Jan 23, 2009 04:30 AM
OTTAWA– Defence Minister Peter MacKay's suggestion the Conservative government might soften its opposition to the repatriation of Omar Khadr was a welcome sign that someone in the party is grappling with the issue, says Liberal MP Bob Rae.
"For one day, it showed the lights are on somewhere – but not in the PMO," Rae, his party's foreign affairs critic, said yesterday.
MacKay mused Wednesday that Canada would reassess its refusal to act on behalf of Khadr, the Canadian prisoner at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, sparking speculation the government was quietly signalling a change.
But Canada is not budging from its wait-and-see position, even though U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order yesterday to shut the prison within the next year, federal officials indicated yesterday.
A senior government official insisted Ottawa intends to let the judicial process play out in the U.S.
"The government's position remains the same," the official said. "It hasn't changed in the last 24 hours."
A government source said MacKay was simply speaking his mind as a former prosecutor interested in the law and pointed out that as defence minister he has nothing to do with shaping policy on the file.
And Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told CTV yesterday that MacKay was not signalling a change in policy.
"I think clearly Peter was indicating that we are following the case and that is quite clear," Cannon said.
Rae called the government's unbending position on the issue "preposterous" and "absurd ... a disgraceful evasion of responsibility and a disgraceful departure from the traditions of Canadian public policy.
Hilary Homes, a security and human rights campaigner at Amnesty International, said it's time for the government to recognize reality.
"One way or the other the Canadian government is going to have to come to grips with the fact that Omar Khadr is leaving Guantanamo and it's better to come to grips with that sooner rather than later," she said.
Khadr was 15 when he was shot and captured in Afghanistan in 2002. He faces five charges, including murder for the death of a U.S. soldier during a firefight.
Khadr's fate is expected to be on the agenda when Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper meet in Ottawa in the coming weeks.
- With files from Bruce Campion-Smith
Bob Rae really hit the nail on the head "For one day, it showed the lights are on somewhere – but not in the PM" . Bob Rae can be relied upon, for decades he has demonstrated that he can be trusted to say what is needed to be said. I'm looking forward to hearing Bob Rae's views on equal parenting and ending the war against men by the Ontario Judiciary. Omar Kadr will shortly be on an executive jet bound for Canada and it promises to be one of Mr. Harper's greatest embarrassments. He sold his soul, correction, he sold off a child soldier to the United States to be tortured for nothing less than Republican Brownie points. Mr. Harper has selective blindness that undermines basic fundamental legal rights, and thats something we come to expect in Canada, a Charter of Rights that are viewed through a politically correct lens and woe betide any judge who dares to make a legal decision rather than a politically correct "legal decision". O' Canada, our legally corrupt country",