Houseguest Omar Khadr 'a remarkable young man,' Patricia Edney says
Published Friday, May 8, 2015 9:23AM EDT
The woman who has invited Omar Khadr into her home says she has great hope for this "remarkable young man's" future.
Weeks ago, Patricia Edney prepared a room for Khadr in her suburban home and bought him clothes, waiting for the day he would be released from a period of incarceration that began when he was 15 years old.
That day came Thursday, when an Alberta Court of Appeal judge released the now 28-year-old on bail under strict conditions. Those conditions include living with Edney and her husband Dennis Edney, who is Khadr's lawyer.
As well, Khadr will have to wear an electronic tracking ankle device and have limited contact with his Toronto family, including only talking to them via video or telephone under supervision and in English.
Patricia Edney says she was "just delighted" when the decision was read Thursday and admits after the stress of the last few months, she burst into tears.
"All our hopes and wishes for that moment kind of cascaded and I started to cry. It was wonderful," Edney told CTV's Canada AM Friday morning.
Not everyone was pleased with Khadr's release. A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, Jeremy Laurin, said on Thursday that Khadr had pleaded guilty to "heinous crimes," including the 2002 murder of U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Speer.
Retired U.S. Special Forces Sgt. Layne Morris, who was wounded and blinded in the same firefight that killed Speer, told CTV News Channel that, while he believes people can change, he was at Khadr's trial and believes he is someone "who is a demonstrated, convicted terrorist."
Now, with Khadr beginning his first week outside a prison cell in 13 years, Edney says she hopes the Canadian public will get to know the Omar Khadr she has come to know and love.
"He's a remarkable young man. He's peaceful, he's kind, he's very humble. And I think he's looking forward to just having that normal life," she said.
The Edneys, who have two sons close to Khadr’s age, have offered to have Khadr live with them and to pay for his education. Khadr moved into the Edney home Thursday evening, sitting down to a dinner of lamb, as neighbours came to welcome him, some bringing flowers and desserts.
One neighbour, Parviz Somani, says she knows and trusts the Edneys and is not worried about her new high-profile neighbour.
"He's just another human being. I'm not threatened in any way and I welcome him and I will try to help him in any way I can," she told reporters.
Somani has heard that some people are not pleased Khadr is now living in their neighbourhood. Patricia Edney also says she understands Canadians aren’t in agreement about Khadr's release, but she says they don't know the full story.
"Our government has promoted the image of him as being the unrepentant jihadist, which is really very, very far from the truth," she said.
"I hope the Canadian public remembers what it was like when they were 15 or when their children were 15. This young man was put in harm's way and some horrible things happened to him subsequently."
Khadr pleaded guilty in 2010 to several charges, including killing Sgt. Speer. He has since recanted his confessions. Those convictions are now under appeal in the U.S. because the offences were created in law years after the events took place.
According to court documents, Khadr recently told a psychologist that he is not even sure he was the one who threw the grenade that killed Speer and still clings to the hope that it wasn't him.
On Thursday, Khadr offered his apologies "for the pain I might have caused for the families of the victims," and said he is focusing on the future.
"There's nothing I can do about the past, but I hope I can do something about the future," he said, reassuring Canadians that he is not a jihadist.
"It's not something I believe in right now. I want to start fresh. There are too many good things in life that I want to experience," he said.
The federal government, which has fought to keep Khadr behind bars, expressed disappointment Thursday at his release.
"(We) regret that a convicted terrorist has been allowed back into Canadian society without having served his full sentence," Jeremy Laurin, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, said in a statement.
Patricia Edney says that while she's not a lawyer, "I think Mr. Blaney should check his facts," noting that Khadr was a youth at the time of the attack.
"Had he committed that crime in Canada, he would be finished his sentence. I think Mr. Blaney should consider that, and consider what we (Canada) have purported to support in terms of child soldiers."
Asked by a reporter about the federal government's long fight to keep the 28-year-old incarcerated, Khadr said Thursday evening he hopes to change Prime Minister Stephen Harper's mind.
"I'm going to have to disappoint him; I'm better than the person he thinks I am," Khadr said.
With files from The Canadian Press