Reports surfaced earlier this week that Omar Khadr, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate, would be receiving an apology and more than $10 million from the Government of Canada as reparations for any role Canadian officials may have played in his mistreatment while in U.S. military custody.
The news has sharply divided many Canadians. Some see Khadr as a convicted murderer and terrorist who should be tried for treason instead of given any money. There have been petitions circulating to ensure Khadr is not given any settlement money from the government.
“I believe that the reported apology and compensation awarded to Mr. Khadr by the Canadian Government is completely and utterly inappropriate,” said Conservative MP Larry Miller in a press release from July 5.
He goes on to state that the settlement is especially inappropriate considering that Canadian families receive a lump sum payment up to a maximum of $360,000 as part of the Death Benefit.
“Plain and simple Omar Khadr is a convicted terrorist and self-admitted murder. To offer this apology and compensation is a slap to the face of the family of sergeant Speer as well as the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces and Allied Forces that fight every day against the same terror groups that Mr. Khadr was part of,” added Miller.
Former Minister of Veterans Affairs, Erin O’Toole, also took to Facebook to strongly disagree with the payout.
“This sends the wrong single. Certainly, the whole saga is tragic and people don’t like Guantanamo. But to pay $10 million to someone whose saga began with him acting with the terrorist organization Al Qaeda at a time when we are trying to stop people from radicalising terrorist ideas from being spread across the world, in some ways rewarding Mr. Khadr. That sounds the wrong signal,” said O’Toole in a Facebook video.
There are some, on the other hand, that believe Khadr was a child soldier and don’t disagree with the payout.
Khadr is a Canadian citizen, born in Toronto, who was taken back to the Middle East at the age of ten by his family. His father ended up working for Osama Bin Laden and directed his children to support the terrorist organization. On July 27, 2002, at the age of 15, Khadr was captured by American soldiers during a firefight that resulted in the death of Sgt. Christopher Speer. He was subsequently taken to Guantanamo, where it is reported he was tortured.
“It is not about the previous behaviour on the battlefield in Afghanistan; it is about the acts and other decisions the Canadian government took against Mr. Khadr after he was captured and detained. Those facts are not in dispute and there is no doubt about how the Supreme Court views them. The government of Canada offended the most basic standards,” said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale in a statement released Friday.
Khadr has said, about receiving the payout, that “this is not a time for celebration” but a time for reconciliation, remembrance and healing,” according to CBC News.
“I really hope that the talk about the settlement or the apology does not cause people pain and if it does, you know, I’m really sorry for the pain,” said Khadr to CBC News.
When asked about the controversy surrounding the apology and $10.5 million, Khadr told CBC News:
“All I ask is for them to make an informed opinion about me. But take the time, get to know me personally and then whatever you choose, whatever opinion you want to make of me, I will respect that.”