up for Canada” was the slogan that Stephen Harper took to the polls in 2006.
When the next election rolls around, he’ll have a quite different one: “Stand
up for torture!”
now people are well aware of the events surrounding Omar Khadr, the
Toronto-born teenager who’s been awaiting trial at Guantanamo Bay (“Gitmo”)
since he was 15.
official story goes something like this: Jihadist kid goes to terrorist
training camp. Jihadist kid throws grenade. Jihadist kid kills medic. Jihadist
kid lawfully imprisoned. Jihadist kid facing “judicial process that should
spoken to Khadr’s lawyers on numerous occasions. I’ve a done a number of
stories about the case. And I can say, unequivocally, that this kid should be
brought back to Canada – not necessarily because I believe he’s innocent,
but because I can’t stand by and allow a fellow Canadian (in his early 20s now)
be subjected to an illegal, Kafkaesque judicial process.
legislation that governs justice at Guantanamo Bay is called the Military
Commissions Act. It’s a novel interpretation of the laws of war that has
somehow passed into U.S. law. It establishes a special tribunal at the prison
that plays by its own rules without much regard for international law, the law
of war, or even really the rule of law to begin with.
one thing, it denies the rights of detainees to petition a judiciary for a writ
of habeas corpus
. Such a writ
allows prisoners to challenge the bases of their imprisonment and thus protect
against arbitrary state action. Detainees like Khadr don’t have this right.
have been instances in history when
has been taken away from Canadians. The October
Crisis of 1970 was one of those times – Pierre Trudeau’s War Measures Act
waived that right, essentially allowing police to arbitrarily arrest and hold
people indefinitely, but it’s a way of life for citizens of Guantanamo Bay.
that, there’s a queue of other legal travesties that permeate the Military
Commissions Act. Section 948 of the act, for example, defines an “unlawful
enemy combatant” as anyone who fights back against United States forces and
doesn’t wear a uniform to show who you are. Anyone who does fight back is
guilty of a war crime.
the United States Army came over the mountains and staged an invasion of
Whistler Village. You’d be guilty of a war crime for fighting back if you
didn’t wear any insignia to show who you are. Lord help you if you use a
there’s the liberties the act takes with evidence. In a trial at Guantanamo
Bay, hearsay can be admitted as evidence. If I were to go to trial there, a
prosecutor could land a huge blow against my reputation if he told the court
from hearsay that I skinned kangaroos in my spare time.
as these laws are, that’s nothing beside the allegations of torture that have
been levelled against the guards holding Khadr — allegations that include
chaining him to the floor in a fetal position, depriving him of sleep for weeks
and dragging him along the floor of an interrogation room to wipe up his own
time Stephen Harper says he won’t bring Khadr back to Canada, he legitimizes
all of these things. His spokesman continues to say, “There is a judicial
process underway to determine Mr. Khadr's fate. This should continue.”
you might ask, should
readers care? It’s very simple – many of you could make a difference.
residents have Chuck Strahl for an MP. He’s an earnest, intelligent, sincere
parliamentarian who also happens to be one of the most influential members of
Stephen Harper’s cabinet. It was his lobbying that helped convince the Prime
Minister to make a formal apology for the residential school policy. Though he
didn’t do that alone, he certainly has his leader’s ear.
not about to tell Pemberton residents what they should or shouldn’t do. But I
will say that the people in that community are uniquely placed to make a
difference on this issue.
is the only western power that has not repatriated its citizens from Guantanamo
Bay. Even John Howard, the neocon former Prime Minister of Australia,
repatriated Gitmo detainee David Hicks, a kangaroo skinner who was charged with
providing material support for terrorism. Today he walks a free man.
has to be done for Khadr. And frankly, with Chuck Strahl as an MP to talk to
about this case, Pemberton residents are in the best place to do it.