Sunday, October 11, 2009

Obama administration irked by Canada's refusal to help on Gitmo

This is big news. "Ottawa's refusal to take Gitmo inmates irks U.S." Great report from Michelle Shephard. Finally some internal indication from the Obama folks that confirms what has been suspected. Many other nations are lining up to help the Obama justice team clear Guantanamo of prisoners by offering to take them in. Why is Canada being so obstinate? Not only are we refusing to request Omar Khadr's repatriation, with our government fighting multiple court rulings ordering that thus far, but we've adopted a blanket policy refusing to take in others. Again, in contrast to what many other western nations are doing and to the consternation of the Obama people.
...the official, who has intimate knowledge of the negotiations and who spoke to the Star on the condition he not be named, said Canada abruptly stopped talks earlier this year. He said the task force was surprised to learn of Canada's decision through a press release.

"I just found it puzzling," there were no phone calls or diplomatic meetings, the official said. "A public rejection was odd."
This is the first public confirmation that the Harper government's position here has had a negative impact.

And note this remarkable bit of backstory on the Harper team keeping quiet the Obama administration's push for us to take some detainees:
...since Khadr faces terrorism-related charges, and the Pentagon has cleared other detainees for release, the official argued that the cases should be viewed as distinct.

"We're still hoping Canada will help," he said. "We can't do this alone."

That was the message Obama's Guantanamo czar tasked with closing the prison brought to Ottawa this spring.
There had been earlier negotiations under the Bush administration about Canada accepting Uighur detainees – Chinese citizens from a Muslim minority group facing persecution in China. But those talks broke down reportedly over concerns of Chinese government reprimands.

The official told the Star the Canadian government was keen to keep quiet the meeting that U.S. Special Envoy Daniel Fried had this spring. Various options for the detainees were discussed and Obama's task force was told that the meeting had been "promising."

But only a week later, Harper's office told journalists that Canada would not accept any Guantanamo detainees – surprising the task force, the official said.
(emphasis added)
Great moments in the annals of diplomacy, publicly and backhandedly slapping your supposed greatest ally in the face on an issue where they need help. What are they thinking? The downside implications of the Harper crew's position are spelled out, what has been speculated for months now:
The official would not speculate whether Canada's apparent snub would hinder relations between the two countries.

But Gar Pardy, the former head of Canada's consular programs, said he would be surprised if it didn't create a chill.

"The administration is saying, 'Look, we've inherited all this stuff. We're looking for a solution here and we would expect getting some help from our friends and we're not getting any.' "
The Americans shouldn't be holding their breath with the Harper crew, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dimitri Soudas repeated the standard denial/refusal to assist for this report.

Way to go Harper government, way to go...

(h/t matttbastard on Twitter)