OTTAWA — Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre has launched an electronic petition calling on the "government of Canada to condemn Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau's $10.5 million payment to Omar Khadr."
The Ottawa MP's petition, E-1194, states that the Canadian government "did not force Omar Khadr to fight for the Taliban and murder a U.S. medic," that "the Canadian government had no role in his subsequent incarceration," and that "the people of Canada owe Omar Khadr no compensation."
In an email to HuffPost, Poilievre said he was launching the petition to "give voice to the millions of Canadians outraged with Justin Trudeau's decision...
"At the very least, Trudeau should have made the case against the payout and let a judge decide."
The petition, launched Thursday at 4:01 pm, is open for signatures until Nov. 10. At press time, 20 individuals had signed it.
A similar petition by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation garnered more than 133,000 signatures over nine days, the group said on Thursday.
"When we launched this petition ... our hope was to convince the government to change course," federal director Aaron Wudrick said in a statement. "It was very disappointing to learn that the government quietly rushed through the payment. ...
"Let there be no illusion: a large majority of Canadians don't buy the government's line that they had 'no choice' but to hand Khadr $10.5 million."
That is, however, precisely what Trudeau told reporters on Thursday when asked about the Khadr payout.
Let there be no illusion: a large majority of Canadians don't buy the government's line that they had 'no choice' but to hand Khadr $10.5 million.Aaron Wudrick
The prime minister said he understood Canadians' concern about the settlement.
"In fact, I share those concerns about the money. That's why we settled," he said. "If we had continued to fight this, not only would we have inevitably lost, but estimates range from 30 to 40 million dollars that it would have ended up costing the government. So this was the responsible path to take."
Khadr is the former Guantanamo Bay inmate who was captured on an Afghanistan battlefield in 2002 at age 15 and accused of throwing a grenade that killed U.S. special forces soldier Chris Speer and blinded another American soldier.
Khadr pleaded guilty to five war crimes before a military commission, but later recanted, saying he only agreed to the plea in order to return to Canada. He also said he was tortured during the decade he spent at Guantanamo Bay.
In 2010, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Khadr's Charter rights had been breached, that Canadian intelligence officials had obtained information from Khadr under "oppressive circumstances," including extreme sleep deprivation, and that they illegally shared evidence with the United States.
The Conservatives, who in government refused to advocate for Khadr's repatriation and fought to keep him behind bars after he returned to Canada in 2012, have hammered Trudeau over the decision last week to issue an apology and a reported $10.5 million settlement in response to a $20-million suit Khadr originally filed in 2004.
When governments fail to respect people's rights, we all end up paying.Justin Trudeau
Andrew Scheer, the new Tory leader, said he would have fought Khadr's lawsuit in court rather than award millions to someone his party sees as an "admitted terrorist." Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government has already spent nearly $5 million in legal fees.
On Thursday, Trudeau said the lesson to draw from the Khadr case is that "when governments fail to respect people's rights, we all end up paying."
"The measure of a society, of a just society, is not whether we stand up for people's rights when it's easy or popular to do so, it's whether we recognize rights when it's difficult, when it's unpopular," he said.
With files from the Canadian Press
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