Not All Felons are Equal
Canadians are watching and waiting for two felons about to return to Canada: Conrad Black and Omar Khadr. There could not be two different people. Also, there treatment by the federal government could not be more different. (I encourage everyone to read the extensive Wikipedia sites on the complicated social and legal situation of these two people)
Conrad Black is a British citizen since he renounced Canadian citizenship in order to accept a British peerage. Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen.
Black is from a wealthy family (very wealthy in his own right) he was convicted in a American court of corporate crimes. He has been serving his sentence in a Florida prison. Khadr is a member of Canada's infamous al-Qaeda family. As a child he was captured in a firefight in Afghanistan and eventually charged with murder of an American soldier (among other charges). He is held in Guantanamo Prison after making a plea bargain in order to avoid a 40 year sentence in the American gulag. Part of this deal before the military tribunal (a Kangaroo Court by any other name) was for him to spend one more year in Guantanamo before he would serve the balance of his sentence in a Canadian prison subject to Canadian rules which includes eligibility for parole. This agreement we were told was agreed upon by the Canadian and American governments.
Besides being a well know former Canadian, a business tycoon , journalist and an historian Black through is wealth and connection has been able to keep his name before the public and self promote by regularly writing columns for several newspapers. His wealth has allowed him to continue to challenge his conviction and threaten critics with liable. All of this has been part of a campaign to recover his social standing. He has yet to admit that he has done anything wrong.
Khadr at 15 was among the youngest prisoner at Guantanamo. He was a child and a child soldier and should have been treated as such according to international agreements to which Canada and the United States have agreed . Instead, Khadr was treated a an adult and an enemy combatant, not a soldier, thus having no rights. He has grown up over 10 years in this prison, no longer the child. He has always been referred to as a terrorist or a murderer. The public knows little about him. He hardly qualifies as the "worst of the worst".
He has not had an opportunity to personally make himself known. Those who care to listen to his lawyers, former inmates and even some guards can learn that he is smart, well behaved, holds no resentment, wants to continue his education, wants to return to Canada and move on with is life. He gives no indication that he is a threat to anyone. Unfortunately, the sins of the father are inflicted on him. (His father was an ally of Osama Bin Laden).
This coming weekend Conrad Black is to be freed from prison in Florida. Khadr repatriation to Canada is overdue. Black arranged last month to get a temporary residency in Canada for a year. (He has a family home in Toronto). In order for him to fly to Canada he must be waved through the US Immigration Service, where he would normally be held to be deported to the United Kingdom (a process that takes weeks normally). If his lawyers are successful he will we in Toronto before the weekend is over. Canada's minister of Immigration says he told his department to not involve him in the decision to allow felon Black into Canada. The case of Omar Khadr saw his request to be repatriated to Canada ended up on the desk of the Public Safety Minister who immediately said he did not sign any agreement to repatriate Khadr, a Canadian citizen. He has it under advisement. Khadr and his lawyers are patiently waiting. President Obama has apparently called in a favour from Prime Minister Harper and asked that the agreement to repatriate Khadr be honoured. It is expected this will happen.
Throughout his imprisonment Khadr has had little support from the Federal Government. They should have demanded his return when he was first taken prisoner because he was a child soldier. He was rarely visited by Canadian officials and when he was what he said was passed on the the American officials and used against him. The Canadian government have consistently spoken badly of him and been hostile toward his repatriation. As a Canadian citizen, he has a right to return to Canada. It took the Canadian Supreme court to force the Harper government to do something on behalf of Omar Khadr.
I recently heard Conrad Black interviewed on TV (a privilege Omar Khadr has not enjoyed) He spoke of his desire to return to Canada and that the regular process had been entered into. He then indicated if that was not successful he would try other means (one has to assume he would turn to his powerful friends and politicians to see that he gains admission to Canada.
I have no objection to Black coming to Canada. I will object to him getting a chance to eventually regain Canadian citizenship. He rejected Canada in order to become a British Lord (Canadians cannot have such titles). This act trivialized what it means to be a Canadian, we should not trivialize it again by granting it to him again in order to meet his needs. He is British and should remain British. Hopefully while Black is in Canada he will be stripped of his "Order of Canada" award, which is under review.
I believe that a fair reading of the case of Omar Khadr would lead one to believe he was a victim who was further victimized by a less that fair military judicial process. His victimization was added to by the acts and the neglect of the Canadian government. He plead guilty in order to given himself some hope of a future. On the other hand Conrad Black is guilty of his crimes, which he fails to acknowledge. In fact, he has used his wealth and privilege to minimize them.
I hope soon Omar Khadr will be returned to Canada so he will finally have some hope of getting an education and creating a life for himself in Canada. There is a community of Canadians who are ready to help him in this process.