Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this concurrence debate on the report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on Omar Khadr.
I thank my colleague, the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, for getting this the issue on both the agenda of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and the agenda of the House today for a full debate. This debate is long overdue, and many Canadians will certainly agree with that.
Back in October 2002, Omar Khadr's situation was first raised in the House of Commons by my predecessor, Svend Robinson, in questions to the Liberal government of the day.
What exactly did the standing committee recommend? There were seven recommendations. However, in my reading there, there are three that are absolutely crucial to this situation.
The first is that the Government of Canada must demand Omar Khadr's release from U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay.
The second is that the director of public prosecutions in Canada should investigate and, if warranted, and I emphasize if warranted, prosecute Omar Khadr under Canadian law.
The third is that Canadian authorities must ensure that an appropriate rehabilitation and reintegration program is developed for Omar Khadr.
All three of those recommendations are very important and very wise.
The bottom line is that Omar Khadr must be brought home immediately. There is absolutely no excuse for his continued detention at the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison.
Omar Khadr, who is a Canadian, born in Ottawa, was 15 years old when he was first detained. That was almost seven years ago. He was held by U.S. authorities for three years before any charges were laid against him and still there has been no full hearing of the charges since he has been held. That is an outrageous record of justice denied to a young Canadian.
Omar Khadr remains the only citizen of a western country imprisoned at Guantanamo. Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Russia, Spain, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom all had adult nationals detained there. Each one of those countries got their adult citizens out. Each took the initiative and acted on behalf of their adult citizens, but not Canada. Canada has not acted on behalf of Omar Khadr, a child at the time these alleged crimes took place. Omar Khadr was only a child when the alleged crimes took place and he was the only child detained at Guantanamo.
The standing committee noted that Canada has obligations, under international law, to children and to child soldiers.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says:
Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated...in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child's best interest not to do so and shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits, save in exceptional circumstances;
It also says:
No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age;
Furthermore, the optional protocol for the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement children who are in conflict commits countries to:
—cooperate...in the rehabilitation and social reintegration of persons who are victims of acts contrary to this Protocol, including through technical cooperation and financial assistance.
UNICEF, in its principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups, which was endorsed by Canada in 2007, states:
A child rights approach, meaning that all interventions are developed within a human rights framework, should underpin all interventions aimed at preventing recruitment or use, securing the release of, protecting, and reintegrating children who have been associated with an armed force or armed group. Funding should be made available for this programming, according to the rights and needs of the children, irrespective of formal or informal peace processes or the progress of formal adult DDR processes.
Others have pointed out that Omar Khadr's continuing imprisonment violates other international laws and treaties, including the Convention against Torture, the Hague regulations, the Geneva conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
In fact, the Supreme Court of Canada and the Federal Court of Canada have found that Omar Khadr has been subjected to conditions of confinement and interrogation that violate international prohibitions against torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, a fact pointed out by the leaders of the opposition parties in a letter to President Obama last month.
Canadian courts have also found that Canada was aware of these violations while they were occurring, and that is a damning indictment of the Canadian government.
Canada played a significant role in developing international agreements to protect children involved in armed conflicts. Yet, when it comes to a Canadian child, a Canadian child soldier or a Canadian child involved in an armed conflict, our government has completely abandoned him.
Gail Davidson of Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada and Lawyers Against the War said:
The Canadian government has, with knowledge of the facts and law, failed or refused to:
provide consular assistance to Khadr; or,
exercise diplomatic means to secure his release and repatriation; or,
attempt to prevent violations of his internationally protected rights;... or,
accurately disclose Canadian involvement in Khadr’s detention and treatment.
Ms. Davidson further notes:
If Omar Khadr were afforded the full protection of established international rights to which everyone is entitled, the law would prevent both further prosecution and continued detention. Further prosecutions before a properly constituted court, in the U.S. or in Canada, would end in a stay of proceedings or a dismissal of charges because of the irremediable harm caused to Khadr by prolonged violation of his internationally protected rights.
The reputed actions of U.S. officials to falsify...and withhold...evidence would also...prevent further prosecution and detention. While there is now no credible evidence of wrongdoing by Khadr, proof of wrongdoing against him continues to increase.
This situation should never have been about the unpopularity of Omar Khadr's family or its political opinions. It is time to get Omar Khadr home and to help him regain his life. It is also time to seek action against those who did not come to his aid and perpetrated violations against him.
There is no doubt in my mind that a full public inquiry into Omar Khadr's case is required to hold the Canadian government accountable for its actions.
There are Canadians ready to help Omar Khadr on his return. There is a plan in place to care for him and help him readjust to Canadian society, with an oversight committee of medical, legal and religious leaders willing to take the legal responsibility for this program. The plan includes special home schooling, psychiatric and physical therapy.
The Muslim community has committed to much of the cost of this program. As one of Omar Khadr's lawyers, Dennis Edney has pointed out, “Canadians are saying to our government that we are ready to assist Omar Khadr”.
Omar Khadr's detention at Guantanamo Bay detention centre has been an outrage. The inaction by the Canadian government to help a Canadian citizen and a child soldier has been inexcusable.
Omar Khadr's repatriation is long overdue. The bottom line is we must bring Omar Khadr home.