Omar Khadr is Canada's problem, and once freed from United States control, in a plea deal expected soon with prosecutors at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he should be dealt with under Canadian principles that have respect for a second chance in life.
Mr. Khadr was 11 when his family - whose late patriarch Ahmed Said Khadr was a senior member of al-Qaeda - moved him into terrorist compounds in Afghanistan. It should be no great surprise that he joined the terrorists. At 15 he was arrested by the United States and charged with the war crime of murder for allegedly throwing a grenade in a battle with U.S. forces. The grenade killed Sergeant Christopher Speer. He is also charged with lesser offences, including planting mines.
The U.S., when it announced his capture, said he was the only one alive from al-Qaeda when the grenade was thrown; but it has since turned out that a veteran al-Qaeda fighter was alive and fighting beside him. No matter. He was pronounced guilty in the court of Canadian public opinion, and abandoned to his fate by the Canadian government. All other Western countries have long since made deals to bring their nationals home, a recognition that the process of military-commission trials was not fair. Only Canada said, "Let the process work."
That process was improved by President Barack Obama, who promised to keep out evidence obtained through coercion. But then evidence given by Mr. Khadr, while he was still on medication after lifesaving surgery, without counsel, and in the rough environment of Bagram prison in Afghanistan, was determined to be admissible. The U.S. government thus gained leverage for the inevitable plea negotiations. (The details of an agreement have not been announced.)
Mr. Khadr has already served more than eight years, the first 28 months of those in a legal black hole - no access to counsel or a judge, and subject to rough interrogations. He was a child terrorist, but that is another way of saying child soldier, conscripted by al-Qaeda and his family. He has paid a steep price, by Canadian and international standards. He should be encouraged, eventually, to get on with rehabilitating himself.