Majority of Canadians disagree with Khadr deal: poll
Published Tuesday, July 11, 2017 10:14AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 11, 2017 12:10PM EDT
OTTAWA -- More than 70 per cent of Canadians polled disagree with the government's decision to settle a lawsuit with Omar Khadr for a reported $10.5 million and an apology, according to the results of a new survey.
Asked which of two statements most reflected their opinion, 71 per cent of those polled by the Angus Reid Institute said the government should have fought the case and left it to the courts to decide whether Khadr was wrongfully imprisoned.
Only 29 per cent of those polled said the compensation and apology were the right decision.
The Supreme Court of Canada has already said government officials violated Khadr's rights and were complicit in his mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay, where he spent nearly 10 years after being captured following a firefight in Afghanistan. Khadr, 15 years old at the time of his 2002 capture, was fighting with Al Qaeda, where his father was a high-ranking member.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale referred to the 2010 unanimous Supreme Court ruling when he and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced the settlement.
While the vast majority disagree with the government's settlement, 74 per cent said Khadr was a child soldier at the time of his arrest, and should have been treated as such, the poll said.
In 2015, the Supreme Court rejected the government's argument that Khadr was an adult offender and needed to serve consecutive sentences.
Split over fairness of treatment
The poll suggests Canadians are split over whether Khadr has been treated fairly. The largest group -- 42 per cent -- say they can't decide or don't know, while 24 per cent say he was treated unfairly. Another 34 per cent say he was fairly treated over the past 15 years.
Asked what they would have offered Khadr were they on the negotiating team, 43 per cent said they would have offered neither compensation nor an apology. Another 29 per cent would have offered both an apology and compensation, while 25 per cent said they would have offered an apology alone.
Both Liberal and Conservative governments resisted calls by human rights advocates to fight for Khadr's return to Canada. Khadr says he was tortured in Guantanamo and during a shorter detention at Bagram Air Base, including through sleep deprivation and being told he risked being gang-raped in an American prison.
Khadr pleaded guilty in a U.S. military court to five charges associated with him throwing a grenade that killed American Sgt. Christopher Speer and blinded Sgt. Layne Morris. He later said he confessed under torture and pleaded guilty to improve his chances of returning to Canada rather than staying in Guantanamo.
Views of Khadr's settlement diverge along political lines, the Angus Reid Institute notes in its release accompanying the poll. Among those who say they voted Conservative in the last federal election, 91 per cent said the government did the wrong thing by settling with Khadr rather than continuing to fight the lawsuit. Sixty-one per cent of those who said they voted Liberal said the government did the wrong thing, while 64 per cent of NDP voters said it was the wrong decision.
The poll was conducted online from July 7 to 10, drawing on a representative randomized sample of 1,521 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. A probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.