THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF WOMEN OF CANADA
(Established in 1893 )
April 7, 2010
April 7, 2010
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
House of Commons
Ottawa ON, K1A 0A6
Dear Prime Minister:
Re: Omar Khadr
The National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC) has long supported International Human Rights Conventions, the rule of law and the desirability of ensuring the national security of Canada, with particular concern for their implications for Canadian citizens. We are currently deeply concerned about the plight of Omar Khadr, a Canadian who while still a minor and officially under the care of his father, was arrested in Afghanistan for allegedly throwing a grenade at U.S. Special Forces medic Christopher Speir in the summer of 2002.
He was injured in the aftermath, treated at the Bagram Bay base in Afghanistan and subsequently moved to the U.S. military prison at Guatanamo Bay, Cuba as an “enemy combatant”. We understand Canadian Government representatives requested consular access to the boy but were instead assured by the International Red Cross that he was doing well. This refusal of access runs counter to Canadian child welfare principles, and to commitments made by Canada through their signing of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of Children in Armed conflict, and to the Convention Against Torture, and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment. Hence, Omar Khadr should have been considered an “unlawful enemy combatant” and not subjected to the same treatment as “lawful combatants”.
A January 2010 decision on the case by the Supreme Court of Canada was that there had been a s.7 breach of the Charter; however, while stating that repatriation would be an appropriate remedy, declined to order the Government to so do. The reason given was their concern about the appropriate role for the courts in instructing the Executive on matters of foreign affairs.
It is the position of NCWC that, with due respect for Canada’s international human rights commitments, as a Canadian minor, Omar Khadr should be repatriated and dealt with under the Canadian Youth Criminal Justice Act and the relevant Child Welfare Act. NCWC policy (2.1) further urges the Government of Canada to curtail the rights of terrorists deemed to threaten Canadian security only for the duration of that threat. These latter issues should be dealt with under Canadian law after Omar Khadr has been repatriated, with due respect for his minority status at the time of the alleged offence.
Karen Dempsey, NCWC President
The Hon. Rob Nicholson, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice
The Hon. Helena Guergis, Minister of State for Women