And so much good in the worst of us
That even the best and the worst of us
Ain't much diff'rent than the rest of us.”
I thought of that little ditty as I was following the controversy over the compensation payment made to Omar Khadr this week by the federal government.
By now, Khadr's story is familiar to most Canadians. Born in Canada, he was taken by his family to Afghanistan as a young boy. Indoctrinated into a radical ideology, he became a teenage soldier for Al Queda. At 15, he was captured by Coalition troops after apparently throwing a grenade which killed one US Medic and partially blinded another. He was then transferred to the infamous Guantanamo prison where he spent the next ten years before being repatriated to Canada. During that time in Guantanamo he suffered frequent rounds of interrogation and torture.
The multi-million dollar compensation is being paid because Khadr suffered those interrogations and the torture with the complicity of the Canadian government. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled on at least two occasions that the governments actions, or lack of actions, were grave violations of his constitutional rights, and Khadr was entitled to redress.
Khadr is clearly not a good person in my eyes. But that doesn't mean the Canadian government can casually deny him his rights under our Constitution. All Canadians, from the vilest of society to its most virtuous are entitled to the protection of their constitutional rights. When the government abuses those rights as in the Khadr case, a severe sanction such as the compensation is justified.
I'm as upset by the thought of this money being paid as anyone. But I'd be more upset to think our government could trample on my human rights without consequences.
Frank Likely is a retired Anglican minister and past president of the Springhill and Area Chamber of Commerce.