Jason Kenney derides newspaper for publishing Omar Khadr op-ed

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics
Jason Kenney derides newspaper for publishing Omar Khadr op-ed

Cabinet Minister Jason Kenney has taken umbrage to the Ottawa Citizen's decision to publish an op-ed column written by Omar Khadr

Khadr, of course, is the Canadian citizen who spent 10-years in Guantanamo Bay for killing a U.S. soldier as a 15-year-old in Afghanistan.

He did plead guilty to the crime but but since suggested that he confessed as a means to come home. He was transferred to Canada in 2012, after a U.S. military commission sentenced him to eight years in jail. 

In his op-ed  presumably written from his medium security prison cell — Khadr recounts his time at the infamous Guantanamo Bay complaining that he was never “accorded the protection” he deserved as a child soldier.

"I have been through so many other human rights violations. I was held for years without being charged," he wrote.

"I have been tortured and ill-treated. I have suffered through harsh prison conditions. And I went through an unfair trial process that sometimes felt like it would never end."

Khadr also derided the Harper government for trying to deny him his rights and claims that he’s an example of misguided national security laws leaving a devastating human rights toll. 

"The Supreme Court found that Canadian officials violated the Charter of Rights when they interrogated me at Guantanamo Bay, knowing that I had been subjected to debilitating sleep deprivation through the notorious ‘frequent flyer’ program," he wrote.

"Rather than remedy the violation, the government delayed my return from Guantánamo to Canada for a year and aggressively opposed my request not to be held in a maximum security prison."

In response to the op-ed, Kenney took to Twitter on Tuesday evening.

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There are some jurisdictions where jailed convicts are not allowed to profit from books.

But, with op-eds, which usually don’t involve compensation, there are no steadfast rules. 

Indeed, according to the Citizen, they don’t have a “one-size-fits-all policy on op-ed submissions from imprisoned people.

"We don’t have a one-size-fits-all policy on oped submissions from imprisoned people," 

"Khadr’s unique case has been a major Canadian policy issue (and the subject of more than one Supreme Court case) for years," Kate Heartfield, the editorial pages editor for the Ottawa Citizen, told Yahoo Canada News in an email.

"It’s a case that continues to inform policy and debate. I believe it’s important to have him on the public record. Canadians are free to judge his oped, and him, as they see fit.

"In answer to Jason Kenney’s question, yes, of course I would always be open to running an oped by Tabitha Speer, or anyone else."

Speer is the widow the murdered medic. 

[ Related: Omar Khadr wins right to sue feds for conspiring with U.S. in expanded suit ]

Kenney’s exchange clearly illustrates that there is no love loss between the Harper government and the legal team for Khadr. In addition to the court battles that he notes in the excerpts above, Khadr, 28,  is suing the Canadian government for $20 million in a law suit alleging that Canada conspired with the U.S. in ensuring his conviction and detainment.

The U.S. government has denied torturing Khadr.

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