Independent Jewish Voices Canada welcomes the apology and compensation made by the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau to Omar Khadr after years of shameful treatment meted out to him by U.S. and Canadian authorities, under both Liberal and Conservative governments.
Khadr endured years of horrific imprisonment in the notorious Guantánamo Bay prison, for a long time denied access to legal counsel, subject to torture, finally confessing to various charges in a military “trial” (a process declared illegal under U.S. and international law by the U.S. Supreme Court) under threat of indefinite detention. He was abandoned to his fate by three Canadian governments—the Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, and the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. He was interrogated several times by Canadian CSIS agents, who only stopped as a result of orders from a Canadian court. The Harper government blocked Khadr’s transfer to a Canadian prison and his eventual release for as long as it could, even after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled several times in Khadr’s favour.
Canada’s active participation in Khadr’s mistreatment is part of a larger pattern of gross human rights violations in the course of the seemingly endless “war on terror” in which both Canada and the U.S. have been complicit in other ways, such as the handover of Afghan detainees for torture during the illegal war in Afghanistan.
The Harper Conservatives made Khadr the focus of a campaign of Islamophobia and xenophobia that has now been revived by the Conservatives and their supporters with vitriolic attacks on the recently announced compensation to Khadr. This campaign reflects a combination of ignorance, distortion and racism. These attacks mirror the xenophobic right-wing populist wave—dividing the world into the good West and evil Muslim/Arab east (with Israel counted as an honorary member of the former)–that swept the U.S. with Donald Trump’s accession to the presidency, and has been taken up by Canadian Conservatives, initially spearheaded by Harper and continuing under Andrew Scheer.
As a human rights organization that supports both Palestinian and Israeli rights, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) strongly opposes any public utterances that support or promote racism or bigotry of any kind, including Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism and anti-Semitism. We also oppose the widespread violations of human rights and their justifications which have been a hallmark of both the “war on terror” and the more recent wave of xenophobia in both the U.S. and Canada. We call on Canadians to resist this wave and to defend the human rights of all people, in particular marginalized peoples everywhere who are subject to racism, discrimination, occupation or military invasion and attacks.