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Canadian Taxpayers Federation's position on Khadr case exposes the group's partisan inclinations

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Photo of Omar Khadr. Image: Khadr family/Wikimedia Commons

If you have ever wondered if the Canadian Taxpayers Federation isn't really what it purports to be -- to wit, a "tax watchdog" -- but is in reality a partisan organization that acts in knee-jerk support of the electoral and policy objectives of Conservative Party of Canada, yesterday's press release by the group provides compelling evidence.

In the release, the CTF added its not inconsequential voice to the barking chain of denunciations emanating from Conservative Party circles for the Trudeau government's decision to compensate former child soldier Omar Khadr for Canada's role in the gross violation of his human rights during his imprisonment at the U.S. torture camp in occupied Guantanamo, Cuba, and afterward.

Now, the pros and cons of this case have been debated pretty well without respite since word of the compensation package became public on Monday, so I don't intend to dwell on that part at length here. Suffice it to say it's pretty clear Canadians fall into basic two camps on this issue: those who believe in due process, and those who do not.

Even conservative-leaning commentators who still have some faith in the idea of due process before the law recognize that the oft-cited "conviction" by an American drumhead tribunal of a 15-year-old child packed off to Afghanistan by his irresponsible father and caught in a firefight where something happened was the work of a legal tribunal that would have embarrassed a kangaroo. Many of them, like the National Post's Colby Cosh, have said as much, to their great credit.

Conservative partisans like Alberta Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney -- possibly feeling some angst about his own role in the long torment of Khadr by a long line of Canadian politicians, including some prominent Liberal ones -- was quick to attack Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the decision. In Kenney's judgment, I suppose, this is preferable to actually talking about the policies he would enact if he got the job he is running for.

Soon after the Alberta PC leader began to tweet, the CTF was Johnny on the spot with its press release, wherein Federal Director Aaron Wudrick called the payment "highly offensive" and directed readers to a petition ginned up by the organization to call on Ottawa to rescind the package.

Now, Wudrick is trained in the law, as are two of the CTF's six-member board of directors -- which also comprises, as has been pointed out on more than one occasion in this space, the CTF's only legal membership.

But really, all of the CTF board members are sophisticated people who certainly understand that Khadr's case before the courts stands a significant chance of success and, since his lawyers have been seeking $20 million in compensation, that without a deal like the one that appears have been worked out behind the scenes, might very well receive it.

So it is quite likely the Government of Canada does not have the option of simply rescinding the compensation package -- at least not without invoking the Notwithstanding Clause of the Constitution, an action that would stir up some opposition, one imagines, among those who still think the rule of law has a role in a civilized society.

Moreover, legal challenges like the sort that would be required to carry out the policies demanded by Wudrick and the CTF cost money too, if only to pay the lawyers who conduct them.

I've not seen a recent report of the cost of the serial efforts by the Government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper (in which Kenney served in several important cabinet posts) to keep Khadr out of the country and in jail, but it is bound to be significant.

In the fall of 2009, the Toronto Star reported that Ottawa had spent $1.3 million fighting the cases brought by Khadr's lawyers. More than seven years have passed since then, and I am prepared to bet quite a bit more money has been spent on this.

Now, I have never met Khadr, but I have met his lawyer, Dennis Edney, and Edney does not strike me as a man who gives up easily -- especially when he thinks he has the wind of righteousness at his back, as he believes in this case.

So if the government of Canada were to take the advice of the CTF -- the supposed "tax watchdog" -- the result almost inevitably would be to cost Canadian taxpayers an awful lot more money, both in the cost of the compensation package we would ultimately have to pay to Khadr, and in the cost of the government's response to his legal case -- significant parts of which would end up in the pockets of lawyers.

Never mind the cause. What kind of a "tax watchdog" starts a petition demanding that a government, which is acting prudently with our money, hose more of it away?

A "tax watchdog," of course, that is in reality a partisan organization acting in support of the Conservative Party -- which used Khadr's tragic case as a cynical wedge issue when Harper was prime minister and continues to do the same thing now that Andrew Scheer is its national leader and Kenney is the aspiring leader of its Alberta auxiliary.

If you ask me, that is indeed strong evidence the CTF is not what it says it is, but is a partisan political organization whose pronouncements ought not to be treated so reverentially by the media.

As for the Conservative Party, it seems clear it is an organization that has very little regard for the rule of law.

This post also appears on david Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Khadr family/Wikimedia Commons

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