Skurka's Spin: Is Ottawa obliged to take Khadr because he's Canadian?
Steven Skurka, CTV legal analyst, appears in this file photo.
Published Monday, October 1, 2012 11:14AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 1, 2012 11:57AM EDT
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird appeared on CTV's Question Period and admitted that the Obama administration had placed diplomatic pressure on the Canadian government to transfer Omar Khadr to a Canadian prison. The minister accepted that under Canadian law ''we're pretty obliged to take him back''and that because Khadr is a Canadian citizen, ''he has the right to come back. We didn't have much of a choice... and he's back.''
The apparent suggestion that a Canadian prisoner serving a sentence in the United States has an absolute right to serve a portion of their sentence in Canada is inaccurate. There are presently Canadians confined to federal prisons in America who will serve eighty-five per cent of their sentence before they are eligible to be released on parole.
The process of transfer requires the prisoner to submit an application and requires the agreement of both Canada and the United States. It can be a daunting and protracted process and in many instances the transfer request is denied. The likelihood of a prisoner convicted of terrorism offences and a crime of serious violence in America being returned to Canada to serve a remnant of their sentence would be virtually non-existent.
The unique circumstance in Omar Khadr's case was an agreement entered into by the Canadian government at the time of Khadr's plea and sentencing. It was stipulated that Canada would look favourably upon Khadr's transfer request to a Canadian prison after he served an additional year at Guantanamo Bay. Khadr entered his guilty plea and received an eight-year prison sentence on the clear understanding that Canada would honour its agreement.
The pressing question shouldn't be why Omar Khadr has been permitted to return to Canada. It is rather the inexplicable reason why diplomatic pressure by the U.S. had to be exerted for the prison transfer to be effected and why the Canadian government attempted to treat its solemn promise as being illusory.
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