Monday, October 25, 2010

Profiles in courage all around

From an exchange in Question Period in the House of Commons today (the rough translation):
The Speaker: (Voice of Translator): THE HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR LAURENTIDES-LABELLE.

JOHANNE DESCHAMPS (BQ): (Voice of Translator): Mr. SPEAKER, AFTER EIGHT LONG YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT IN GUANTANAMO, OWE KMAR 4-MARCH KHADR HAS FINALLY PLEADED GUILTY. HAD THE GOVERNMENT ASSUMED ITS RESPONSIBILITIES, THIS TRIAL OF THIS YOUNG CANADIAN BY A U.S. MILITARY TRIBUNAL WOULD NEVER HAVE STARTED. IS THE GOVERNMENT GOING TO FINALLY RECOGNIZE THAT CANADA IS A SIGNATORY TO THE CHILD SOLDIER TREATY AND THAT THIS SHOULD HAVE APPLIED TO THE YOUNG KHADR?

The Speaker: (Voice of Translator): THE HONOURABLE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS.

Hon. LAWRENCE CANNON (C): (Voice of Translator): THANK YOU Mr. SPEAKER. Mr. KHADR HAS PLED GUILTY OF MURDER AND IT IS A CONTRAVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW, ATTEMPTED MURDER -- OF CONSPIRACY, OF SUPPORTING TERRORISTS AND SPYING. SO, AND ACCORDING TO THE MEDIA, Mr. KHADR HAS ALSO CLAIMED -- PLED GUILTY TO BEING A MEMBER OF al QAEDA, OF HAVING MADE IEDs AND OF HAVING KNOWINGLY CREATED CIVILIAN VICTIMS. SO THIS ISSUE CONCERNS Mr. CHARGED AND ARE THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT. THANK YOU.

The Speaker: (Voice of Translator): THE HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR LAURENTIDES-LABELLE.

JOHANNE DESCHAMPS (BQ): TRAP (Voice of Translator): UP UNTIL NOW, CANADA HAS FAILED IN ITS OBLIGATIONS UNDER THE CHILD SOLDIER TREATY BY REFUSING TO DEMAND THE REPATRIATION OF OMAR KHADR. NOW THAT THE YOUNG KHADR HAS PLED GUILTY ABOUT THE CANADIAN TRIBUNAL, WILL THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT AT LEAST SEEK HIS REPATRIATION TO CANADA?

The Speaker: (Voice of Translator): THE FORM OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS.

Hon. LAWRENCE CANNON (C): (Voice of Translator): Mr. SPEAKER, THIS ISSUE, I REMIND YOU; Mr. SPEAKER; THIS ISSUE;

The Speaker: ORDER. ORDER! ORDER. (Voice of Translator): ORDER. THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS HAS THE FLOOR. IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO HEAR HIM.

Hon. LAWRENCE CANNON (C): (Voice of Translator): THANK YOU Mr. SPEAKER. AS I REMIND THE MEMBERS IN THE HOUSE, THIS ISSUE CONCERNS PRIMARILY Mr. KHADR'S LAWYERS, AS WELL AS THE LAWYERS FOR THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT.
I think you can get the gist of it from that. The Harper government is happily trumpeting the plea deal as if this vindicates their inaction. That plea deal, despite the touting of it today as if it is some kind of glorious example of a just result emanating from a just process, is nevertheless tainted. By years of Khadr's detention without a trial, by the torture that has occurred at Guantanamo Bay, by the disrepute the military trial system there has come under.

But there's more political milking to be had out of it from our government, by remaining silent on his ultimate return to Canada:
The plea deal followed a flurry of complex negotiations, including a side deal between the United States and Canada. Reached on Saturday, it says that the Canadian government will treat the results of a military commission trial in the same way as a regular civilian court’s, under a prisoner transfer treaty.

It remains unclear, however, whether the government of the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, which has declined to seek Mr. Khadr’s repatriation, would accept any bid by Mr. Khadr to serve out the remainder of his sentence in Canada.
Vic Toews was careful to leave Khadr's future hanging in the air this afternoon as were all others speaking on behalf of the government today. Must not upset the political base, after all. But Dennis Edney, Khadr's lawyer, believes the deal will allow Khadr's return to Canada:
"Mr. Khadr pleaded guilty this morning …in exchange for the Canadian government agreeing to repatriate him back to Canada after one year," Edney said. "Canada's language is sufficiently satisfactory to uphold Canada to its position, that it will take Omar Khadr back after one year."

Edney said the lawyers received the note from Canadian government Sunday afternoon.

"We have diplomatic notes … which set out Canada's position and set out the United States' position," Edney added.

Those notes will be released later this week, along with the specifics of Khadr's plea deal.
I suspect Edney is going to need those notes and that language. A year is a long time in politics though.