As many of you know, I have for years been outraged by the way our federal government has treated Omar Khadr. He was dragged to Afghanistan by his fanatical father, grievously wounded by the Americans there, falsely accused of murder, and sent to Guantanamo, where he rotted for ten years. On the advice of his lawyer, Dennis Edney, someone I propose (with others) to nominate for the Order of Canada, he pleaded guilty, simply in order to return to Canada. Would I have done that if I were not guilty? Yes, I would have, and so would you. He was returned to Canada, and was held, successively, in maximum-security, medium-security, and finally minimum-security prisons. In a submission to the court in relation to his recent bail hearing, the CSC (Correctional Service of Canada), an organization not known for any bleeding-heart positions, described him as a model prisoner.
Finally, then, yesterday, May 7, 2015, a day I have inscribed in the calendar in my prayerbook as a special day in my own life, he was released on bail. With the simple words, “Mr Khadr, you are free to go,” the judge put an end to 13 years of imprisonment, torture, and neglect by his government. (I wondered if this was the first time any official had addressed him courteously as “Mr.”)
When I heard his voice on the CBC last night, I was very moved. Last night he spent his first night out of prison in the home of Dennis Edney and his family. I have heard Dennis Edney, in fact, in a recent talk in Vancouver, say that he and Omar had become father and son. So Omar is now living in his own family home. (There is an interesting biblical parallel to this, in the story of Paul and Onesimus, which you can find in the Letter of Paul to Philemon in the New Testament. In this letter, Paul says that he has become father to Onesimus, the difference being that in this instance it is the father who is in prison, not the son.) Again, a very moving and generous decision on the part of the Edneys, and one entirely in keeping with everything else I have seen and heard of them.
So why am I cluttering up what should be a simple celebration of Omar’s release with a reflection on Bill C-51? Because given the implacable, mean-spirited and ideologically-driven way in which the government has hounded Omar since he came back to Canada, I am sure that the government will use the provisions of C-51 to have CSIS (Omar is really a terrorist, after all, just a terrorist out on bail) watch Omar’s every move. If he breaches his bail conditions by a hair, CSIS will pounce. (And while I’m talking about C-51, kudos to Elizabeth May and to the NDP for resisting it, and brickbats to the Liberals for going along with it.)
So today, a two-fold response: we rejoice with Omar and Dennis Edney, and we commit ourselves to alertness as citizens for the outworking of a dreadful and unnecessary ramping up of “terrorist” legislation. Stay tuned!