Justin Trudeau gets standing ovation for handling of Omar Khadr protester
For the second time in two days, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced a pointed critique of his decision to give a settlement worth millions of dollars to Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen tortured and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for years.
But unlike on Tuesday, the topic prompted starkly different reactions in the room ranging from a yelling protest to a standing ovation for how the prime minister responded.
At the second stop on his town hall tour across the country, Trudeau took questions from Canadians assembled in an auditorium at McMaster University in Hamilton.
The roughly hour-and-a-half event had seemed on the verge of the mundane when the topic of Khadr — always a lightning rod — sparked.
Following a question about refugees and immigrants, a woman stood up while Trudeau was looking over the auditorium to take the next question and began yelling at him about the decision to provide Khadr with a $10.5-million settlement last summer.
After attempting several times to explain the reasoning for the decision to the woman, who would not stop yelling, Trudeau stressed the payout was the result of the Canadian government failing to uphold its duty to prevent citizens from being mistreated or tortured.
He also repeated a comment he made on Tuesday that he was also angry about having had to make the settlement.
“That settlement had nothing to do with what Omar Khadr might or might not have done,” he told the auditorium on Wednesday. “It had to do with what the Canadian government did or did not do, and when a Canadian government willfully turns its back on defending a Canadian’s rights and allows a Canadian to be tortured and mistreated, we all pay.”
Trudeau continued, saying next that he hoped the protester and all Canadians to use their anger to prevent future governments from allowing Canadians to be tortured abroad.
“I want you to continue to be frustrated that the Canadian government had to make that settlement,” he said. “Use that anger to ensure no Canadian government ever thinks it’s OK to allow a Canadian citizen to be tortured. That is not how we do things in Canada. Don’t let any future government do what past governments did.”
That call was what prompted the standing ovation from almost everyone in the auditorium.
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Khadr, who was born in Canada, was in a compound in Afghanistan when it was stormed by American soldiers during the Afghan War and a firefight ensued in which he was severely injured, taken into American custody, and later accused of throwing a grenade that had killed an American soldier.
He confessed to throwing the grenade and pleaded guilty to killing the soldier in an American military tribunal widely condemned as a sham.
Khadr later retracted his confession, saying he had been tortured and had pleaded guilty in the hope it would allow him to be transferred back to Canada.
The courts have repeatedly said the Canadian government failed to protect his rights and allowed him to be tortured, which is against the law.
Those findings formed the basis of the lawsuit Khadr filed against the government and was the reason the government has said it did not think there was any chance it could win the case in court.
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