Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Resolving the Khadr case

Given that for years now the Harper government has been deferring to the U.S. on Omar Khadr's fate, one would think they might actually follow through on that position and listen carefully to the new signal being sent our way: "U.S. officials looking for way to send Khadr back to Canada: source."
Obama administration officials are quietly seeking a way to repatriate Canadian-born terror suspect Omar Khadr, an authority in a position to know has confided.

“They don’t have the stomach to try a child for war crimes,” said the source, who declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of such a U.S. bid.
Why now? Is it just that the Obama administration can finally see the optics of the trial of a child soldier in front of them and they're queasy? Likely part of it. It also has to do with the Supreme Court of Canada having said that Khadr's rights have been violated and putting the onus on our government to seek a remedy for the violation. That judgment created a new dynamic and resulted in the Canadian government asking that torture tainted evidence not be used against Khadr. This gesture from the Americans seems to be a response to that Canadian diplomatic note:
In a slight softening of its position, Ottawa asked the United States last month to avoid using shared evidence to prosecute Khadr after Canada's top court ruled Canadian officials had violated his rights by sharing his statements to them with Washington.
The Harper government did as little as it could to seek to remedy Khadr's rights violations yet the Obama administration seems to be exploiting the minimal gesture as much as they can by putting this quiet pressure on.

So what will the Harper government do in response to this outreached hand from the Obama administration? Will they finally lose their stubborn posture? Will Harper engage Obama on Khadr, as Norman Spector suggested yesterday? Whether Harper can see beyond his political base to larger considerations is the big question. He's got his people calling Khadr a "little terrorist" after all. How do you resolve a situation diplomatically when you have so inflamed your base against this citizen's return? The game is over if the Americans are signalling they don't want to prosecute. Are we really going to refuse to take Khadr when the Americans don't want him?