Today (January 29, 2010) The Supreme Court of Canada, unanimously ruled that the Harper government has violated Mr. Khadr’s Charter rights, and that the constitutional breach “continues to this day".
The Court is not insisting that Mr. Khadr be repatriated from Guantanamo, out of respect for the separation of powers and an appropriate reluctance of the courts to intervene in foreign policy affairs. However, the Court has sent a clear message that the government must rectify its infringement of Mr. Khadr’s Charter rights, but is “leaving the government a measure of discretion in deciding how best to respond”. The Court has also clearly warned that it has the power to act more strongly if the government fails to take action.
In my view:
- The Supreme Court’s decision was appropriate. It found that the Harper government has violated, and continues to violate, Mr. Khadr’s Charter rights. It was also appropriate that it respected the separation of powers and the government’s role in foreign affairs—as the Court said, it was “leaving the government a measure of discretion in deciding how best to respond”. I am heartened, however, that the court also made it clear that it is prepared to take stronger action if the government fails to take action.
- Omar Khadr and members of his family have acted and spoken in ways that are offensive to many Canadians. Me included. But our legal principles, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the rights of Canadian citizens, and Canada’s adherence to principles of international law on the protection of child soldiers*, must take precedence over whether we happen to “like” or “approve” of someone or not. Indeed, our principles are easy to uphold when we are dealing with sympathetic people----it is exactly when it isn’t so easy that the value and importance of upholding those principles are the greatest. If they only apply when it’s easy, they aren’t really true principles.
- An additional note on child soldiers: Mr. Khadr was only 15 at the time (now 7 years ago!); he was a child soldier under international legal definitions. International law, to which Canada has adhered*, would keep Mr. Khadr from prosecution. He should have been repatriated to Canada from Guantanamo. Last year, however, Stephen Harper said, “To be a child soldier, you have to be in an army.” It is extraordinary to suggest that it’s OK to have the world protect children who are forced into “official” armies, but to NOT afford similar protections to those children who are forced into guerrilla squads or terrorist groups. The law refers to "armed conflict". The world is, unfortunately, full of situations where children are forced into armed conflict—“official” or not. As a country, Canada has both an international legal obligation, and a principled one, to help and protect those children whenever and wherever possible. Even if the children, or their families, behave in ways that many of us do not like or approve of.
* UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, New York, 25 May 2000, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11-b&chapter=4&lang=en
Voici mes commentaires sur l’affaire Omar Khadr.
Le cas d’Omar Khadr
La Cour suprême du Canada a statué, à l’unanimité, que le gouvernement Harper a porté atteinte aux droits garantis à M. Khadr par la Charte, et que ces violations de la Constitution « se poursuivent à ce jour ».
La Cour n’a pas exigé le rapatriement de M. Khadr de la prison de Guantanamo, ayant plutôt décidé de respecter la séparation des pouvoirs et la réticence légitime des tribunaux à intervenir dans les questions relatives aux affaires étrangères. Toutefois, la Cour a clairement indiqué que le gouvernement devait remédier aux violations des droits garantis à M. Khadr par la Charte, mais elle laisse au gouvernement « une certaine latitude pour décider de la manière dont il convient de répondre ». La Cour a également fait savoir qu’elle a le pouvoir de prendre des mesures plus radicales si le gouvernement n’agit pas.
Position de Martha Hall Findlay
- La décision de la Cour suprême est appropriée. Je crois que le gouvernement Harper a violé les droits garantis à M. Khadr par la Charte, et qu’il continue de le faire. Il convenait également que la Cour respecte la séparation des pouvoirs et le rôle du gouvernement dans les affaires étrangères — comme elle l’a dit elle-même, elle laisse au gouvernement « une certaine latitude pour décider de la manière dont il convient de répondre ». Je suis ravie, toutefois, que la cour ait également déclaré être prête à prendre des mesures plus radicales si le gouvernement n’agit pas.
- Omar Khadr et les membres de sa famille ont agi et parlé de manière offensante pour de nombreux Canadiens, moi y comprise. Mais les principes juridiques que nous respectons, notamment la Charte des droits et libertés et les droits des citoyens canadiens, et le fait que le Canada adhère aux principes de droits international relatifs à la protection des enfants‑soldats doivent passer avant nos sentiments pour une personne. En fait, il est facile de s’en tenir à nos principes lorsque nous traitons avec des personnes sympathiques, mais c’est dans les situations difficiles que l’on peut mesurer la valeur et l’importance de nos principes. Si nous n’avons de grands principes que dans les situations faciles, ce ne sont pas vraiment des principes.
- Encore un mot sur les enfants-soldats : M. Khadr n’avait que 15 ans au moment de son arrestation (il y a de cela sept ans!). En vertu des définitions de droit international, il aurait dû être considéré comme un enfant-soldat. Selon le droit international que le Canada respecte, il n’aurait pas fallu intenter de poursuites contre lui. M. Khadr aurait dû être rapatrié au Canada de Guantanamo. L’an dernier, Stephen Harper a toutefois déclaré : « Pour être un enfant-soldat, vous devez faire partie d’une armée ». Il est insensé de croire qu’il est correct de protéger les enfants obligés à faire partie d’armées officielles, mais de refuser la même protection aux enfants engagés de force dans la guérilla ou les groupes terroristes. Malheureusement, il arrive trop souvent que des enfants soient contraints de participer à un conflit armé, officiel ou non. En tant que pays, le Canada doit, par obligation internationale et par principe, aider et protéger les enfants, peu importe le lieu ou le moment. Et ce, même si ces enfants et leur famille se comportent d’une façon que bon nombre d’entre nous désapprouvent.
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Martha Hall Findlay
Députée de Willowdale
La semaine a commencé par une série de tables rondes sur l’emploi. Martha et Marc Garneau ont animé une discussion sur la haute technologie et les emplois liés à l’énergie propre. Mardi, nous avons mis l’accent sur la gouvernance avec Marlene Jennings, tandis qu’hier, nous nous sommes penchés sur des questions concernant les femmes avec Anita Neville.
Aujourd’hui, nous examinons des questions liées aux anciens combattants avec Rob Oliphant, et vendredi avant-midi, nous parlerons de la santé avec un groupe de spécialistes de la maladie d’Alzheimer et de la démence avec Kirsty Duncan, et en après-midi Carolyn Bennett animera un forum de discussion en ligne.
The week kicked off with a series of roundtables on jobs. Martha and Marc Garneau moderated a conversation on High-tech and clean energy jobs,
Tuesday the focus was on governance with Marlene Jennings, while yesterday we looked at women’s issues hosted by Anita Neville.
Today we are examining veteran’s affairs with Rob Oliphant and Friday the focus will be on health with a panel discussion on Alzheimer’s and dementia in the morning hosted by Kirsty Duncan, in the afternoon she will be joined by Carolyn Bennett for an online town hall.
For more information please see Liberal.ca
Standing amidst the throngs of people crowding the square, it was hard to make a good estimate of exactly how many people turned out, but as our numbers kept filling the square and eventually spilled out onto the streets, it was clear that Canadians are anything but apathetic about their democracy. People of every age and from every walk of life had shown up because were not happy with the government's actions. Faced with mounting questions over his government's performance on issues such as torture in Afghanistan and the growing deficit, Stephen Harper was counting on the apathy of Canadians to be able to dodge scrutiny and criticism by shutting down Parliament. And clearly, he judged wrongly!
The rally we attended was the creation of Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament, a non-partisan grassroots coalition with a remarkable story. When Stephen Harper revealed quietly on New Year's Eve that he was shutting down Parliament until March, one university student from Alberta made an act of simple but honest protest: he started a Facebook group. Pundits dismissed this as irrelevant, saying no one really cared. But as more and more people joined, and the group passed 100,000, then 200,000 members, the actions of one citizen concerned for his democracy blossomed into a truly coast-to-coast movement uniting Canadians of every sort and sparking rallies across the country, including the one we attended.
One of the greatest privileges of volunteering alongside Martha is listening in as she converses with Canadians about the issues that are important to them--which is so integral to the job of a Member of Parliament. We met lots of people that afternoon who shared how fed up they had been with the decision to prorogue, but how warmed and inspired they had been to see the strength of this movement that had risen up. It was great to meet so many people share their concerns for the fundamentals of democracy, whether on the streets and squares during the event, or afterwards at Milestones and Future Shop!
I just learned that Helena Guergis has cancelled her appearance on Power Play. This, notwithstanding her title and responsibilities as Minister of State for the Status of Women.
I won't be on the show now after all--appropriately, CTV tries hard to keep a balanced representation of parties. But here we are, on the 40th anniversary of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, and the Minister of State should be prepared to answer the questions I would have put to her on the show: (i) why did the Harper government cut funding to Status of Women by almost half (12 of 16 regional offices had to close); (ii) why did the Harper government insist on the removal of all references to "equality" in the Status of Women material (after all, the whole point was, and is, EQUALITY); (iii) why has the Harper government turned back efforts to ensure pay equity (women in Canada still make only about 70% of what men in Canada do for the same work); and (iv) why, as we are about to learn (the PM will hear this in Davos), that the Global Gender Gap report will show that of the 115 countries covered since 2006, more than 2/3 have improved (which means that the world, generally, has reduced the gap between women and men), but that Canada has DROPPED 9 spots since 2006 to 25th spot?
I would really like to have asked Ms. Guergis, on television: "Why are Canadian women worse off relative to men since Harper took power in 2006? Why do we have an even bigger gender gap, in terms of such factors (used in the GGG Report) as economic opportunity, educational attainment, literacy, health and political empowerment?"
The people of Willowdale did not elect me as their Member of Parliament so that I could stay home.
My message to Stephen Harper: I'm going to do MY job, despite his best efforts to prevent me from doing it. LIBERALS ARE WORKING.
This is not Stephen Harper's government. It is OUR government, government for ALL Canadians, as represented by their Members of Parliament in the House of Commons. Canada is NOT Stephen Harper's personal fiefdom to control as he wishes--no matter how much he would like that control.
And let's be clear---this has nothing to do with the Olympics, or "working on the budget". Pure and simple, Stephen Harper is running away. He's running from some very tough questions. Questions that we were asking about:
- real job numbers, not just what Stephen Harper "promised"; details on results of the "stimulus" plan that Stephen Harper was refusing to provide;
- why Stephen Harper has repeatedly fired some civil servants for disagreeing with him and eliminated funding to others who have been critical of his government (including, incidentally, the elimination of funding to those whose offices were actually created by Stephen Harper); and
- Stephen Harpers' refusal to disclose information about the Afghan detainees and torture.
Stephen Harper has been refusing to answer any of these questions. He is abusing parliamentary procedure by proroguing to ‘cut and run’.
My question to Stephen Harper, and the question all Canadians should be asking him, is WHAT IS HE TRYING TO HIDE?
For the second time in only a year, Stephen Harper has prorogued Parliament. For the second time in only a year, his only reason for doing so has been to run away from controversy---and Stephen Harper is hoping that Canadians won't notice. We can't let that happen: I call on all Willowdaleans--indeed all Canadians--to say "No".
The first time Harper prorogued Parliament, only a year ago, was to avoid a vote of non-confidence. A majority of MPs in the House of Commons had made this loss of confidence in him known; we were about to vote (that IS our responsibility). But Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament, preventing our vote and effectively running away to save his own skin.
This time, Stephen Harper is running away from the questions and inquiries about torture in Afghanistan. Why? Because the more we questioned, the more evidence there was that the Harper government has been covering up the truth, and the more the government blocked access to information. What were they hiding? To get at the truth, a majority of the House of Commons passed a motion demanding the production of documents, which the government kept denying access to, relating to the alleged torture of Afghan detainees (a very serious issue, a breach of international law). Harper's reaction? To openly flaunt the will of Parliament---"If you really want the documents, then sue us" was the reaction.
Parliament spoke, with the voice of a majority of MPs, representing a majority of Canadians. We should NOT have to sue the government to compel it to comply with the will of Parliament. And Stephen Harper should not be allowed to close down Parliament when it suits his purposes. It is not HIS government---it is the government of Canadians.
MY JOB AS THE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR WILLOWDALE:
The people of Willowdale elected me as their MP to represent them, and their interests, in the House of Commons---in the debates over pending legislation, in the votes, and in the committee work that we do (in my case, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates and the Standing Committee on Finance).
My job in Opposition is NOT just to "oppose"--my job is to help ensure that this country is governed according to the democratic principles that are fundamental to our society. Principles that Stephen Harper is pulling apart, to suit his own purposes.
I want to stress that I represent ALL of the people in Willowdale, regardless of whether they actually voted for me or for someone else. THAT's democracy. But we ARE in a minority government, and Mr. Harper keeps forgetting that. A large majority of people in Willowdale did NOT vote Conservative; a majority of Canadians across the country did NOT vote Conservative. By doing so, Canadians were asking us, as Opposition MPs, to help keep this government to account---to ensure honesty, transparency, accountability and fair play.
Stephen Harper campaigned on these principles, but he is now doing everything he can to take them away. He is preventing us from fulfilling our responsibilities to Canadians.