Young jihadi’s repatriation issue divides Canada

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

TORONTO - The bombing of the Air India Kanishka that killed all 329 people over the Atlantic did not exercise Canadians even for a day, but the conviction of a young Afghan-Canadian Sunday for killing an American medic in Afghanistan in 2002 has divided and outraged the country.

Toronto-born Omar Khadr, 23, the world’s first child soldier since World War II, was sentenced to 40 years in jail by a US military tribunal in Guantanamo Sunday. He was 15 when he was arrested in a gunbattle with the Americans in Afghanistan in 2002.

The young terrorist’s father, Ahmed Said Khadr, was a financier of Osama bin Laden and was killed in Pakistan in 2003. The Khadr family came to Canada from Egypt in 1977, but because of their dislike of western values, they moved to Peshawar in Pakistan in 1988.

Canada’s opposition Liberal Party, which was always ambivalent about the plight of Air India victims during its rule till 2006, has demanded Khadr’s repatriation to Canada. The opposition parties and the left-leaning media both have virtually run a campaign against the Americans over the alleged violation of human rights of the young soldier.

But according to a plea bargain deal reportedly reached between the US and Khadr, the convicted terrorist will spend just one more year in Guantanamo jail and then must be repatriated to Canada.

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon Monday confirmed this in parliament, saying that Khadr will be repatriated.

“The US government has accepted that Omar Khadr return to Canada and we will implement the agreement reached between Mr. Khadr and the United States,” the foreign minister said.

But if reports here today are anything to go by, the issue of his repatriation has divided Canadians like no other issue in recent years.

A national survey Monday said that about 50 percent Canadians favoured his repatriation while 49 percent opposed it.

In this issue-starved nation, the case of a child soldier has come in handy for opposition parties and the media to corner the Tory government which favours tougher laws on terror.

“More than anything, this issue has given Canadians a chance to express their latent dislike of the US even though this country cannot go far without the Americans who buy more than 80 percent of Canadian exports,” said an Indo-Canadian businessperson with operations in the US, requesting anonymity.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at

Filed under: Terrorism

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