Toews stands firm: Omar Khadr is a terrorist, not a child soldier
Published Sunday, October 21, 2012 10:00AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 21, 2012 6:23PM EDT
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews maintains that Omar Khadr was not acting as a child soldier when, at 15 years of age, he threw a grenade that killed U.S. Sgt. 1st class Christopher Speer.
While Khadr's situation has been described as "the classic child soldier narrative" by the United Nations representative on the matter, Toews disagrees.
"I don’t agree he was a child soldier in the sense that he was somehow misled," he told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday. "The evidence is very clear. He was a convicted murderer, he’s a terrorist and that’s the basis I brought him back on.
Upon announcing Khadr's return to Canada on Sept. 29, Toews described him as a "known supporter of the al Qaeda terrorist network and a convicted terrorist."
However, Toews considers it the government's obligation to rehabilitate the 26-year-old now that he's back on Canadian soil serving his sentence at Millhaven Institution, a maximum-security prison in eastern Ontario.
Khadr was born in Ontario in 1986, the same year his family moved to Pakistan. At the age of 10, Khadr and his brothers were taken to meet al Qaeda leaders for training.
He was captured by the U.S. military after its forces bombed a compound in Afghanistan. A 15-hour firefight led to the death of a U.S. soldier and Khadr, then 15, was severely wounded. At age 16 he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he spent the next decade.
In an October 2010 military commission, Khadr pleaded guilty to five war crimes including the murder of Sgt. 1st Class Speer.
Under the terms of his pre-trial deal it was specified that, after serving the first year of his sentence in U.S. custody, Khadr could then be transferred to serve the remainder of his sentence in Canada.
Khadr's eight year sentence began on Oct. 31, 2010, and he became eligible for transfer a year later.
Last month, Toews came under fire for allegedly delaying the move. But in his interview with Question Period host Kevin Newman, the minister said repatriating Khadr was the right decision.
"I think it would have been a mistake to wait for six years so the Americans would dump him on our borders because he is a Canadian citizen," he said.
Toews added that he felt the Canadian government needed to intervene in the case in order to monitor his rehabilitation.
"That's why he was brought back into the custody of Correctional Services of Canada and ultimately the parole board."
Khadr could be eligible to apply for parole by July, 2013.
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