’That is not where the debate lies’

With the official translation now posted, here is the exchange between the Bloc’s Paul Crete and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, at committee last week, concerning Omar Khadr’s status as a child soldier.

Last month, the Prime Minister told an interviewer that he didn’t regard Omar Khadr as a child soldier. His office has so far declined to back-up his statement. And here is Mr. Harper’s foreign affairs minister also refusing to comment.

Mr. Paul Crête: Don’t you think that M. Khadr is a child soldier, and that under the international convention that governs such issues, we should have considered him as such, something that would have made it possible for him to be repatriated to Canada? I do not understand why the government did not take this approach, which is far more in line with Canada’s customary approach to foreign affairs issues.

Hon. Lawrence Cannon: In my humble opinion, Mr. Crête, that is not where the debate lies. Once again, I would repeat that Mr. Khadr has been charged with murder, aiding and abetting, and terrorism. You will agree those are very serious charges. There are not that many individuals charged with such offences, and such a number of offences. Thus, I believe we need to leave it up to President Obama to take action on this matter. President Obama has indicated to his administration, and to those in charge of reviewing the case, that he plans to shut down the facilities. The other day, I heard comments on the issue. Your colleague, the member for Toronto-Centre, suggested a meeting here to review the issue. The leader of the Official Opposition, Mr. Ignatieff, said that Omar Khadr would have to be brought back here to be put on trial. Basically, our position is clear.

Mr. Paul Crête: Minister, the fundamental question is this: do you acknowledge that Omar Khadr is a child soldier?

Hon. Lawrence Cannon: The question is not whether I acknowledge that or not, Mr. Crête. Omar Khadr has been detained in the United States. The President of the United States has indicated the process that is to be applied. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, I have told the President that Canada would respect this decision, and would abide by the process that has been set in motion.