A very Canadian smell of honey garlic wings on the barbecue wafted through the cul-de-sac as the neighbours welcomed the newest, most famous resident of their tony Edmonton neighbourhood.
Since he was granted freedom by an Alberta judge this morning, about two dozen reporters had been camped outside Omar Khadr's new home, that of his lawyer Dennis Edney. But a handful of residents were also waiting around Thursday evening to let the 28-year-old know he was welcome on their block after nearly 13 years of living inside prisons in three countries.
As he approached the media scrum at the end of Mr. Edney's driveway, they shouted words of encouragement to the man who has polarized debate across the country. In blue jeans, a black collared shirt and white running shoes, he calmly addressed a nation that had been waiting more than a decade for the former child soldier to speak publicly.
"I would like to thank the Canadian public for trusting me and giving me a chance. It might be some time, but I will prove to them that I am more than what they thought of me" he said in slow, measured sentences. "I will prove to them that I am a good person."
As shutters snapped and camera operators jostled around him and his lawyer, Mr. Khadr calmly answered about a dozen questions ranging from what he now wanted to do most ("That's a hard question, everything and nothing in particular.") to what he wanted to become (A healthcare worker of some kind.).
Asked to renounce al-Qaeda's violent ideology once again, Mr. Khadr obliged, adding that anyone contemplating extremism just needs to educate themselves and not let their emotions control them.
"Education is a very important thing," said Mr. Khadr.
He has said he hopes to eventually begin studying at King's University, a tiny Christian school where many of his tutors at Guantanamo Bay hail from.
Mr. Khadr said there are a lot of questions he would like to ask his dead father, an al-Qaeda operative who brought his family from Ontario to Afghanistan and left his son in the care of jihadis.
"Just a whole bunch of questions about his reasoning behind his life decisions," he added.
He only showed any real emotion when a toothy grin emerged as he was asked about his lawyer Mr. Edney, the father figure who had worked tirelessly to bring him back from detention in Guantanamo and has welcomed him indefinitely into his spacious home.
"He's an amazing man and I really appreciate him working for the last 11 years – I'm surprised he's not sick of me yet," he said with a chuckle.
While the media awaited outside Mr. Edney's home, the two went for lunch and a long walk along with his other lawyer Nathan Whitling after slipping outside the downtown Edmonton court house around noon. When the trio returned to court in the middle of the afternoon to sign some legal documents Mr. Khadr said he was surprised by the generosity of strangers working at the complex.
"Some of the sheriffs went out of their way to be kind," Mr. Khadr said.
When his client and new house guest went back inside, Mr. Edney stood in his driveway and said he was happy Mr. Khadr could now experience the Canada he had been talking about for years.
"I said 'well, that's what we are, that's what we are as a society," Mr. Edney said. "I would like to restore him back to whole and be able to allow him to participate in the Canadian community and send a resounding message that we don't treat people like Omar."
Mr. Edney said Mr. Khadr was still "still trying to figure out" the modern comforts of his new home, such as a warm fireplace and his own bedroom.
He then bid everyone good night to enjoy a lamb dinner with his family, another luxury Mr. Khadr will now get to enjoy.