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Freedom Philosophy: Canada Divided Over Funding an Illegally-Imprisoned Terrorist

“What is the meaning of the word justice? To tell the truth and pay your debts? No more than this? Or must we admit exceptions? Ought I, for example, to put back into the hands of my friend, who has gone mad, the sword which I borrowed of him when he was in his right mind?” – Socrates (Plato’s Republic)

In one of Trudeau’s most controversial moves to date, his government has issued a formal apology, accompanied with a $10.5 million payout, to Omar Khadr – a known terrorist, who confesses to being an enemy combatant working with al-Qaeda.

The ethical confusion stems from many areas, but none more so than the fact that Khadr was only 15 during his terroristic activities.

Khadr was caught working against the national security of Canada and the U.S.

He was accused of killing one soldier and wounding another – the widow of the deceased soldier and the wounded soldier are currently pursuing legal action against Mr. Khadr’s payout.

This issue is rife with difficulty and lacks ethical clarity from a libertarian perspective.

Under U.S. imprisonment, Khadr didn’t receive a trial within a reasonable timeframe, which is illegal. He was also denied habeas corpus, also illegal. Lastly, he was tortured, which again is illegal.

Aside from being illegal, the U.S. government set a dangerous precedent that properly belongs on the pages of 1984 rather than American jurisprudence.

There is another side to the equation.

His release to a Canadian prison came with the condition that he won’t be released prior to the completion of his prison sentence.

There is also the ethical ramification for financing an apology for consequences suffered as a result of engaging in terrorist activities.

There is a distinction to be made between the illegal activities of Khadr and the illegal activities of the U.S. government.

At the heart of the issue is the concept of moral agency.

Very few of us would ethically condemn someone at the age of 10 for war crimes, and each of us would condemn someone at the age of 18 for war crimes if they are properly guilty. There’s a middle ground that the law itself recognizes as murky.

A child soldier is defined as someone 14 or younger by the International Criminal Court. However, there is a prohibition against the prosecution of criminal activities for individuals under the age 18.

Given that moral agency isn’t entirely absent for individuals 15, 16, and 17, Khadr clearly has some degree of moral culpability for his actions. The chilling overreach of the US government is something that ought to be kept in check but the decision to turn a terrorist into a multimillionaire is ethically unacceptable.

Trudeau is on the record as having said in response to his settlement with Khadr, that, “The (Canadian) Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects all Canadians, every one of us, even when it is uncomfortable.”

My key concern is the language and equivocation: uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable typically denotes back pain after over exertion at the gym. The term fails to denote the sensation of misogynistic tyranny with the brutal enslavement of women.

Discomfort is not the proper term to describe the slow beheading of an individual who has a different religion. Uncomfortable fails to communicate the barbarisms of attacking bystanders for tactical purposes.

With that, I’ll turn to Socrates.

Khadr’s father is a known fund-raiser for al-Qaeda.

If justice is a good thing, and giving money to a terrorist family, specifically to an individual with a morally culpable history with terrorism is a bad thing, then this action isn’t justice.

Regardless of whether or not it’s legal, it most certainly isn’t justice.

Photo source: Global News

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Brandon Kirby

Brandon Kirby is a philosopher, financial adviser, a founder of a local investment club, and he hosts regular symposiums in philosophy. He is also a member of Canada’s Libertarian Party.

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