Friday, May 8, 2015

The Sweet Taste Of Freedom

Watching Omar Khadr's media scrum last night, it became obvious why the Harper regime fought so hard, first, to deny media access to him while he was in prison, and second, why it so vigorously opposed his release on bail: when you control the narrative, you have free rein, as the regime had, to demonize and incite fear and hatred. When that control is lost, a different perspective and narrative emerges.

While I am no expert in human psychology, what I saw last night was a reflective and articulate young man who was enjoying his first tast of freedom in 15 years, a young man who appears to be without bitterness or rancour over his gross mistreatment by the Harper government. When asked what he had to say to the prime minister, he essesntially said that he would have to disappoint him, as he is not the person Harper thinks he is.

He showed admirable restraint; perhaps he felt that his lawyer. Dennis Edney's, earlier excoriation of Harper as a bigot, a man who doesn't like Muslims, was sufficient denunciation of our cruel overlord.

I doubt that Khadr has an easy road ahead of him. His freedom on bail comes with many restrictions, and where his appeal against his American conviction will go is anyone's guess. What the years of imprisonment, torture and other abuse have done to him remains to be seen.

Perhaps those experiences will have been leavened by the efforts of people who have worked hard to help educate him during his long incarceration:
Nine Alberta university professors, most of them from The King’s University College in suburban Edmonton, have spent years visiting Khadr in prison, spending hours tutoring him. Since Khadr was transferred to Alberta in May 2013, the professors have worked with him at least once a week.
Then there is the social network knitted together by University of Alberta graduate Muna Abougoush, who
began the website six years ago to keep Khadr’s name circulating and to remind people that he was still imprisoned. She began writing to him and visiting him in prison. “Omar has such a support community. I could probably say with certainty most inmates don’t have this,” says Abougoush. This past Christmas, Khadr received 500 letters from supporters — some as far away as China. And he tries to answer them all.
Perhaps some of those lacking in sympathy for Khadr, now that they have something more than government propaganda upon which to base their opinion, will come to new insights. As pointed out in today's Star editorial,
whatever his misdeeds Khadr, now 28, has paid the full price, and more. From the day U.S. troops captured him in Afghanistan in 2002 he has been denied justice, tortured, forsaken by Ottawa and tried in a discredited U.S. military court. He has spent twice the time behind bars as he would have, had he been convicted here of first-degree murder as a young offender.
Omar Khadr now stands at a crossroad: the life he has lived thus far, over which he had little to no control, and the life ahead, ultimately filled with the freedom to choose. May his journey be a fulfilling one.


  1. Khadr does not face an easy future, Lorne. But, at least, Stephen Harper has been denied an opportunity to use him as a wedge issue.

    1. Given Harper's willingness to sink to just about any depth, Owen, I wouldn't be surprised if he tries to use the court's decision as yet another case of 'judicial activism.'

  2. He is a classy guy Lorne. I think the majority of Canadians will support him. You made a good point when you said "when you control the narrative, you have free reign". Now that Omar can speak freely Canadians will get to know who he really is, not Harpers demonized version.

    1. I sincerely hope Harper's narrative comes back to haunt him, Pamela. To me, his demonization of Khadr says all we need to know about his regime.