Friday, November 13, 2009

Today in Stephen Harper's Canada

It's the end of the road today for Stephen Harper's long years of sitting on his hands on the Omar Khadr file. Today, at the Supreme Court of Canada, he is having Justice Department lawyers argue for the umpteenth time against bringing back to Canada a Canadian citizen captured as a child soldier at the age of 15. The Harper Government has lost that argument twice now in the Federal Court, having been ordered to seek Khadr's repatriation. So there's nowhere to go after today's court hearing but to wait for the judgment.

It's a good day to take stock then of what Stephen Harper's leadership has meant for Canada as reflected in the Khadr case. He's sent a message to the world that Canada won't even seek repatriation of a Canadian citizen with child soldier status, even though multiple courts have noted the unique circumstances of Khadr's case whose Charter rights have been breached, whose rights under UN conventions protecting children have been ignored. This would be the first such trial of a child soldier since the 1940s. What is wrong with Canada other nations must be thinking. All other western nations have repatriated their citizens from Guantanamo, we're laggards.

Harper's continued refusal to repatriate a Canadian citizen who has been tortured at Guantanamo Bay also sends a message on that score. Torture is not enough to make the Harper Government move, even though Canada's own CSIS participated in an investigation of Khadr following Khadr's "frequent flyer" sleep deprivation program, implicating Canada in a breach of Khadr's rights. There has been no change in position despite the facts about that torture coming to light while Mr. Harper has been Prime Minister, no modified Canadian position to act on the basis of that new knowledge. Similarly, the revelation of exculpatory evidence in Khadr's case warrants no new position either. They've instead been stuck in rote dogmatism on this file, unwilling to read the changing circumstances happening around them, including a new American administration that clearly wants to close Guantanamo, shop of horrors, down.

That's Harper's Canada, in which a Canadian citizen sits in a reprehensible modern day gulag run by our strongest ally. Because the Conservative base would yelp in disapproval if Mr. Harper did otherwise. Politics before human rights, but of course.

Here's an incredible statement from Khadr's lawyer:
"“All it takes is a phone call—a call between the prime minister and the president,” says Dennis Edney, Khadr’s ever-relentless lawyer. “I’m told that the Americans don’t have any concerns about sending Omar back to Canada. All the pressure is coming from Stephen Harper.”"
Don't we know it so well. For many of us, days like today are the ones where what it means to live in Stephen Harper's Canada really hits home. Here's hoping the Supreme Court sends him a message.