Opinion Column

The Duel

Canada: The torturer's apprentice

By Garth Mullins, The Duel

A 'non-compliant' detainee is escorted by guards after showering inside the U.S. military prison for 'enemy combatants' on October 27, 2009 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

A 'non-compliant' detainee is escorted by guards after showering inside the U.S. military prison for 'enemy combatants' on October 27, 2009 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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This week's question: Should Canadians accept blame for Omar Khadr’s mistreatment?

Conservatives are all butt-hurt over Omar Khadr’s $10.5 million settlement. But the real outrage is Canada’s collusion in torturing this Canadian-born child soldier. The government had little choice but to apologize and settle Khadr’s lawsuit. The courts could have demanded much more.

Khadr’s father forced his child to fight in the Afghanistan War, where he was wounded and captured during a massive U.S. aerial and ground assault.

Khadr spent a decade in Guantanamo Bay  - a child in a prison camp of men. He was hooded, threatened with gang rape, deprived of sleep, put in isolation, chained into painful positions, threatened with barking dogs, and used as a “human mop” to clean up urine.

I’ve read “interrogation” logs from Gitmo – truly horrifying.

Knowing he was tortured, Canadian officials repeatedly interrogated the teen anyway - without a lawyer. They reported back to his jailers and abandoned Khadr there.

Read Brent Stafford's column here.

The Supreme Court said that “offend[s] the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.” A later ruling found “Canada actively participated in a process contrary to Canada’s international human rights obligations.” 

Harper fought that court’s order to repatriate Khadr. Conservatives think Guantanamo’s military commission kangaroo court is more legitimate than Canada’s Supreme Court.

Did Khadr even throw the grenade that killed a U.S. commando? Evidence was thin, contradictory and untested in any legitimate court. But the broken youth confessed so he could serve his time in Canada. Anyone would say anything to get out of Gitmo and avoid more torture. That’s why torture doesn’t work.

Conservatives have long demonized Khadr to build their base.

A Postmedia editorial in this newspaper mocked the government apologizing “for not treating him with kid gloves and intervention hugs.” Al-Qaeda lauded Khadr’s father for "tossing his little child in the furnace of the battle." For conservatives like Brent, the sins of the father must be visited upon the son.

And coerced confessions are fine.

Canada has conspired in the torture of several of its citizens before. The government had to apologize and pay up then too.

Since torture was legal under Bush and Trump said it “absolutely works,” Canada must put a firewall between its officials and torture, by implementing Maher Arar inquiry recommendations. Being sorry means you won’t do it again. It’s time to start living up to all that Canada 150 hype.

Smashing human rights on the anvil of national security doesn’t make the world safe. It makes it more like Gitmo. 

Garth Mullins is a broadcaster, activist, writer, musician and trade unionist. He’s at www.garthmullins.com or @garthmullins.