Tories accused of ‘pandering to politics’ as they vow to appeal Omar Khadr ruling

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Surprise surprise the Harper government is going to appeal Tuesday's court decision involving Omar Khadr, the Canadian who spent 10-years in Guantanamo Bay for killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan when he was just 15 years old.

As explained by the Canadian Press, an Alberta court has ruled that Khadr, 27, should be transferred from a federal to provincial court.

"We have concluded that the chambers judge erred in law in finding that Khadr was properly placed in a federal penitentiary under the ITOA (International Transfer of Offenders Act)," the court wrote a unanimous decision released on Tuesday.

"We conclude that Khadr ought to have been placed in a provincial correctional facility for adults."

Khadr was transferred to Canada in 2012, after a U.S. military commission sentenced him to 8 years in jail. (He's since said that he pleaded guilty as a means to be transferred to Canada)

In court, to no avail, the federal government argued that concurrent sentences for multiple offences meant that Khadr should serve his time in Canada as an adult.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney says that the government will appeal the decision.

"Omar Ahmed Khadr pleaded guilty to heinous crimes, including the murder of American army medic Sgt. Christopher Speer. We have vigorously defended against any attempt to lessen his punishment for these crimes," he said in a statement.

"We do not agree that a youth sentence is appropriate for someone who is seen on video making the same type of improvised explosive devices that killed many of the 158 Canadian Armed Forces members who died in Afghanistan."

[ Related: Omar Khadr wins appeal, ordered transferred to provincial jail ]

Meanwhile, Khadr''s lawyer, Dennis Edney, said that he's glad to get Omar out of the purview of the current Harper Conservatives.

"I’m pleased the Appeal Court’s decision gets my client out of the hands of the Harper government and that the federal government would rather pander to politics than to apply the rule of law fairly to each and every Canadian citizen," he said in a statement.

"This government chose to misinterpret the International Transfer of Offenders Act and place Omar in a maximum security prison, where he spent the first seven months in solitary confinement, instead of treating him as a youth as required under both Canadian and international law."

The NDP's Public Safety critic seemed to echo Edney's comments.

"The Conservative government seems happy to waste taxpayer money on repeated failed judicial reviews," Randall Garrison told Yahoo Canada News in an email exchange.

"Unfortunately the Conservatives appear more interested in fighting the courts than sound and consistent policy."

[ More Politics: Are we seeing a kinder, gentler Stephen Harper? ]

The suggestion that the Tories are using Khadr as a political pawn — to score political points — is not new.

In 2012, an Abacus Data poll suggested that 53 per cent of Canadians viewed Kadhr as a security threat. It's unlikely that number has changed much.

But, while the decision to appeal may be a popular one, Ekos Research pollster Frank Graves suggests there may not be a method to the madness.

"Honestly I find it increasingly difficult to disentangle the strategic element from the "principle' elements in these decisions," he told Yahoo Canada News in an email exchange.

"The decision to appeal the ruling on health care for refugees, the attacks on the chief justice and former auditor general Fraser appear to be informed more by spite than any grand political plan. I would put the bellicose language with Putin and lecturing Obama in the same category of appearing to be more rooted in ire than strategy.

"It's hard to imagine, however, how this willful resistance to decisions which are rooted in the constitution (and largely enjoy majority support with the public) is a sound path to winning votes."

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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