Two Canadian senators are standing behind Ottawa’s $10.5-million settlement with Omar Khadr while a federal foreign affairs critic is making waves about the issue in the U.S. media.
“Canada aspires to champion the rights of children internationally and to extend compassion and support to children who have been marginalized and victimized,” wrote senators Kim Pate and Wanda Thomas Bernard in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dated Monday.
“We commend you for challenging the use of the label ‘terrorist’ to excuse the inexcusable: the unlawful detention and torture of a Canadian teen, as well as the complicity and the condonation of the torture and imprisonment.”
Both Pate and Bernard were appointed by Trudeau to the senate last fall. Pate had a long career advocating for the imprisoned and Bernard is a former social worker and educator. They are listed as politically independent.
The payout of Khadr, a Canadian citizen who confessed to killing American army medic Christopher Speer in Afghanistan in 2002 after being detained and interrogated by the United States at Guantanamo Bay for 10 years, remains highly controversial among Canadians. Khadr fought with forces aligned with al-Qaida as a 15-year-old and later said his confession was made under duress.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2010 that Canadian officials played a role in the violation of Khadr’s rights but stopped short of imposing a penalty. Khadr was repatriated to Canada in 2012 and held in prison until May 2015.
Until Monday, the federal payout to Khadr had received meagre attention in the U.S. media. But a scathing op-ed written by foreign affairs critic Peter Kent and published in the Wall Street Journal is gaining traction elsewhere.
In a piece called "A Terrorist's Big Payday, Courtesy of Trudeau," the Conservative MP and former journalist said settling with Khadr, while the victim's family got nothing is “a cynical subversion” of Canadian principles.
Kent called Trudeau’s actions “an affront” to Speer and his family, to another U.S. soldier injured, and to “our U.S. allies and to all men and women in uniform.”
By Monday afternoon the issue was the No. 1 story on the Fox News website.
Google searches for Khadr's name were up more than 700 per cent Monday in the United States from the previous day, according to Google Trends.