The national apology to Omar Khadr

A glorious moment! The government has acknowledged that Canada did not do right by its young citizen, Omar Khadr, and will compensate him and his lawyer, Dennis Edney, with $10,000,000.

Is this a lot of money? Given that Omar was in prison (and tortured) for 11 years in Guantanamo and was imprisoned for an additional two years back in Canada, and that he will share equally in the money with Dennis Edney, this works out to $385,000 a year–something less than numerous Canadian CEOs make–not a lot of money for what he went through. Let no one say that he has been overcompensated.

Before my thoughts about Omar himself, two other stories.

In 2001, I visited Auschwitz: the experience left me numb. Later I visited Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam, and burst into tears.

A year or two ago, the photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi appeared in the media. It unleashed a tidal wave of political and financial support for the further welcoming  of and support for Syrian refugees.

My point, of course: the difference between a faceless tragedy, and a tragedy with one human face.

I am grateful, as a Canadian citizen, that I was challenged to demonstrate my support for Omar (whom I have had the privilege of meeting). There has to be a ripple effect from his experience. Never again, I trust, will our government fail to protect a citizen enmeshed in a foreign nightmare.

Or have I spoken too soon?  Immediately I think of Hassan Diab, a Canadian citizen, who for eight years has languished in the French legal system. Anyone who has paid attention to his case will recognize that he is innocent of the terrorist-style murder with which he is charged. A parallel with Omar: in his case an American citizen died, and someone had to pay. Omar was the only one on “the other side” left alive, and so he was picked for this role. In Hassan’s case, a French citizen died, and again, someone had to pay. In his case, he was arrested on the flimsiest connection of his handwriting with that of the killer. 

Over now to Justin Trudeau: read the whole story at

A word about Dennis Edney. I first heard him speak some years ago here in Vancouver. At the end of his talk, I asked him what would happen to Omar when he was released. “He’ll come to my house and live with me and my family.” I remain astonished to this day at this man’s simplicity and generosity of spirit. He sustained Omar’s case for more than 15 years pro bono, not receiving a penny. I had not thought ahead to what would happen for him financially when this day of resolution came; but that he and Omar will share in the money equally fits perfectly with their relationship, which has become one of father and son. I hope to be part of a team of people who will nominate him for the Order of Canada.

And another word of thanks to Kathy Copps and her colleagues in the Free Omar campaign, for keeping his situation alive in the media. Well done!

Pulling this together. My point is that a situation like Omar’s or Hassan’s offers to each of us as individual citizens an opportunity to contribute to the sum total of justice in the world. May we seize on every such opportunity to exercise committed citizenship.

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One Response to The national apology to Omar Khadr

  1. Dianne DesRosiers says:

    “We applaud the action of the Canadian government in issuing this apology as a critical step to demonstrate a children’s rights upfront approach. It is time for us to break the cycle of violence that so many children are vulnerable to around the world.
    LGen Roméo Dallaire (Ret’d), Founder of The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative & Dr. Shelly Whitman, Executive Director of The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative:

    J d’accord.

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