Hypothetical commitments

As referenced by John earlier, here is Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon’s exchange with reporters on the subject of child soldiers and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Reporter: Minister Cannon, as a signatory to the optional protocol on child soldiers, does Canada believe that a 15-year-old in Uganda or Sudan who is involved in armed conflict and who is pressured into multiple murders and rape, does Canada believe that this 15-year-old should be subject to prosecution or do they have any chance of rehabilitation?

Cannon: I think I made our position clear in the House when that question was asked of me this week. I indicated that Mr. Khadr pleaded guilty to numerous—to murdering corporal Chris Speer of the American army. He also pleaded guilty to a number of accusations, conspired to terrorist activities. He is a recognized member of al-Qaeda. As it stands now, the hearings are ongoing. They are in a sentencing mode in the United States and until such time that this procedure is not completed, our position is to respect the initiatives that the government of the United States have undertaken.

Reporter: But my question is does Canada believe that a 15-year-old in Uganda or Sudan, involved in armed conflict, does that person have the right to rehabilitation or is it just prosecution?

Cannon: Well, you know, I know where you are going. I’m responding to you. You are asking me a hypothetical question. I’m answering with a factual situation and it deals with Mr. Khadr and our position is clear on that.

Reporter: But it is not hypothetical as a signatory on the—

Cannon:   No, it is a hypothetical question, because as we speak today, there is no situation as you describe it that is taking place.

Reporter: I do have a question about North Korea, but I’m interested in hearing whether Canada believes that people who are under 18 involved in child – sorry, involved in armed conflict should be prosecuted or not, whether they should be rehabilitated or prosecuted?  That is not a hypothetical question, this is a question of what principles do you operate under, international…

Cannon: Well, we have—

Reporter: Apart from the case?

Cannon: Yes, Campbell, we have policies in place and it depends on the circumstances that might arise and you know, you are asking me a general question. We are parties to a number of UN conventions and we live up to our obligations under the UN conventions.

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