Holding the Government of Canada to account on its decisions is an important part of my job as your member of Parliament. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected on promises of delivering unprecedented accountability and transparency — promises that have gone the way of Trudeau’s promises on electoral reform and small businesses tax relief. The promises have been broken.
Take for instance Trudeau’s $10.5 million out-of-court settlement with Omar Khadr whose case stretches back 15 years and continues to bear more questions than answers for Canadians. The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has repeatedly concluded the Government of Canada didn’t fulfill its responsibilities to Khadr’s rights — specifically in 2003 and 2004 under the Liberal governments of prime ministers Chretien and Martin.
In 2010, Khadr sought the remedy of an SCC order for the government to request that the US repatriate Khadr to Canada but the order was not granted, leaving the question of remedy for the government to decide.
Khadr was repatriated in 2012 under the government of then prime minister Stephen Harper, and this seemingly fulfilled the request for remedy that Khadr had sought, but then further remedy was sought when he filed a lawsuit seeking $20 million from the government in 2014.
The Khadr settlement was leaked on July 3 before the Trudeau government made a formal statement on July 7. One would think that those four days would have given Trudeau and company time to prepare a straight explanation for Canadians, but they did not.
At first, Trudeau channeled the words of his father stating that a “just society” recognizes rights when, “it’s difficult, when it’s unpopular,” yet Trudeau executed the settlement in secret without transparency. If the settlement is a just remedy and Trudeau is committed to recognizing rights at all times, one wonders why the prime minister didn’t announce the deal himself. It is not like Trudeau is camera shy.
By July 15, Trudeau revised his justification of the settlement by shifting from principles of a just society to fiscal and legal prudence. Trudeau stated that if Khadr’s legal action had continued in court, the government could have lost the case at greater expense. It’s odd that Trudeau would pivot from principle to prudence when monetary prudence is clearly not his strong suit. Moreover, if this government believes such settlements are appropriate, perhaps they can settle litigation from veterans fighting for their benefits.
When Trudeau’s explanations for matters of fundamental rights, legal process and national security are untimely, incomplete and inconsistent, it is no wonder 71 per cent of Canadians polled disagree with Trudeau’s settlement with Khadr. Canadians would be less suspicious of the whole affair if Trudeau clearly answered how the $10.5 million figure was agreed to and why this settlement was announced when the prime minister was overseas, away from cross examination in question period.
I look forward to the fall session in the House of Commons as my colleagues and I demand answers for Canadians in this matter and many other matters that require more accountability and transparency for us all.
Mel Arnold is MP for North Okanagan- Shuswap.