Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he wants Canadians to stay outraged about his government's controversial settlement with former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer pressed Trudeau about the Khadr deal, worth a reported $10.5 million, in question period Thursday. Though Scheer pledged in the summer to hammer Liberals on the issue, it marked the first time he raised the issue directly with Trudeau since Parliament resumed from break.
Scheer led off question period in French by accusing Trudeau of cutting a "secret deal" while members of Parliament were away from Ottawa. He asked Trudeau to divulge exactly how much the federal government gave to Khadr.
Trudeau shot back that the previous Conservative government violated Khadr's constitutional rights and now Canadians have to pay for it.
"I'm outraged. The opposition is outraged. Canadians are outraged about this payment and I understand," Trudeau said in French. "They should remain outraged because if people will recall how we did not want to do this, no other government will violate (rights)."
Scheer basically accused the prime minister of faking it.
"I'm sure that his hands were just shaking in anger as he was adding more and more zeroes to the cheque that he gave to Omar Khadr," Scheer said.
The Tory leader said the violation of Khadr's rights occurred under Liberal governments, while Conservatives "respected the decision of the courts" and repatriated Khadr.
Tories were in power when Khadr was repatriated in 2012, but the government of Stephen Harper had earlier refused to advocate for his return and fought to keep him behind bars once he was back in Canada.
Still, Scheer said in the Commons that Khadr's repatriation was the only compensation he deserved.
"Why did the prime minister go over and above that?" Scheer asked.
Trudeau conceded "previous" governments violated Khadr's rights and said that was the central issue.
You can't just stand up for rights when it's easy or popular. You have to do it when it's hard, too.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
"When the Canadian government does not defend people's rights, we all end up paying," he said. "That's the principle at play here and it's one that everyone, particularly members of the Conservative Party, need to remember.
"You can't just stand up for rights when it's easy or popular. You have to do it when it's hard, too."
The Toronto-born Khadr was captured in Afghanistan in 2002 at the age of 15. He later pleaded guilty to five war crimes before a maligned military commission, including throwing a grenade in a firefight that killed U.S. special forces soldier Chris Speer and blinded another American soldier.
Khadr later recanted, saying he agreed to the plea so he could get out of the U.S. prison and return to Canada. Khadr has long said he was tortured during the decade he spent at Guantanamo Bay.
In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Canadian intelligence officials had obtained information from Khadr under "oppressive circumstances," including extreme sleep deprivation, and that they illegally shared evidence with the U.S.
Khadr filed a $20-million lawsuit against the federal government in 2004. Trudeau told reporters this summer that the feds would not only have "inevitably" lost if they continued to fight Khadr's suit, they could have ended up paying tens of millions of dollars more.
Though Scheer hasn't been as vocal on the topic as he once hinted, the Tory leader's ethics critic also questioned Trudeau on the matter in the House of Commons Wednesday.
Veteran Tory MP Peter Kent linked the payment to what he called "Liberal profligacy," and noted the deal was made as the government fights "Indigenous children and women in court." The federal government is currently challenging a ruling from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal over its funding of child and family welfare services on reserves.
Trudeau told Kent he was also angry about settling with Khadr.
"If we stay angry enough for long enough, maybe no future government will ever violate a Canadian's fundamental rights that way again," he said.
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