter of fact, it’s non-existent.

The real issue here is Trudeau’s conduct in all of this.  His government had to have known what controversy Khadr can inspire.  His advisors must have realized the level polarization a decision like this would cause amongst Canadians. Trudeau knew this was going to be a bitter pill to swallow.  He should’ve been the one to announce it.  Look us in the eyes and tell us why we should take our medicine.  The fact he didn’t shows a lack of leadership.  Being Prime Minister isn’t always about being popular; sometimes there are decisions are hard decisions to be made.

It turns the story into something more sinister.  People will always wonder why this was kept secret, and if $10.5 million the real figure.  Those two questions are going to haunt the Trudeau Liberals for sometime to come unless they can come up with answers.