The federal government has spent more than $1.3-million in legal costs related to the case of Omar Khadr, a Canadian detained in Guantanamo Bay whose repatriation Ottawa is fighting in the country's highest court.
A Ministry of Justice memo, written in response to a request by NDP MP Denise Savoie in June, says the government has racked up a total of $1,335,342.37 in legal bills in the case.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon wouldn't comment Thursday, and neither his ministry nor Justice could say exactly what that money had been spent on or when the expenditures took place.
But Mr. Khadr's Canadian lawyers say the expenses aren't surprising, and indicate the lengths the government is willing to go to keep the young man out of the country.
Mr. Khadr - who was 15 when he was captured by American troops after a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan - has since been detained in Guantanamo Bay on five charges , the most serious of which is the murder of Sergeant Christopher Speer. A decision on whether Mr. Khadr will stand trial, and whether he will face a military tribunal in Guantanamo or a trial on U.S. soil, is expected by Nov. 16.
Canada is the only Western country not to have repatriated its nationals held in Guantanamo to try them at home. Ottawa is appealing an April ruling by Mr. Justice James O'Reilly of the Federal Court compelling the government to attempt to repatriate Mr. Khadr.
The appeal goes to court Nov. 13. It's only the latest in a series of legal skirmishes Ottawa has engaged in over the past several years in relation to Mr. Khadr's case.
"That just gives you an extent to which they have chosen to fight this case at the taxpayer's expense," said lawyer David Edney, who along with Nathan Whitling has been fighting Mr. Khadr's case in Canada for the past several years.
"Canada has fought us every inch of the way ... at every level of the federal court system."
Mr. Whitling said he's surprised the costs aren't higher, but said the tab is likely to increase given the government's stated intention to continue fighting any repatriation orders.
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said it's ludicrous for the government to use public money to keep a Canadian citizen in a detention facility out overseas.
"All it does is elicit more questions: What was it spent on? Are they still continuing? What's the cost now? I can only assume the costs have gone up," he told The Globe and Mail.
"How many millions of dollars are we going to spend to keep Mr. Khadr in Guantanamo Bay? ... It's illogical, not responsible and turning out to be very, very, expensive, financially."
In a February meeting of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, Mr. Cannon said the government hadn't incurred legal fees in Mr. Khadr's case.
"Have you spent any money on the legal case of Mr. Khadr? Have you had anyone look at it?" Mr. Dewar asked.
"No," Mr. Cannon replied.
The annual report of the Security and Intelligence Review Committee, released Thursday, reiterated previous findings that the Canadian Security and Intelligence Services acted without due consideration to human-rights issues or Mr. Khadr's age when they questioned him in Guantanamo Bay in 2003.
At that time, the report states, "there was widespread media reporting of alleged mistreatment and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay. ... SIRC did not find any evidence that CSIS took this into account in deciding to interview Khadr."
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