Letter: Khadr settlement was government’s best option, says Cloverdale-Langley City MP

In a letter to the editor, John Aldag, Liberal MP for Langley City-Cloverdale, lays out the reasons the government of Canada settled with Omar Khadr and why he believes it was the right thing to do. File photo

Editor: I am writing this in response to the letter to the editor, “Khadr didn’t deserve a penny,” published in the Times on July 19.

It was an interesting piece that criticized the government of Canada for settling with Omar Khadr. This has been a very polarizing issue amongst Canadians, and many have expressed opposition to what they view as somehow rewarding an individual implicated in terrorist actions.

The reality however, like most situations, is not quite so simple.

Omar Khadr was suing the Canadian Government for having contravened his constitutionally protected rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada had earlier found that the previous government had violated Mr. Khadr’s constitutional rights, and he was seeking $20 million in damages.

Mr. Khadr is a controversial figure in Canada, and I understand why people have voiced concern over his settlement with the Canadian government.

In the Langley Times letter, the author argued that even though the government would have lost the case, it still should have fought Mr. Khadr out of principle. This is a reasonable contention; however I believe there are two fundamental considerations which makes it the wrong course of action.

The first comes from a pragmatic perspective. The Canadian government would have undoubtedly lost the case. The Supreme Court of Canada had already rebuked the previous Conservative government three times for doing the same, and taxpayers had already spent $5 million fighting against Mr. Khadr. In addition to the $20 million in damages, taxpayers would have also been on the hook for incurred legal fees and expenses, only increasing the price tag of fighting a losing battle.

Ultimately, continuing the case was costing Canadians a great deal of money, and would have only gotten more expensive.

Second – and in my opinion the more powerful reason to settle the case – the Government of Canada under the previous administration had violated Mr. Khadr’s constitutional rights. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects all Canadians, and we must uphold our country’s values even when it is difficult or uncomfortable to do so.

While being held in Guantanamo Bay, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs Canada interrogated Mr. Khadr. They had full knowledge of the sleep deprivation and took advantage of illegally coercive measures he was subjected to. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that while he was held in Guantanamo Bay, “the deprivation of [Mr. Khadr’s] right to liberty and security of the person [was] not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

More importantly, it stated that his treatment “offended the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects” and that the government of Canada was complicit in the violation of the Charter rights of a Canadian citizen.

Although it is controversial, our government had a pragmatic responsibility, and furthermore a moral obligation, to close the book on a long chapter of government failure.

I do not argue that Mr. Khadr has not engaged in troubling activity, only that his government had a duty to handle his incarceration in a legal manner.

By flouting our Constitution, the previous government set out on the road that has led to this decision. We believe that the rights of Canadians are unalienable, without exception.

John Aldag MP,

Cloverdale-Langley City