The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Mariane Gravelle

Federal government settles civil suit launched by Omar Khadr

July 7 2017 7 July 2017

In a midday press conference on Friday, the federal government publicly acknowledged that it had reached a settlement in a civil suit launched against it by former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr.

While details of this settlement remain confidential, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould stated that that it included a written apology that will soon be put on public record.

Mr. Goodale explained that neither the civil case nor the ensuing settlement were about Mr. Khadr’s actions in Afghanistan. Rather, this case examined the question of whether the behaviour of Canadian officials towards Mr. Khadr during his imprisonment violated his rights as a Canadian citizen.

Backed by two supreme court decisions (in 2008 and in 2010) in which the SCC deemed the Canadian government’s actions towards Mr. Khadr to be in breach of its obligations under international law, Mr. Goodale said Mr. Khadr’s case was very strong and it was unlikely that Ottawa would win. The minister also noted that the government’s legal feel in this matter had already reached $5-million.

Mr. Goodale said, “The settlement that we have announced has to do with the wrongdoing of Canadian officials with respect to a Canadian citizen. The Supreme Court of Canada has stated clearly and unequivocally that that behaviour on the part of those Canadian officials was wrong.”

This echoes the CBA’s historic position on the issue, as reflected by this excerpt of a letter sent by the CBA to both then-prime minster Stephen Harper and to the president of the United States in April 2009,

"Mr. Khadr was 15 years old when he was wounded on the battlefield in Afghanistan, a child under the terms of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Mr. Khadr has not been fully afforded the basic entitlements of due process under the Rule of Law, such as the right to counsel and the right to know the case against him. He has not been afforded any process that took into account his unique needs and status as a minor under the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. He has been detained in the general population of detainees in Guantánamo Bay and has not received any physical, psychological or educational services that would assist in his rehabilitation. The Federal Court of Canada found that the terms of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment were violated in relation to Mr. Khadr’s treatment."

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