Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms is 32 years old this month. While the Charter's guarantee of protection and equality before the law should be celebrated, we must remain vigilant. Our individual liberty and access to fair treatment before the courts depend on the maintenance of our Charter rights, their universal application and enforcement. Violations of those rights must be remedied or the cherished laws of our Charter only exist as lofty words.
While there are many examples of blatant disregard for protections guaranteed by the Charter and international law, many Canadians agree with Distinguished Professor of Law at University of Ottawa Constance Backhouse that the case of Omar Khadr cries out:
Do tortured child soldiers belong in Canadian prisons? The fact that Omar Khadr has spent 4254 days in prison, 537 of those days in Canadian detention, should make every Canadian question the essence of our humanity and respect for the rule of law.
Omar's recent transfer from a maximum to a medium-security prison is a hopeful indication that Correctional Service Canada (C.S.C.) is making decisions independent of prejudicial government pressure, but we have to ask ourselves why Omar is still in jail? Unfortunately for Omar, political interference in the judicial process has a disturbing history, and since his repatriation the intervention of right-wing, Islamophobic government officials, foreshadowed an unjust delay or even a complete denial of his freedom.