More Reflections on Omar

There has been continued discussion in Canada of the $10.5 million payment made by the federal government to former child soldier Omar Khadr.

According to polling, 71% of Canadians are opposed to the deal. Of those who support the governing Liberals, 61% are opposed. Most of the reaction I’ve seen has been emotional, no matter whether you support or are disgusted by the payment.

The government says it had no choice, that given a previous Supreme Court ruling it made sense to settle Khadr’s $20 million lawsuit out of court rather than contest it. The government was certain to lose, they tell us, and the payment would have been greater than $20 million.

Not being as omniscient as the government, I would hesitate to predict the outcome of a trial with such certainty. There is no doubt Khadr’s rights were breached by the government, but I don’t think anyone can say what the outcome would have been. Given Khadr’s history, I can envision a situation in which he would win his case but that the court would award only token damages, maybe a dollar or so. Now of course we will never know.

My friend Neil Remington Abramson was commenting on the case in an email exchange, and noted that the payment was quietly announced while Parliament was in summer recess and that the Prime Minister did not hand over the cheque personally, even though he said the payment was the right thing.

I guess even Mr. T eschewed the semi-obligatory selfie with Mr. Khadr. He could have selfied himself handing over the cheque with the usual big grin. So he’s not completely stupid! Our PM is a pretty smart guy and usually in tune with the masses though maybe not this time. Though clearly not omniscient either.

Neil had other concerns, and is not the first Canadian to question the payment in light of other domestic priorities.

I heard that the payment Khadr received was as much as 263 disabled military veterans could expect. I also didn’t know the payment to Khadr is tax free while all the vets receive is taxable.

It’s too bad that Canadian vets are so badly treated but perhaps that is the lot of all veterans of a system. Sears employees are losing their pensions while company executives get big bonuses. Happened to the Nortel employees in their time. And to the ordinary Canadians who discover too late that Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security are not enough. They arguably share the same fate. All this while our elites worry about the violated rights of one underage terrorist enemy child soldier.

It is apparently all too easy to violate the charter rights of a celebrity, but 200 years of abuse of Aboriginals have not indisputably established that their rights have been violated unless they were also sexually assaulted in a residential school. I suppose it is a democratic principle to believe that injustice should be equally distributed to all the people. Exceptions should be rare and limited randomly to only celebrities favored by power elites.

For those who have devoted their lives to defending Canada — and now fight to receive their deserved compensation — watching the Canadian government simply hand over $10.5 million to someone who allegedly fought against our ally is unsettling, to say the least.

Neil’s argument is, if I may say so, an emotional one. But maybe that is the point. Payments to veterans or Aboriginals shouldn’t be discussed in the same breath as the payment to Khadr, they are separate issues, or should be.

But for many Canadians it is unsettling to see that the government can ignore long-term injustices for years, even generations, yet rushes to settle the Khadr case. It is a matter of priorities I guess. I wonder who gets to set them?

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One comment

  1. Good points. What if a Canadian soldier had died at his hands?

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