Politics - Federal

Harper: Standing Up For (Some) Canadians

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 04, 2009

In keeping with its recently discovered contempt for expatriate Canadians, the Harper government is now saying that "States do not have a duty to protect citizens held by foreign countries".

Canada's legal duty to protect its citizens, even children, ends at the border and there is nothing in domestic or international law that obliges the government to seek Omar Khadr's repatriation, say federal arguments filed in court.

The government contends it has done plenty to ensure the "well-being" of the Guantanamo Bay detainee - from supplying him with magazines to ensuring he receives medical treatment and facilitating contact with his family - and any further protection is at the discretion of the state, not the courts.

The written arguments were submitted to the Federal Court of Appeal for the government's challenge to a landmark April ruling that ordered Canada, for the first time, to seek repatriation of a citizen held by a foreign power. The appeal has been expedited and a hearing is set for June 23.

Get this: the goverment is appealing a court order to seek the repatriation of a Canadian citizen being held by our closest ally who was picked up when he was still a minor, has been physically and psychologically tortured at the hands of his captors, and has never actually faced any kind of a trial in the seven freaking years he has been held by the US government.

What in the name of all that's decent and recognizably sane is wrong with these people?

A soulless government lawyer actually typed up the following statement on the behalf of a soulless government:

The judge erred by transforming obligations to respect the rights of children within Canada into a new duty to protect Canadian children subject to mistreatment by foreign officials outside the territory of Canada.

I'm ashamed to be represented by this government. For all the dastardly, mendacious and hyper-partisan acts of our Prime Minister and his cabinet, their vile abandonment of the most basic rule of law in defending a Canadian citizen - a child, no less - is just unconscionable.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted June 04, 2009 at 10:15:18

Ryan, your emotional attachment to the issue is quite plain. I do think that if you look through the history of the case you find that previous Canadian administrations didn't do much either. So spare the anti-Harper rhetoric... Here's something to read that might make a little sense if you can see past the cloud in your head...

http://www.cfrb.com/node/917194

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By Frank (registered) | Posted June 04, 2009 at 10:16:18

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 04, 2009 at 11:37:15

Frank,

I would worry about anyone who felt no emotion on learning that their own national government is appealing a court decision that ordered the government to seek the protection of a Canadian citizen - a citizen who was apprehended when still a child, has been physically and psychologically tortured, and has been held without trial for seven years in inhumane conditions.

My "anti-Harper rhetoric" is a continuation of my steady criticism of the Canadian government's unacceptable failure to seek the protection of this Canadian citizen under bot Liberal and Conservative Party leadership.

But while the government could previously be charged with gross negligence in this matter, the current government has actually upped the stakes through its active (not merely passive) opposition to a fundamental tenet of basic justice that was established 800 years ago.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 04, 2009 at 13:48:13

politics 101: always blame previous administrations for not doing something instead of stepping up, leading and doing the right thing.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted June 04, 2009 at 13:53:20

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 04, 2009 at 13:56:41

Frank, I wasn't addressing your comments (or Ryan's). Just making a political observation. It's been like this for years and until a real leader shows up, it won't change. Sadly, I see none on the horizon.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 04, 2009 at 14:50:28

Frank,

From the article you cited (which I did read, incidentally):

"Generally speaking, decisions about foreign affairs fall naturally and properly to the executive. Still, Canadian courts have determined that the executive's prerogative in that area is subject to review under the Charter. As Justice Allen Linden has stated, 'the exercise of Crown prerogative is beyond the scope of judicial review, except, of course, when a right guaranteed by the [Charter] is violated': Copello v. Canada (Minister of Foreign Affairs), 2003 FCA 295, at para. 16, relying on Black v. Canada (Prime Minister) (2001), 54 O.R. (3d) 215 (C.A.)."

That's a fancy way of saying, Stephen Harper's executive privilege with respect to foreign policy is subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, hence, the courts - precisely my point.

The author's appeal to tradition (we should ignore the Charter because British common law has established the Government's executive sway over foreign policy) is merely a sophistic mechanism with which he would kneecap the Charter itself - which was established for the explicit purpose of specifying and guaranteeing the fundamental rights of all Canadians. (Note the serious erosion of civil liberties in Britain, which effectively lacks a Constitution such as ours.)

As for Gabby's comment, it's all tertiary stuff relating to the reasons Khadr was picked up, Obama's decision to close Gitmo and how that will play out. Strictly speaking, it's irrelevant to the question of whether the Canadian government should seek Khadr's return to Canada on constitutional grounds.

It matters not a whit what Khadr may or may not have done: he has rights that are fundamental and inviolable.

The US government has had seven years to put him on trial for his alleged crimes. Instead they have held him indefinitely in clear violation of his habeas corpus rights (you'll find them mentioned in the British common law tradition that Brian Lilley claims to esteem), and tortured him.

I have neither time nor respect for the sophistry that intellectual and moral cowards hide behind to justify and defend the inaction and active opposition of successive Canadian governments in leaving this boy - now a young man - in the cruel hands of war criminals.

I likewise offer no apology for my strident condemnation of those parties who executed and enabled this sorry state of affairs.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 04, 2009 at 15:00:26

Is it just me but how does someone get charge with murder on a battlefield? How many innocent people have been murdered in all the wars of aggression?

We as humans have not moved forward, man will continue to kill, maim, destroy, all for a buck.

We have learned nothing, who cares about the billions of people that have died in all the wars of aggression, and for what. It is the money makers that make a profit funding both sides, who cares about the innocents that die for the rich who plan these wars, yet do not actually do the fighting.

Meanwhile, if you paddle you child on the butt, you are deemed a violent person, yet governments all over the world can drop bombs, torture, kill, maim are seen as the nice guys? What an oxymoronic world we live in.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted June 04, 2009 at 15:12:33

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 04, 2009 at 15:20:23

Loved the other comments in your talk radio link Frank (speaking of 'media dorks'...), here's a choice one:

''The Harper govt must appeal..if this terrorist is allowed back to Canada, he will be on the streets in no time flat, courtesy of our ever bleeding left. Coming very soon... Omar Khadr, sitting on a bus seat next to...you...''

Fear! Panic! Un-Canadian dark skinned people!! Run for the hills!!!

Like it or not that's the company you keep when you side with the people who don't want Canada to fight for Khadr's rights.

Big sign the right wing has gone off the rails... they start equating basic rights with "our ever bleeding left". jeez you'd think they'd like the law-and-order aspect of, you know, PUTTING THE GUY ON TRIAL ALREADY.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 04, 2009 at 16:16:42

Frank writes: Our duty to people who get caught committing acts of terrorism or any other crime for that matter ends at ensuring that they're fairly treated

Ok, so where is the trial? Where is the evidence? How do we know that he has been treated fairly? After seven years, one would think they would of gotten their shit together and proceeded with a court of law.

Why haven't they had a trial? You miss the greater picture, that is way too sad.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted June 04, 2009 at 16:24:33

And the one trial he had back in 2007 resulted in all charges being dropped. So of course, they appealed that and have kept him without any follow up trial for the next two years. Holding prisoners without giving them a trial is illegal under the Geneva Convention (and both American and Canadian law) and I realize that America thinks they cleverly got around the GC by calling the prisoners 'enemy combatants', but nowhere is it dictated that the conventions only apply to prisoners of war.

I agree with Frank that all political parties have been pretty awful in this matter, but going out of your way to appeal a motion to have him brought back to Canada (where he might have to face a court).

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 04, 2009 at 18:32:10

I saw a great show a few years ago showing normal family men in the middle east joining their local chapter of al qaeda in order to defend their communities from the US onslaught earlier this decade.

They interviewed many of these men and it was very interesting listening to them talk about the fact that they don't support the extremist elements of al qaeda, yet they love their city/community and can't stand watching it destroyed.
Many of them spoke about daughters, friends or parents that had been killed in raids during the previous number of months.

The anguish was plain to see. Sit back and do nothing, or join the only local 'military' option available to fight for their community.

Watching this documentary suddenly helped me understand what was meant by the head of the UN when he said that certain US actions were "breeding terrorism where it previously hadn't existed".

these family men were exactly who he was talking about.

I do my best to try to live my life constantly putting myself in someone else's shoes.
What would I do in that situation?
Would I join a terrorist group if it was my only resort to help stop the killing of my loved ones??

North American media puppets can sit around and yap all they want.
Most of us posting on this board would be wise to turn off the TV and imagine ourselves in some of these situations before we fall for sensational, headline-grabbing quotes from folks whose main goal is to make money for their station or paper.

Rick Mercer and other folks in Canada have been known to have fun with some of the ignorance displayed by our US friends every so often.
Look no further than their media if you're ever wondering why such ignorance can still exist with a straight face.

I really don't know what to make of the Khadr situation, other than the fact that hearing his story makes me thank God for choosing Canada as my birthplace and not some other part of the world where it could have easily been me in this situation instead of him.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted June 04, 2009 at 21:32:53

Khadr was born in Toronto.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 04, 2009 at 21:44:58

thanks for the correction.... I should have stated my thankfulness that my family is from Canada and not from one of these other parts of the world. The point I'm making is clear, regardless of the typo.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted June 04, 2009 at 23:10:48

The other important thing about Khadr's case is:

"The military commander's official report the day after the raid originally said the assailant who threw the grenade was killed, which would rule out Khadr as the suspect.

The report was revised months later, under the same date, to say a U.S. fighter had only "engaged" the assailant, according to Kuebler, who said the later version was presented to him by prosecutors as an "updated" document."

And, "[Army Col. Bruce Pagel] said he couldn't discuss the commander's report further because it will be used as trial evidence", which of course, he'll never have to do, as they appear to plan on never having a trial.

http://www.thestar.com/article/345838

Also, a similar case http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/06/0...

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 07, 2009 at 01:16:21

Jason: Let me pose a question or should a say a scenerio to you. What if our resources such as water were shut off to the US market? What do you think would happen?

I guess what I am trying to say is, one must look at all things, to really understand what is the reality. You may think you and your family are safe but are you really looking at what it is, is our society really safe? What is the message? What does the words imperialism or colonism(sp) really mean?

Could we be part of s system that creates unfairness or should I say inequality?

One only has to look at Canadian history to really see the truth. I am not saying you are a bad person, please do not misintrepret what I am trying to say. We all play a part in the greater scheme of things. Our own actions play a role, even though at times we may not see things in their proper perspective. I know in my life, I am guilty of not paying attention. Social justice is not a easy thing to attain.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 07, 2009 at 09:34:41

grassroots, I agree with you 100%.

I'd say the biggest mistake that people make is to not look at all sides of an issue before making judgement. Sadly, the media and our established powers encourage narrow thinking....usually for a reason.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted June 07, 2009 at 12:42:54

While I understand the concerns raised by Frank (above) and in Brian Lilley's article, and I am no legal scholar, we have to act not only as Canadian citizens (though it seems to me as citizens we have to be very concerned about a government lawyer who doesn't think there is a "duty to protect Canadian children subject to mistreatment by foreign officials outside the territory of Canada"), but as people concerned with natural justice. To wilfully act unjustly against any person in any situation is to act against all human dignity, including our own. This should be our first concern.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2009 at 15:42:39

Interesting commentary by Thomas Walkom in today's Star:

http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/6...

"The court is ... following the law," adds Toronto lawyer Paul Copeland, a special advocate in the Harkat case.

"The reason there have been so many orders against the government is because this government, even more than previous ones, does not care about the rule of law."

[Comment edited by Ryan on 2010-01-05 08:35:45]

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By Frank (registered) | Posted June 09, 2009 at 10:41:14

I don't believe that I said I approved of the way the case is being handled or the fact that there hasn't been a trial yet...I did say that by appealing the decision they're following the law exactly as Paul Copeland said and I happen to agree with his statement... My feeling isn't that the outcry should be because they're appealing the decision but it should be because this has taken far to long. Where's the government's insistence on a trial? There must be some sort of leverage we can use to ensure a quicker end to this fiasco. There needs to be more pressure especially considering the circumstances of the case (allegations of torture etc).

What I'm sick of is a gov't that ran on a platform of integrity and all that other b.s. is rife with such problems as the ones we've seen. It also makes me suspicious that perhaps this sort of thing was covered up in previous gov'ts...but one will never know.

At the risk of giving Capitalist some ammunition, I find myself wondering why no matter who gets voted in to lead this country, there is always some kind of corruption or hype going on. It leaves little time to actually govern the country. Question periods are full of children demanding that other children step down and they get yelled at to shut up and booed etc... Is it possible to have a House full of mature adults discussing matters that actually pertain to the country as a whole without needing to discuss allegations of corruption etc?

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By zookeeper (registered) | Posted June 09, 2009 at 11:12:47

"I find myself wondering why no matter who gets voted in to lead this country, there is always some kind of corruption or hype going on."

Breaking News: People are imperfect, and politicians are people. Film at eleven.

But there's a difference between everyday corruption and the kind of deliberate subversion this government has gotten known for in just a few years. They actually have a handbook for disrupting parlimentary investigations for crying out loud. The Cons have taken extreme partisanship to a whole new level that makes even the iron fisted Chretien Liberals look like Mr Dressup's little friends next to them.

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