Contrary to some reports last week, there was no agreement between Lawrence Cannon and Hillary Clinton that Omar Khadr would return to Canada after serving another year at Guantanamo. As Paul Koring is reporting, the United States will allow him to make the request, but the "decision on that is solely up to the Canadian government." Which is pretty much what Vic Toews - the minister responsible for the International Transfer of Offenders Act - said last week.
Given the overwhelming sympathy for Mr. Khadr in media circles, one can imagine a re-elected minority Conservative government - especially one with a thinner plurality - allowing Mr. Khadr to come home, where he could expect an early release on parole. However, in light of the 40 year sentence voted by the jury - and judging from the tone of this column, the Conservative base will likely remain quite bloody-minded at the prospect of Mr. Khadr's re-patriation. Moreover, Mr. Khadr's lawyer didn't do his client any favours by indicating that the stipulation of facts was all "fiction" and that he was "innocent." And Mr. Khadr's decision not to testify under oath - as is his right - which would have allowed him to be cross-examined, will raise doubts as to the sincerity of his repentance.
Mr. Khadr's prospects for repatriation would be much better under a coalition government - which Michael Ignatieff says he's prepared to lead after the next election. And which is now in the cards, according to Frank Graves - though not according to Angus Reid.
How do we know that Mr. Khadr's prospects would be better under a coalition government?
While there are no facts in the future, here's NDP MP Olivia Chow waxing optimistic on a quite similar controversy:
"There would be a chance if the Conservatives lose power in this election, (deserters) might still be in Canada I hope," Ms. Chow said in an interview from Ottawa. "I suspect we might have a spring election so their fate is in the hands of some of the Liberals and Conservative MPs."
The NDP and the Bloc have been very sympathetic to Mr. Khadr all along. As Ms. Chow correctly notes, the Liberals are therefore the lynchpin on the Khadr issue - and they've consistently been among his champions.
Last week's testimony changed nothing in the Liberal position. In the words of MP John McKay: "He's a Canadian citizen. He may be an offensive Canadian citizen, he may be an obnoxious Canadian citizen, but he's still a citizen."
And, tellingly, even after Mr. Khadr had agreed in the signed stipulation of facts that he was a war criminal, an al-Qa'eda terrorist and a murderer, Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae rose in the House of Commons with this question: "When will the Government of Canada tell us clearly what its policy is regarding Mr. Khadr, a Canadian citizen and a child soldier?"