September 30, 2012
Feds pressured to return Khadr: Baird
By Jessica Murphy, Parliamentary Bureau
OTTAWA - Ottawa was feeling the heat from Washington to repatriate convicted terrorist Omar Khadr.
In a frank admission Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said the federal government was being pressured to green-light Khadr's return.
"Yes. Obviously Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen, obviously the Americans are closing down the prison, wanting to send him back. Under Canadian law we're pretty obliged to take him," he said when asked about the issue on CTV's Question Period.
"He's a Canadian citizen, he has a right to come back. We didn't have much of a choice and he's back."
Khadr was repatriated Saturday morning after spending the last decade detained at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In 2010, he struck a plea deal in return for an eight-year sentence for five war crimes, including killing U.S. Special Forces medic Christopher Speer 10 years ago in an Afghan firefight.
He was transferred to Millhaven maximum security prison near Kingston, Ont., where he will undergo an evaluation that will set out his rehabilitation program and his security classification.
According to information provided by Corrections Canada to the media, this could include a mental health assessment as well as educational, vocational and employment evaluations.
Nicholas Bala, a law professor at Queen's University, said a lot rests on the ability of the prison system to help reintegrate the former Gitmo inmate into mainstream society.
"It's very important he has structured release - that means release on day parole, release to halfway house for a significant period of time," Bala said.
"I think the worst thing for everyone would be to say he's a security risk, let's keep him in jail for eight years and let's let him out on the street and see what happens."
Khadr can apply for parole as early as next spring.
During Khadr's 2010 plea deal, a diplomatic note between Canada and the U.S. came to came to light indicating Ottawa was "inclined to favourably consider" Khadr's Gitmo transfer after he'd served a year of his eight-year sentence.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews office ignored requests for more information on Khadr's transfer and for an interview with the minister Sunday. Canada's correctional service turned down a request for comment.