• Print

omar khadrBy BERNIE BELLAN
The story about porr Omar Khadr really dominated the news in Canada for a couple of weeks; however, don't expect me to shed any tears for poor little Omar.


It started off with the surprising news that the Liberal Government was caving into Khadr’s lawyer’s demand for $20 million in compensation for his client (or was it more than that...maybe less; the Liberals never did say). Poor little Omar - that innocent child soldier whose rights were so grievously violated by CSIS interrogators in Guantanamo Bay.
Please forgive me if I don’t shed a tear for Omar Khadr. Ever since the news came out that the Liberals were going to offer him $10.5 million in compensation – plus an apology for having violated his rights, I’ve been reading as many different opinions that I’ve been able to find on the matter. I’m not surprised that the Free Press, like the Toronto Star, has been bending over backwards to support the Liberals on this one. Apologizing for alleged past misdeeds by governments – and offering huge sums in compensation, seems to have become a recurrent theme in Canadian political life in recent years.

I’m just wondering when Canadian Jews are going to demand compensation for the almost total ban on the entry of European Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s. Is there any ethnic group in Canada – other than perhaps the British themselves, which didn’t suffer grievous discrimination at one time or another in this country’s history? The notion of “victimhood” has become so commonplace within the Canadian fabric that it’s hard to think of anyone who can’t claim to be, if not a victim him or herself, then  a descendant of a victim.
Which brings me back to poor Omar Khadr. Yes, I’m quite aware of the legalities involved in the Liberals being so quick to cave into what was probably just an opening gambit on his lawyer’s part when he asked for $20 million in compensation. I’ve read enough legal opinions by now to understand that Khadr had a solid case, based on the Supreme Court’s ruling, for some sort of redress, although it’s far from certain - unlike what Justin Trudeau claimed, that Khadr would have received a huge amount in compensation. Symbolically, it would have done the Liberals far more good to contest the case in court.
Further, the negative reaction of most Canadians to the deal given to Khadr is indicative of a deeper anger that exists within the hearts – and minds, of most Canadians, toward Khadr. While some commentators have noted that there is a contradiction in the attitude taken by most Canadians toward the deal given to Khadr, i.e. a few years ago a sizeable number of Canadians agreed that Khadr had been unfairly treated by the Americans in his having been held a prisoner in Guantanamo for so long, yet they roiled at the thought of his having been offered so much money in compensation.
The reason for this apparent contradiction in attitudes, however, is fairly easy to glean: Most Canadians thought that Khadr’s  being allowed to return to Canada to serve the remainder of his prison sentence – and then being released early in the custody of his lawyer,  was compensation enough for whatever wrong might have been committed against him. The manner in which the Liberals handled the entire affair reeked of their own uncertainty that what they were doing was correct. Never mind all the suggestions that the Liberals had been so compromised by Jean Chretien’s previous close ties to the scion of the Khadr family, Ahmed Khadr, who was a close confidante of Osama Bin Laden and a co-founder of Al Qaeda. While that unsavoury connection between the Liberals and a terrorist kingpin may have motivated them to try and get the Khadr file off the books as quickly as possible, Justin Trudeau’s absolutely gutless disappearance during this entire sordid affair – leaving it to the master of gafflebab Ralph Goodale to handle the government’s defense of its position, will likely  resonate deeply with Canadians for quite some time.
Is the Khadr affair a game-changer for the Liberals and Conservatives? Probably. The idea that someone who was ostensibly Canadian – no matter that he was only 15 –  was a combatant for a major terrorist organization, and that his family’s use of their Canadian passports was purely a matter of expediency (allowing them to take full advantage of Canada’s expansive health and social benefits), reminds so many Canadians how much this country’s generosity can be taken advantage of by some cynical immigrants to this great land.
The fact that Khadr is a Muslim, by the way, has nothing to do with any of this. Many Muslims are equally abhorred by the craven manner in which the Liberals handled this episode. Symbolism counts for a great deal in politics – and the symbolism that most Canadians attach to the deal that was given to Omar Khadr is something that will likely come back to haunt the Liberals in the next election.