House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There is no consent.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to ask for the unanimous consent of the House to return to presenting reports from committees.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

June 19th, 2008 / 10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on International Trade, entitled “Human Rights, The Environment and Free Trade with Colombia”.

Although there was not unanimity in the passing of this report in committee, I think it fairly represents the testimony of more than 50 witnesses here and in Colombia. It is a pleasure and honour to present this to the House.

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, presented to the House on Tuesday, June 17, be concurred in.

This morning I will be sharing my time with my good friend from Windsor—Tecumseh.

On March 11 of this year, at the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, I moved a motion to review the case of Omar Khadr and to report to the foreign affairs committee with recommendations to the government.

I did so for no political points, as has been suggested by the government. I did so because the handling of this case is so fundamental to Canadians' sense of what is just and their expectations that Canada will assume its responsibilities under the international covenants it signs.

As we know, the foreign affairs committee has tabled the subcommittee's report with the addition of the government's dissenting opinion.

At my first intervention in the committee, I said the fact that Omar Khadr's country has not given him the help that all Canadian citizens deserve is absolutely unacceptable. Omar Khadr was a boy, a child soldier of 15 years of age, when he was shot twice in the back and almost executed by American special forces.

Since that time, he has been held as a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay. While in custody, Omar has had to cope with what the American government refers to as enhanced interrogation techniques. For the past six years at Guantanamo, he has been held with adult detainees, and now Omar faces the very real possibility of a life sentence.

I have some quotes I would like to bring to this House from the committee report. They are from public testimony in our committee.

As was reported, Senator Roméo Dallaire said that:

Canada is heading down a slippery slope by failing to obey the United Nations conventions on child soldiers to which it is a signatory....

Senator Dallaire went on to say:

--the minute you start playing with human rights, with conventions, and with civil liberties in order to say you're doing it to protect yourself...you are no better than the guy who doesn't believe in them at all.

Former prosecutor David Crane, who was the Sierra Leone prosecutor for the United Nations, testified that he believes Khadr should be treated as a child soldier. Mr. Crane also said that he thought it important to bring Khadr back “and have his case fairly and openly considered in Canada”. Mr. Crane went on to testify further that “any child...just doesn't have the requisite mental capability to choose this particular situation, regardless of whether they volunteer or not”.

Democracy is a very, very fragile thing and often Canadians fail to realize this point. Perhaps that is because to get our Constitution all we had to do was write a nice letter to the Queen. Veterans of Canada's wars will tell us very quickly what the costs are of protecting and sustaining our democracy.

Our military forces in Afghanistan are tasked with enhancing the conditions under which a democracy might flourish there. Is it not ironic that a government with Canadian troops fighting in Afghanistan to protect the rights of the Afghani people will not protect the rights, under United Nations covenants, of Omar Khadr?

Recently released internal reports from Canadian officials say that Omar Khadr is “a good kid” and that he has not been radicalized. According to these reports, Mr. Khadr understands that he is in Guantanamo because of his family.

At this point, I would like to reiterate the committee's recommendations.

The committee recommended “that the Government of Canada demand the immediate termination of Military Commission proceedings against Omar Khadr”.

The committee expressed “its objection to the position stated by the United States that it reserves the right to detain Omar Khadr as an 'enemy combatant', notwithstanding an acquittal or the possible termination of proceedings”.

The committee recommended “that the Government of Canada demand Omar Khadr's release from US custody at Guantanamo Bay to the custody of Canadian law enforcement officers as soon as practical”.

The committee called “on the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate, and, if warranted, prosecute Omar Khadr for offences under Canadian [criminal] law”.

The committee went on to recommend “that the Government of Canada take such measures as are necessary to ensure that possible security concerns are appropriately and adequately addressed upon the repatriation of Omar Khadr”.

The committee called on “the Government of Canada to take appropriate measures that are consistent with Canada's obligations under Article 7 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and with Canadian law”.

In particular, the subcommittee called on “the relevant Canadian authorities to ensure that an appropriate rehabilitation and reintegration program is developed for Omar Khadr, which takes into account legitimate security concerns. To the extent necessary, such a program could place judicially enforceable conditions on Omar Khadr's conduct”.

Mr. Khadr's military lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Kuebler, has stated that “he would like to see Omar go from Guantanamo Bay to some situation in Canada where he has access to the rehabilitative services he needs to eventually transition and adjust and become a functioning member of society”.

Mr. Khadr's legal representative in Canada has put together a plan for his reintegration into Canadian society.

The proposed plan includes psychiatric treatment at the Toronto Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, religious counselling from an imam and a tiered integration program that would see Khadr closely monitored for as long as four years.

I submit to the House that Omar Khadr is salvageable. All he wants from his country, from his government, is another chance. Witness after witness at the subcommittee on human rights have said that Canada must petition the United States to repatriate Omar Khadr to Canada.

The Supreme Court has said that Omar Khadr's rights have been violated. The Supreme Court of the United States has said that the rights of detainees in Guantanamo have been violated.

Canadian officials are saying that Omar Khadr is not a threat and, instead, is a victim of his upbringing.

After six years of two successive governments failing Omar Khadr, it is time for his government to do the right thing and to help this young man salvage the rest of his life.

I will close today with a question asked so many times in various forms in the House. When will the Prime Minister listen to the committee, listen to Canadians and petition the United States government to release Omar Khadr to Canada?

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his speech about the fact that the government's behaviour toward Omar Khadr is beyond all comprehension.

I would like my colleague to explain what fate awaits Omar Khadr if he goes to military trial in Guantanamo. If he is repatriated, what would happen to him when he arrives here?

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for the work she has done on the foreign affairs committee, her assistance on this report and for her very valued judgment and opinions.

If Omar Khadr is convicted, there is a good chance that he will spend the rest of his life in an American prison, perhaps even a military prison, which would be even worse for the young man.

If he comes back to Canada, Omar Khadr has a chance to prove to the world that he is salvageable, that he was simply a child combatant, a victim of the circumstances and a victim, to some extent, of his own father and his father's aspirations.

It is very important that this young man be given the opportunity to save what is left of his life.

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Hamilton for allowing me to share his time.

The report goes to the fundamental reason we have democracy and elected governments. It also goes to our responsibility as members of Parliament and as government to protect our citizens.

We have a responsibility to all of our citizens. We do not have the right to pick and choose. We cannot say, in the case of Mr. Samson or Ms. Martin, that we will do whatever we can as a country to get them out of a prison in another country but then say that we will not do that for Mr. Khadr. That is not why we were sent here by our constituents.

We have a moral and legal responsibility to Mr. Khadr and these responsibilities are clear. These responsibilities should not come as a shock to the current government. Other countries like us, which have full democracies, have honoured these responsibilities since 9/11, since the start of the Afghanistan war. I am speaking of countries like England, France, Germany, and we could go down the list.

When those countries told the United States that they wanted their citizens back, those citizens who the U.S. had in custody, and which, by its own supreme court, was found to be illegal, unconstitutional and against international law, in every case the United States returned them and there were no repercussions.

The Conservative government sits in fear that somehow if it stands on its hind legs and tells the United States that it will do as it is supposed to do as a sovereign power in protecting its citizens and ask that Mr. Khadr be returned to Canada that there will be negative repercussions. The government does act from that fear and it continues to refuse to accept its responsibilities, both moral and legal.

We see that in the dissenting report. It just smacks of a lack of courage on the part of the government to do what it is supposed to do.

This is, by any international standard, a tragedy that has been allowed to go on for over six years. It was quite clear from the very beginning that Mr. Khadr was a child soldier. We were the leading country in pressing for an international protocol to protect children, whatever the colour of their skin, their religion or their families, from being used and abused as child soldiers.

All of the evidence in the Khadr case says that Omar Khadr suffered exactly that. He was used and abused by his family and by the system in Afghanistan but the Conservative government refuses to accept that reality. The evidence of that is absolutely overwhelming.

Instead, to the government's eternal shame, what we hear day after day, when Conservative members stand in the House during question period to respond to questions from all opposition parties about bringing Mr. Khadr home to have him treated here by both our criminal justice system and our health system, is the same old mantra.

What do the government members say? In essence, they say that he has been charged with serious crimes, which we have no issue with, but they do not mention the child soldier protocol. They say that we have been assured by the United States that he is being treated humanely, which is in direct contradiction to all the evidence that we have, and then they say that it is premature to do anything so they will not do anything. It flies in the face of all of the facts and all of their responsibilities.

The three opposition parties, in unison, have said that we must bring him home where we will deal with him here. The report capsulizes, in a very succinct form, what would happen if he were brought home. We have had a paper thin barrier thrown up that we cannot deal with him in our criminal justice system. That is absolutely false. There is overwhelming evidence from any number of constitutional and criminal law experts in Canada who say that we can deal with him.

We will deal with him and give him all the protection he is entitled to as a child soldier and as a juvenile. All the opposition parties are prepared to do that. I would say to the government that it should have some courage and do what it is supposed to do.

Both the supreme court in the United States and the Supreme Court in Canada have said that the military commission tribunal that has been set up at Guantanamo, Cuba, is illegal. They said that it has avoided its responsibilities under the American bill of rights and under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Even after two supreme court decisions in this case, the government continues to say that the system over there is a legitimate one. In complete contradiction to all the legal expertise from various high courts in this country and in the United States, the government still stands in this House and repeats those falsehoods. I do not know if that is out of ignorance, out of fear or out of politics in terms of trying to be friendly with the Bush administration, but that is the reality.

I will move off the legalities for a moment and talk about the politics of the situation. The administration is about to change in the United States. When we look at the sequence of events, it is quite clear that the Bush administration pulled the judge who was actually beginning to give some favourable decisions around disclosure and replaced him with another judge who has a reputation of just forcing matters through.

Both of the leading contenders for the presidency in the United States from both parties have called for the shutting down of Guantanamo. Senator Obama has specifically called for the end of the use of the military commissions. That is what will happen in January of next year. It is a complete repudiation by whoever will be the president next year. That is the politics in that country. We still have the Conservative government toeing the line for the Bush administration.

However, before that occurs, Mr. Khadr will be forced to trial by the judge who has just been appointed. Mr. Khadr's defence counsel have said very clearly that he will be convicted because everybody gets convicted in that system. The prosecution will be able to convict anybody for anything, including murder.

As a lawyer who has practised for a long time, I have looked at the evidence, whether it was in the criminal justice system in the United States or the criminal justice system in this country, and it is quite clear that Mr. Khadr would not be convicted of any serious criminal offence. There is simply no evidence. After five years of hearing these stories, when the real evidence began to come out, and the lack of it, it was quite clear that there was no evidence. Therefore, if he is moved into the criminal justice systems in either country, the regular ones, he would not be convicted of any serious crime.

I want to say to the government that it should listen to the speeches today from all of the opposition parties and to, please, have the courage to do what it is supposed to do.

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great interest to my friend and he has repeatedly talked about the fact that all three opposition parties would like to have Mr. Khadr brought back to the Canadian justice system and I totally agree with him.

He also mentioned about the government having courage. I do not think it is a lack of courage. I think that it is a fundamental ideologically driven decision by the government. It is sadly ironic in my view that we have Canadian men and women dying on Afghanistan soil, protecting the rights of the Afghanistan people, yet we have a government here that is not moving on the rights of a Canadian citizen.

I would make this caveat and this disclaimer that I am not a lawyer. I know my hon. friend is and I have served on many committees with him. I am wondering if he would speak a minute about the fact that the judge has been replaced in Mr. Khadr's case.

I think that is highly unusual and almost unprecedented in most judicial hearings in the absence of the fact that a judge became ill or something like that. There is also the fact that notes have been destroyed, which I think are very pertinent to the fair and due process that should be due Mr. Khadr who is facing these kinds of criminal charges.

We purport around the world that we have an independent judiciary. I would say the United States is probably second to none. As my hon. colleague pointed out in his speech, this has been deemed by the supreme court of the United States to be outside of the law.

I really do agree and wonder how the government can continue to be so entrenched in a position that is a departure from anything that we have done on the international stage, when indeed there are other democracies that have asked for their citizens to be repatriated. I too agree with the hon. member, and say I find this a very appalling situation and a new low for us as a country.

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the first issue of whether it is courage or ideology, I can say to my friend that from some of the discussions that some of the other colleagues from the NDP and I have had with some of the members of Parliament of the Conservative Party, there are a certain number of them who think that we should be bringing him home. Therefore, it is not just ideology. It certainly does not permeate throughout the whole caucus of the Conservative Party.

With regard to the issue of the replacement of the judge, if we follow the sequence of events, for four to five years the military commission system basically was not functioning. The Americans then put one in place. They went into court and it was struck down because it did not have an appeal process. They passed more legislation to have the appeal process put into place.

When the judge who got in there was finally beginning to function, and I am sure they did not want him but he got in there, he began to provide some very basic limited rights to Mr. Khadr's lawyers to get some disclosure. As that disclosure started to come out, as I said earlier, it became very clear that they did not have the evidence that they had told the country and the world that they had against Mr. Khadr. They just did not have it.

In fact, the American supreme court decision here forced disclosure out of our intelligence people, but as that began to come out, it became quite obvious they were going to have a hard time, so they replaced the judge. The judge had no intention to retire. He had been appointed to this file and he was going to carry it through to the end of the trial.

Therefore, it is quite obvious that they manipulated the system over there, always to the disadvantage of Mr. Khadr. It is another reason why the government should be acting.

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Windsor for his intervention and my colleague from Hamilton for his work on this file.

Recently, at the foreign affairs committee, we received the report and the committee voted in favour of the recommendations from the subcommittee on human rights. I am proud that we did so because one of the problems has been the government acknowledging its responsibility.

We have a system in Guantanamo that has fallen apart. The house of cards is falling. Our government needs to acknowledge that. We understand that this system is falling apart in Guantanamo. I want to know from my colleague why is it that our country is not able to do what Australia has done--

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. I will have to cut off the hon. member because the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh only has about 30 seconds to respond.

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is not a question of ability to do anything. It is a question of the willingness, having the political courage to stand up and say we are going to do what we are supposed to do. The government very clearly would get a positive response from the United States. We know that.

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That the House do now proceed to orders of the day.