Well, this was rather unexpected and big news this morning. This is a front page story in the Toronto Star, Canada's foremost liberal newspaper with the biggest subscription across the country. As you might know, Omar Khadr is the last remaining Westerner to be held in Guantanamo. He has been held there since 15, without charge or trial - for 6 years. Khadr's lawyers are already going to be arguing this week in court whether or not they are allowed to gather evidence from the government of Canada that could help in his defence at Guantanamo, and whether or not Canadian officials who travelled to the base to interrogate him in 2003 and 2004 breached his constitutional rights.
However, the Supreme Court has gone even father then that: they have agreed to hear arguments on whether or not Gitmo is legal under international law:
The high court ruled yesterday that it could consider submissions on whether Guantanamo violates international law, dismissing the federal government's objections that the Canadian courts were not the place to examine the actions of the United States...in hearing arguments about whether Khadr's rights were violated in Guantanamo, the court agreed in its unanimous ruling yesterday that it could consider the actions of American officials and the conditions at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, which in essence also puts Guantanamo Bay on trial..The court also rejected the government's bid to block human rights groups from raising points of international law in their intervention in the case.
The ruling Conservative Party which is the government right now, has long been accused as being complicit with American authorities over Khadr's fate. While every other Western nation has negotiated with the US to repatriate their citizens who were imprisoned at Gitmo to be sent home, the current government has refused to do so, repeatedly saying they have been assured by the US that Khadr's right's are being respected and that due process will take place. This view is increasingly being criticized by Canadians, who while leery of the Khadr family's reputation (the father was killed in Afghanistan and was an Al Quada member) even they realize that a Canadian citizen has been denied due process and a way of defending himself.
If the Supreme Court of Canada were to rule that Gitmo violates international law, the Conservative government would be forced to defend its actions and reasons for its stance on Gitmo:
"Certainly, what the Supreme Court of Canada says about the legality of Guantanamo Bay and the actions of Canadian officials with respect to a citizen there, will reverberate in the political sphere in terms of bringing greater attention to, and a requirement of justification by the government of Canada about why it refuses to intervene," Macklin said.
The US Government may not give a hoot about whether the Supreme Court of Canada rules Gitmo and its process are illegal under international law, but it will have big reverberations here. Who knows, perhaps it will reverberate elsewhere too