The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced today that the Government of Canada “will discontinue its appeal in the case of The Attorney General of Canada v. Khadr (Bail appeal) before the Alberta Court of Appeal.”
Khadr was released from an Alberta prison on bail in May 2015, a decision the then-Conservative government appealed. Khadr had been repatriated to Canada on 29 September 2012 after almost ten years of detention at the US detention facility at Guantanamo bay, where he pleaded guilty in 2010 of several charges including the killing of a US serviceman. He was 15 years old at the time of the acts in question, and as a child soldier entitled to protection under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to protection and remedies under Canadian and International Human Rights Law.
The Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court agreed that Canadian officials had been complicit in his questioning under torture, in breach of his Constitutional rights. Some commentators inferred a connection between the nomination of Justice Nadon to the top court and his status as the only judge of 13 to hear the case that sided with the Crown’s claims of executive authority.
Does this suggest a new and less litigious approach by the Trudeau government? Time will tell – but it will likely tell very soon, and all signs point to “yes”.
Challenges to restrictions on refugee health care were awaiting the outcome of the recent election; the new government restored those benefits today, rendering the claims practically moot. At slightly more than three months into its mandate, the government will be facing pressure to fish or cut bait on other court challenges in progress, including in Canada v Nishaq (the Niqab case); a challenge to Bill C-51 by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association; and a challenge to mandatory minimum sentence legislation prompted by the refusal of Justice Baird to apply the mandatory minimum in the sentencing in R v Oud, among others.
A new government in search of quick victories might well consider that a battle not fought is as good as a battle won.