Human Rights, Uncategorized

Do Human Rights Matter?

This past week news was released that Omar Khadr would be receiving what is estimated at $10.5 million in settlement for the role that the Canadian Governments played in his ten year long denial of his human rights. Human rights that were instilled upon him by the Canadian Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms under which we live. This settlement came as part of a lawsuit that was launched by Khadr upon returning to Canada and being released on bail. This lead to a court battle that the Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper spent in the range of $5 million to defend themselves against. So maybe you’re sitting there asking yourself do human rights even matter? And dear reader, I can assure you that they do.

Human rights are critical, and yet many seem willing to strip a fellow Canadian citizen of those rights despite the mandate that we are innocent until proven guilty. It is the cornerstone that our justice system is built upon, and is even guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The United Nations defines Human Rights as:

“…rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.  Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.” (Human Rights, http://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/human-rights/)

Further to that the The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says:

“The Covenant deals with such rights as freedom of movement; equality before the law; the right to a fair trial and presumption of innocence; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; peaceful assembly; freedom of association; participation in public affairs and elections; and protection of minority rights. It prohibits arbitrary deprivation of life; torture, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment; slavery and forced labour; arbitrary arrest or detention; arbitrary interference with privacy; war propaganda; discrimination; and advocacy of racial or religious hatred.” (Human Rights, http://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/human-rights/)

Khadr was denied a trial for seven years. That’s over half of the life span of my oldest daughter! That is 1/5 of my entire lifespan that Khadr spent in Guantanamo where he was allegedly tortured (see that use of the word allegedly? Innocent until proven guilty right?) while being denied trial. It wasn’t under the Canadian government promised him the option to go to trial in return for confessing to a crime that he has never been proven guilty of. Beyond that, the original report of the incident had been amended to name him as the bomber, a report which no one can explain who was responsible for those changes.

Khadr at the time of the attack was a child. A child soldier, brought into the war by his father at the age of nine. Now let’s put that into context. While many of his classmates and peers back home in Canada were learning how to add and subtract three and four digit numbers, learning about Canadian geography, learning to play basketball  and spending time getting their fingers dirty working on art projects under the watchful eye of their teacher, Khadr was brought into a world that he didn’t have the option of choosing for himself.

In the end it is our Canadian government, and our Canadian population who failed Khadr, and this is the reason for the settlement. The truth is that this wasn’t the first time that the Canadian government was been found to be in violation of human rights. I’ve written  previously about Monia Mazigh and her fight to bring her husband Maher Arar, a Canadian Citizen home after he was deported to Syria returning from a family trip to Tunisia (you can read the article here), and there are many more stories of Canadians being denied their human rights floating around on the internet.

I too disagree that the Canadian Government should be paying out a figure larger than what I’ll likely ever see in my lifetime. But my frustration stems from the truth that the Canadian government should not be in this position in the first place. Human rights are guaranteed. Don’t deny them, and don’t be faced with the consequences. My children understand consequences and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Why is it that the Canadian Government appears to be incapable of learning their lesson and do right by their citizens?

Yes – I realize that there are many out there who disagree with me. Yet in the end, if I can help even one person gain some clarity on this topic through this post it will have been worth it. I am a proud Canadian, but I cannot condone human rights being denied.

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