Omar Khadr was raised to be a terrorist, and became one. But Canada has no cause to loathe him, or punish him any more. This country should do what should have been done many years ago with him – focus on how to achieve his rehabilitation, safely.
Mr. Khadr was 11 when his Toronto family took him to live in the Afghan terror camps of Osama bin Laden. At 15, he was apprehended by the United States on the battlefield. He is now 26, and has never known what it is to live an ordinary, constructive life in freedom.
He deserves that chance now, within a parole framework that provides for support and sensible rules – such as not living with his family. Canada shouldn’t throw away its young people, even those who have gone terribly awry. It shouldn’t seek retribution because it abhors their families (his late father and several brothers were al-Qaeda members, and his mother and sister have spoken approvingly of terrorism). It shouldn’t seek to make political gain from that kind of abhorrence.
Someday, perhaps, Mr. Khadr will be seen as an exemplar of a mad moment in world history. A childhood spent being groomed for terrorism. A young adulthood in a coercive U.S. military penal system, during which time the country of his citizenship, Canada, added to the coercion, sending its officials to interrogate the then-juvenile in the absence of legal counsel, even after three weeks of sleep deprivation, and then turning the fruits of those interrogations over to his captors. Canada’s Supreme Court was unanimous in excoriating the government for having done so, saying it violated the most basic standards of justice.
Now that he is back in Canada, those standards should prevail. Ostensibly, Mr. Khadr’s jail term runs until late in 2018, but in Canada the first chance at parole for a 15-year-old who commits the most serious crime in the Criminal Code, murder, is at seven years, and he has already served 10, most of them in harsh conditions at the U.S. terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He should be treated fairly by the parole system. That system offers his, and the country’s, best chance of a safe, supervised and phased-in release.
Omar Khadr pleaded guilty when faced with a possible penalty of life behind bars to killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade during a firefight, and other crimes. He has paid a heavy price for his crimes, and his family’s. Mr. Khadr needs a chance now to live as a human being, not a symbol.