CTV.ca | Most want Khadr to face justice in Canada, poll finds
OTTAWA -- Most Canadians believe accused terrorist Omar Khadr should be returned to Canada, but a healthy plurality want him to face justice here rather than simply being turned loose, a new poll indicates.
Fifty-four per cent of respondents to the Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey said Khadr, held by U.S. authorities for more than six years at Guantanamo Bay on murder and other charges, should be brought back to Canada.
That included 38 per cent who said he should face the courts in Canada, while 16 per cent said he should be released and placed in a monitoring and rehabilitation program.
Twenty-nine per cent of those questioned said Khadr should be dealt with through the U.S. court system.
The results were sharply split along party lines, reflecting a political debate that has gone on for months.
Some 44 per cent of Liberal supporters thought Khadr should be tried in Canada while 24 per cent said rehabilitation in Canada would be the best course. Only 20 per cent favoured trial in the United States.
Strong pluralities of NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green party supporters also opted for trial in Canada.
By contrast, 46 per cent of Conservative backers said Khadr should be tried through the U.S. court system, while 31 per cent said he should return to Canada for trial and only eight per cent favoured release under a rehabilitation program.
There were also regional variations in the results, with support for a Canadian juridical process strongest in Atlantic Canada at 47 per cent, Ontario at 41 per cent and Quebec at 40 per cent.
Support for U.S. judicial proceedings was highest in British Columbia at 38 per cent and Alberta at 32 per cent.
Jeff Walker, senior vice-president of Harris-Decima, summed up the bottom line: "Canadians are clear that they believe Mr. Khadr should face a trial, but more believe justice is best served if he faces it here (rather) than in the U.S."
Toronto-born Khadr, now 22, has been charged with murder and a variety of other terrorism-related offences. The murder allegation arose from the death of a U.S. soldier in a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002 when Khadr was 15.
He had been slated for trial before a military tribunal at Guantanamo, but those proceedings were put on hold -- along with those of several other detainees -- by the new administration of President Barack Obama.
Obama has also signed an order to close the much-criticized Guantanamo detention facility within a year, but it remains to be seen what will happen to the prisoners held there. Some may be released, while others could be kept in custody elsewhere and tried under a yet-to-be-determined process.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said repeatedly his Tory government will wait for the U.S. legal process to play out before considering repatriation for Khadr, the last citizen of a western country held at Guantanamo.
Opposition critics say Ottawa should press for his return now and maintain he could be tried in Canada under a process that reflects his juvenile status at the time of the alleged offences.
There has been heated debate, however, about exactly what charges Khadr could face in Canada and the chances of a conviction.
Many legal experts say most of the evidence compiled by U.S. authorities was obtained under duress, using sleep deprivation and other abusive techniques, and wouldn't be admissible in a Canadian court.
Some of his supporters have advocated a rehabilitation program that would include psychological and religious counselling and close monitoring to help him reintegrate into Canadian society.
The telephone poll of just over 1,000 Canadians was conducted between Jan. 22 and 25. The results are considered accurate within plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times in 20.
Do you believe he should be:
A) tried in Canada
B) released and placed in a monitoring and rehabilitation program.
C) dealt with through the U.S. court system?
(See poll above)