posted by djtrishna
Today is a big day for Toronto.
I’m not talking about the election.
I’m talking about the 3013th day that we have been without our brother Omar Khadr.
Omar, a Toronto kid like myself, has been held at Guantanamo Bay since he was 15. The Omar Khadr case has been widely publicized, as he is not only Guantanamo Bay’s youngest detainee, but also the only Canadian to ever be held at the facility.
The case has also received media attention because of the extreme injustices Omar has faced. He was held for three years before ever being charged and for two years without access to legal counsel. He was subject to inhumane conditions including physical and psychological abuse as well as torture. Additionally, he is the first child soldier in modern history to be prosecuted for alleged war crimes.
Today, Omar accepted a plea bargain, pleading guilty to five separate charges including murder after spending a third of his life in Guantanamo Bay. This means that Omar will spend one more year in Guantanamo after which he may have the opportunity to return to Canada.
Thus far, our Prime Minister has demonstrated no interest in repatriating Omar. He has consistently avoided commenting on the case claiming that it is up to the U.S. to decide, despite our Supreme Court ruling that Omar’s rights have been violated and our Federal Court ordering Ottawa to pursue his repatriation.
But Harper’s silence speaks volumes.
It demonstrates the unwillingness of our government to stand up for one of our own children, one of our brothers. It clarifies our government’s feelings towards specifically racialized populations. I am of course talking about Arabs and Muslims and those of us who are racialized alongside them in the big web of racism.
What I’m getting at here is that if Omar, a 15 year old Toronto kid, could be tried in U.S. military court for war crimes after being held at Guantanamo for 8 years, without ANY intervention on the part of our government, what makes any of us safe? What kind of justice system are we upholding? Isn’t this case terrifying? Does it not uncover the fallacy of Canada as a model ‘multicultural’ state?
Toronto is missing a child, a brother, and a friend. He is one of many missing people whom the government is eager to silence. Their lack of commentary on this issue is extremely unjust, but not uncommon. It is evident in the face of hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women. It is evident in their increasing criminalization of dissent, of being poor, of being brown, of being queer, or being anything but ‘normal’. And this criminalization has been normalized. How else can we explain what is happening to Alex Hundert and the other G20 detainees? How else can such disregard for our stolen sisters persist?
We cannot simply remain silent. We must demand for Omar’s return home. Just as we must demand for inquiry into the cases of our stolen sisters and for the charges against Alex and the other G20 defendants to be dropped.
Toronto, it’s time to bring Omar home.