Reality check for the PM

CHRIS MacLEAN  –  Jul 11, 2017

Not many Canadians agree that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did the right thing in awarding a $10.5 million settlement to Omar Khadr, according to a new poll by the Angus Reid Institute. In fact, the vast majority of Canadians say the federal government made the wrong decision in settling a lawsuit with former child soldier Omar Khadr by paying him $10.5 million in compensation for his treatment as a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Respondents to the poll overwhelmingly agreed that the government should have left it to the courts to decide whether Khadr was wrongfully imprisoned.

Delving further, a full 61% of people who said they voted Liberal in 2015 felt that the wrong decision has been made. That increased to 64% among NDP voters. Another 27-30% in these two groups would have offered an apology rather than a payout.

According to the poll, a full 69% of Conservative voters would have "offered nothing" to Khadr.

Further, two-thirds of Canadians reject the notion that government officials had “no choice” but to settle – but money appears to be the main source of opposition to the deal. Canadians are slightly more inclined to have said sorry to Khadr than to offer compensation.

When asked if Omar Khadr has ultimately been treated fairly or unfairly, Canadians most commonly answer that they are unsure (42%); slightly more are inclined to say he’s had fair treatment (34%) than unfair (24%).


Omar Khadr was born in Toronto. His family moved back and forth between Pakistan and Canada during his youth, eventually settling in Afghanistan in 1996. It was in that country that he was arrested in 2002, at the age of 15, allegedly killing an American soldier during a firefight. His father, Ahmed Said Khadr, was reportedly a founding member of the al-Qaeda terrorist group.

Gravely injured in the conflict, Omar survived and eventually spent 10 years at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay. While there, he pleaded guilty to several charges and was convicted by an American military tribunal. He later said the guilty plea was made under duress.

In 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Canadian government of the day acted unconstitutionally after Khadr’s arrest, and that it is partly responsible for his continued imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay. He was transferred to a prison in Alberta in 2012 and released on bail in 2015 while appealing his U.S. conviction. In 2004, he sued the federal government for $20 million for wrongful imprisonment.

As mentioned, the Canadian government has now responded by settling out of court, offering a formal apology to Khadr, and paying him just over half the amount he had been seeking. Khadr has said that he hopes the apology will help to restore his reputation, as he moves on to the next phase of his life.