• Blog
  • July 17th, 2017

Omar Khadr settlement a victory for the rule of law

Child soldier demo UK

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, we wish to apologize to Mr. Khadr.” – Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale

“I hope Canadians take away two things today…. First, our rights are not subject to the whims of the government of the day. And second, there are serious costs when the government violates the rights of its citizens.” – Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould

The terms of the settlement provide Omar Khadr with compensation for the many ways that Canadian action and inaction contributed to the serious human rights violations he experienced beginning in 2002, continuing through three months in US detention at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, 10 years of imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay, and two and a half years of further detention in Canadian jails in Ontario and Alberta before he was finally released on bail in May, 2015.  For more details click here.

“Omar Khadr was a child soldier illegally interrogated by Canadian agents while detained and tortured by a foreign power. He was convicted by a kangaroo court.

The ONLY way that anyone can disagree with this assessment is to ignore international law, the Supreme Court of Canada, and a decade of rigorous reporting by professional journalists such as Michelle Shephard at the Toronto Star and Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald.” – Michael Byers, Facebook post of 7 July 2017.

The settlement has proven to be extremely controversial with a CBC poll finding that a majority of Canadians oppose it.

One of the most contentious issues, completely unrelated to the reasons why compensation was paid to Omar Khadr, concerns his confession and subsequent guilty plea to a charge of murder for allegedly throwing a grenade and killing an American soldier, Sgt. Christopher Speer. It is undisputed that Khadr was told he would never get out of Guantanamo Bay if he did not plead guilty. Click here for a review of the alleged evidence against Khadr – which casts grave doubt on the prosecution’s version of the case.

“Without Khadr’s confession, obtained essentially by force, there is no compelling evidence that he threw any grenade at all. No one saw him do it, and from all appearances he’d been under that rubble the entire time.” – Sandy Garossino

But the lack of evidence is not the only glaring problem with the American government’s case for murder against Omar Khadr. Here is what Audrey Macklindirector of the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto, has to say about the charge of murder:

“Mr. Khadr was treated neither as a combatant nor as an accused criminal. Instead, the United States invented a new war crime called “murder by an unlawful alien enemy combatant.” The new offence made it lawful for U.S. soldiers to kill Mr. Khadr, but made it a war crime if he killed a U.S. soldier. This ersatz war crime was invented by the United States after his capture and then applied to his actions retroactively. No system governed by the rule of law does this.”

A terrible legacy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s gross mishandling of this case is the distortion of facts for political gain, whatever the human cost. Click here for Michael Coren’s examination of this ugly phenomenon – the antithesis of political leadership – which is now on full display once again.

We must not let this ugliness blind us to the significance of this settlement as a triumph of Canadian justice and the rule of law:

“Redress for Omar Khadr …. plays a critical role in countering the immunity for national security-related human rights violations that is by far the norm in similar cases.” – Alex Neve, Amnesty International-Canada

“An apology is not only for the benefit of the aggrieved, but for the integrity of the apologizer. Canada and Canadians deserves the atonement, the reaffirmation and restoration of our values, that is made possible by the settlement.” (Law Professor Craig Martin)

“At the same time the government must also go further and make systemic changes in order to avoid such horrendous abuses of civil liberties and human rights in the future.” – ICLMG and Rideau Institute Statement on Omar Khadr’s settlement

One issue not addressed in this blog post is the civil judgement against Omar Khadr awarded to the widow of Sgt. Speer by a Utah court. Legal experts believe Canadian courts would be reluctant to enforce this judgement given its dubious legal standing.

Photo credit: Huffington Post UK

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RI President to speak at Group of 78 conference: Getting to Nuclear Zero

On Saturday, September 23rd Ambassador (ret’d) Peggy Mason, President of the Rideau Institute, will speak on Panel 4 of the Group of 78’s annual policy conference: Getting to Nuclear Zero.  This panel entitled, Canadian Leadership for Common Security, will advance ideas for action by CanadaKeynote speaker Tariq Rauf, an Advisor at the Office of the Executive Secretary of CTBTO, is the second panellist and the moderator will be Ernie Regehr.

Registration and conference outline can be found below.


Conference 2017

Annual Policy Conference 2017

group-of-78_2011 small


Group of 78 Annual Policy Conference
In cooperation with:

Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Physicians for Global Survival
Rideau Institute on international Affairs

Cartier Place Suite Hotel, Ottawa, September 22-23, 2017

Eventbrite - Annual Policy Conference: Getting to Nuclear Zero Building Common Security for a Post-MAD World

 Conference Registration forms:           English   French

 Conference Outline

The quest for global sustainable peace is at a critical juncture. The considerable majority of countries, through the United Nations, is actively pursuing the crafting of a treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons. This action faces many challenges, notably the opposition of most nuclear weapons states and some of their allies, including Canada.

Nuclear disarmament ultimately requires a shift from the doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD) to a commitment – in mind, policy and practice – to mutual security, through a sustainable common security regime rooted in global interdependence, the rule of law, and a recognition of the limited utility of military force in responding to political conflict. Common security is built on UN Charter principles and on mutual security arrangements, rather than competitive military alliances, and focuses on war prevention and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

These issues will be examined and debated in the Group of 78’s 2017 policy conference. Speakers and presenters will provide analysis of the process and prospects for abolishing nuclear weapons and seeking to define the elements necessary to transition to a post-nuclear weapons world. They will provide an overview of current international initiatives, delve into the status and prospects of the negotiations at the United Nations to eliminate nuclear weapons, assess the impediments to developing a common security framework without nuclear weapons, identify the building blocks for such a security system, and outline how Canada can play a constructive leadership role in this enterprise.

The aims of the conference will be (1) to provide participants with a thorough and cogent analysis of what’s involved in complete nuclear disarmament and building common security for the global community, and (2) to articulate ideas and recommendations to the Canadian government for its participation and leadership in this process.

Among the questions that the conference will address are: How realistic is the idea of, and what are the steps involved in, achieving complete nuclear disarmament? How does one overcome the objections of those who hold nuclear weapons now? What does a post-nuclear weapons world look like? How can public opinion be mobilized toward a safer, non-nuclear planet? What positions and actions can Canada bring to the table to accelerate movement to this goal? What can civil society undertake to encourage and support the Canadian Government in this role?

Further information on the detailed program and range of speakers will be available in the near future. Possible participants can contact the Group of 78 (http://group78.org/) for information as it becomes available and to express interest in attending the conference.


Friday, September 22– Dinner

Introduction and Welcome: Roy Culpeper, Chair of the Group of 78

Keynote Address:

Tariq Rauf, Advisor at the Office of the Executive Secretary of CTBTO (Comprehensive Nuclear-test-ban Treaty Organization), and former Director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme at SIPRI/Sweden

Mr. Rauf will address, in broad scope, the opportunities and challenges of nuclear disarmament and building an alternative common security system. He will identify the key questions and issues the international community faces in this quest that can be explored further by conference presenters and participants.

Saturday – September 23

Introductory Remarks – Hon. Douglas Roche

Panel 1 – Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations: Status and Prospects

This panel will take stock of the status and/or results of the (GA Res 71/258) UN-mandated negotiations that will have concluded on July 7th.


Bev Delong, co-founder, Project Ploughshares Calgary; Chair, Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons; Board member, International Association of Lawyers Against           Nuclear Arms


1. Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director at Project Ploughshares

2. Irish Diplomat Michael Hurley (invited, tbc)

Panel 2 – Common Security: Major Impediments

This panel will identify and analyze key impediments to greater international cooperation toward common security and how they might be addressed.

Moderator: Metta Spencer, Science for Peace


1. Marius Grinius, Former Canadian Ambassador to Vietnam, South Korea and   North Korea; Former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament

2.Tom Collina, Director of Policy, Ploughshares Fund (USA); formerly, Research Director of the Arms Control Association

Panel 3 – Achieving and Sustaining Common Security: Key Elements

This panel will identify elements to be addressed in order to achieve greater common security.

Moderator:   Tamara Lonincz


1. Peter Langille, Specialist in peace and conflict studies, United Nations peace operations, conflict resolution and mediation; author of the concept of a UN Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS) and advocate for Sustainable Common Security

2. TBD

Panel 4 – Canadian Leadership for Common Security

This panel will explore the role Canada might play in order to help achieve common security in the world and advance ideas for action by Canada.

Moderator:      Ernie Regehr


1. Tariq Rauf, Advisor at the Office of the Executive Secretary of CTBTO

2. Peggy Mason, Former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament; President, Rideau Institute

Conference Conclusion and Closing RemarksRoy Culpeper


Group of 78 Annual Meeting to follow immediately.

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  • Blog
  • July 10th, 2017

New UN treaty outlaws nuclear weapons

First Phase Digital

Friday, 7 July at the UN Headquarters in New York more than 120 countries adopted a landmark treaty to ban nuclear weapons. All nine nuclear-armed states, and all NATO members except the Netherlands, had refused to participate in the negotiations.

“These states recognize that the ban treaty would represent a potent stigmatization of the nuclear weapons they still cling to and an act of political and moral protest against their retention.” (Paul Meyer)

The treaty prohibits the possession, development, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and provides for nuclear weapons states to become parties by either a “destroy and join” or “join and destroy” plan for the verifiable elimination of their nuclear weapons. It also explicitly prohibits the stationing of nuclear weapons on the territory of non-nuclear weapons states.

“This new prohibition lays bare the fundamental contradiction between Canada’s legal status as a non-nuclear weapons state under the NPT and our active participation in NATO – a nuclear-armed military alliance.” (Peggy Mason)

The Canadian position on the treaty was, in part, influenced by a U.S. memo from last year that strongly encouraged all NATO allies to vote against negotiations. Andrew Leslie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, went so far as to call the treaty negotiations “premature and ineffective” last month in Parliament. After decades of empty platitudes and inaction on the part of the Canadian government, it’s hard to believe that any forward movement on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation can be considered ‘premature’.

“The integrity of the Canadian position that it really wants to do away with nuclear weapons, but not just yet, is in tatters.” (Douglas Roche)

Despite the refusal of nuclear states and their strategic allies to participate, the treaty represents an historic step forward in the ongoing push for nuclear disarmament, marking a “new, reforming spirit in global nuclear affairs.” Some also see the treaty as a powerful sign that the international community will not be intimidated by nuclear powers.

“It represents a structural change in the power structure between states… Emerging powers believe they can push an agenda that is not only opposed to the interests of the main military powers in the world but also something that condemns them.” (Leonardo Bandarra)

In 1978 Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau told the UN that “we must impart a fresh momentum to the lagging process of disarmament.” In 2017, his son, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had an unparalleled opportunity to help do just that. Instead Canada was not even at the negotiating table.


To learn more about the future of nuclear disarmament, join us at the Group of 78 Policy Conference, “Getting to Nuclear Zero: Building Common Security for a Post-Mad World,” on September 22nd.

For an important discussion of what parliamentarians can do to achieve a nuclear-free world, see the “Parliamentary Action Plan for a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World: 2017-2020”.

Photo credit: UN

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  • Blog
  • June 30th, 2017

2-year extension of Iraq mission lacks transparency and oversight

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Canada’s Minister of Defense Harjit Sajjan Feb. 6, 2017, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. (DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

In a June 29th press release, the Department of National Defence announced a two year, $371 million extension to the Canadian mission in Iraq. The mission will now run until at least March 2019 and gives Defence Chief General Jonathan Vance authority to “deploy capabilities as needs arise,” including the option of sending up to 850 military personnel to the region.

The opaque way in which the Trudeau government announced this important decision belies its stated commitment to government transparency and accountability. It came after Parliament had recessed for the summer, two days before Canada’s 150 celebrations kick off, and without having been mentioned, let alone debated, in Parliament.

 “This major extension comes amid serious questions about the nature of the mission…It is deeply troubling that the Liberal government made this announcement after the House of Commons has adjourned for the summer.” (NDP leader Tom Mulcair)

While Canada’s primary role in the region in past years has been to train Kurdish forces in combat techniques, the new extension acknowledges that the mission will undergo significant changes in coming months and opens the door for training “new potential partners within the Iraqi security forces.”

 “As the situation on the ground evolves, we must continually re-evaluate how Canada’s military can be most effective in support of the Coalition. I am confident these additional authorities will help us be more agile and flexible as we respond to the needs of our allies and partners.” (General Jonathan Vance)

Canada’s non-combat “advise-and-assist” role in Iraq has already been repeatedly called into question, most recently after reports revealed that a Canadian Special Forces sniper set a world record for longest confirmed kill last month against an ISIS militant.

Canadian forces in Iraq face a dangerous and ever-changing security situation. Daesh’s self-proclaimed caliphate has been shrinking rapidly, having lost 47% of its territory since January 2017, and it is expected that Mosul, their last major stronghold, will be retaken in the next few days.

 “The situation on the ground in Iraq is about to radically change with the impending demise of the territorial phase of the Islamic State enterprise. Canadian military trainers will find themselves not only confronting a diffused Islamic state insurgency but a Kurdish independence movement and deep sectarian divisions between the Shia-controlled Iraqi government and the Sunni majority population.” (RI President Peggy Mason)

This is precisely the kind of changed circumstances that requires a full debate and discussion in Parliament, following a detailed review and assessment in the Standing Committee on National Defence. Instead the Trudeau government appears to be following President Trump’s lead –  avoiding scrutiny by delegating authority for updating the mission in light of evolving circumstances to the Canadian military.

For the Rideau Institute press release, click: here.

Photo credit: U.S. DOD

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  • Blog
  • June 26th, 2017

Cyber defences and global rules should be Canada’s focus

An abstract design of a terminal display, warning about a cyber attack. Multiple rows of hexadecimal code are interrupted by red glowing warnings and single character exclamation marks. The image can represent a variety of threats in the digital world: data theft, data leak, security breach, intrusion, anti-virus failure, etc...

While Canada’s new defence policy contains a number of problematic initiatives, one particularly concerning area is the decision to develop offensive cyber warfare capabilities.

“A purely defensive cyber posture is no longer sufficient. Accordingly, we will develop the capability to conduct active cyber operations focused on external threats to Canada in the context of government-authorized military missions.” (Secure, Strong, Engaged, page 72)

But civilian experts warn that cyber weapons have the potential of being turned back on attackers:

“It is software code and a weapon that can only be used once before it’s copied….It’s not like a grenade. You throw it. It explodes and disappears. When you use malware against someone, they can reverse engineer it.”

The shift from defensive to offensive cyber development is a slippery slope, and one that Canada would do well to avoid. Besides the risk of spreading the very weapons we seek to defend against, the international community seems to be regressing into a new kind of arms race that is undermining international and domestic security.

Former Canadian Disarmament Ambassador Paul Meyer asks:

“What about the effectiveness of not turning cyberspace into a battleground? Has the net benefit to Canada been assessed of promoting responsible state conduct in cyberspace through agreed restraint and confidence-building measures rather than encouraging expanded disruptive and destructive cyber operations?” (Hill Times, 18 May 2016; subscription required)

With no clear rules of the road, the Trudeau government should be pushing for the establishment of a rigorous international legal framework to specifically govern the use of cyber weapons.

“Common sense…argues for strong defenses, and the pursuit of global laws and norms to contain the military use of these technologies before they cause chaos and destruction.” (Steve Coll)

Canada should focus on building a robust defensive infrastructure against cyber disruption. Otherwise, we may well end up like the United States, which spends 90% of its cyber budget on offensive programs, yet remains chronically under-prepared to defend itself against cyber attacks.

Photo credit: NATO

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