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?