For the Conservatives, Omar Khadr was an opportunity. Now he’s just a problem.
Mr. Khadr has finally returned to Canada, to serve out the remainder of his sentence for crimes committed against the United States in Afghanistan. Stephen Harper’s Conservative government had done everything in its legal power, short of a diplomatic breach with the U.S. government, to keep him interned at Guantanamo Bay, America’s problem.
But those efforts ran out, and now Mr. Khadr is coming home, where he will earn more than his share of unwelcome attention.
When Mr. Khadr was first apprehended on an Afghanistan battlefield by American forces and sent to Guantanamo, the Liberal government of the day treated him like the embarrassment he was. Foreign and Justice ministers spoke about him only when pressed, and then only in the most guarded of sentences. Ottawa was happy to let the Americans prosecute his crimes.
The Conservatives were less circumspect. Mr. Khadr was a wedge, one they were happy to exploit.
Human rights advocates saw Mr. Khadr not as a criminal or terrorist, but as a victim. At worst, he was a young offender, duped by his family into joining a war he was too immature to comprehend.
He was, in their eyes, a child soldier, no more complicit than the children impressed into the armies of African warlords. And his detention at Guantanamo was part and parcel of the Bush government’s abusive war against terrorists.
Conservatives have no truck with such talk; nor, they believe, do most Canadians, especially those Canadians inclined to vote Conservative.