Skip to main content

Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr is shown in an undated handout photo from the Bowden Institution in Innisfail, Alta.HO/The Canadian Press

The federal Department of Justice's application to the Alberta Court of Appeal for an emergency stay of Omar Khadr's bail is pointless, futile and deeply troubling.

The precise terms of his bail have yet to be determined, and were to be decided on Tuesday afternoon by a superior court judge. But the Minister of Public Safety, Steven Blaney, has let it be known that the government will go to another court to argue for a stay on Tuesday morning, with the implausible assertion that his release on bail would cause "irrevocable harm." To whom? How?

The government has not disputed Mr. Khadr's lawyers' evidence and arguments that he has been a model prisoner.

It's true that Mr. Khadr was allowed to return to Canada in 2012 on the understanding that he would continue to serve a jail term of the same length he would have had still to endure if he had been kept in the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But the United States government no longer wants to trouble itself with Mr. Khadr, and the Obama administration would be happy to deal likewise with other people in similar positions who are still under its control. The Americans certainly have no wish to confine Mr. Khadr again.

On the contrary, a spokesperson for the State Department said on Friday that the release on bail of Mr. Khadr in Canada would not harm diplomatic relations with Canada. This cannot have been a surprise to anyone, even in Ottawa.

Dealing with grudging officials in the Canadian government is doubtless not as bad as having been turned into a child soldier by one's own fanatical terrorist family, caught up in a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002 and then imprisoned, isolated, waterboarded, sleep-deprived and hung up by his arms by agents of the U.S. government, in order to extract false and partly false confessions. But that is no reason to prolong the deprivation of Mr. Khadr's liberty.

Correctional Services Canada has already classified Mr. Khadr as a minimum-security prisoner. The government's shameful handling of this case leaves the unmistakable impression that it is manipulating a legal proceeding to curry favour with some of its core voters. Who's the threat to Canada, exactly?