Sunday, July 27, 2008

Omar Khadr: an issue not of guilt or innocence, but of the right to justice

Saturday's rally in Toronto for Omar Khadr was a success. It drew a large and diverse crowd, despite some heavy rain and a severe thunderstorm watch. It was nice to see the Muslim community so well represented, as they are the community being targeted worldwide, but it made me feel good to see so many non-Muslims out in support. And as speeches by a number of prominent speakers finished, the sun came out to dry everyone off and we marched in a circle up and down the sidewalk on University Avenue, opposite the US consulate, while passing drivers honked in support.

I've seen the usual conservative opposition to bringing Khadr back to Canada from Guantánamo. The most vocal opponents are, of course, the bigots and those who think immigrants to Canada are all criminals (these people have clearly never looked into the immigration point process to see how difficult it can be to come and live here). But there is also a segment of the population which thinks that Khadr doesn't deserve support because his family have been painted in the mainstream media as pro al-qaeda.

One of the speakers summed up the problem very concisely and eloquently; I hope I do him justice as I paraphrase. The point is this: in a free and democratic country, justice is not reserved for those we like. Are you listening, Mr. Harper?

I don't know whether Khadr is guilty of the allegations claimed by the US authorities. I only know that he will not get a fair trial through the kangaroo court system set up by the US military and the Bush administration. Harper wants Khadr to rot in Guantánamo; he is the youngest inmate there, and Canada is the only country which has not obtained release for its prisoner(s) there.

Some Canadians still think of countries in the middle east as barbaric places where there is no democracy, freedom, or human rights. Yet Bush and Harper have made the US and Canada into places where those things have been violated. If we continue to allow Harper to be Bush's lap dog, if we sit at home and say nothing, if we don't speak out against these wrongs and these atrocities, then we need to stop thinking of Canada as a better, free and democratic place.

1 comment:

Hilary said...

Canada's abandonment on Khadr is especially disappointing. There is a petition to ask that the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, protect his citizens here: