Reviews –

June 2, 2012: Prism Magazine  – Amira Elghawaby, Book Review: Omar Khadr, Oh Canada  by Janice Williamson 

“…within the book’s pages, Omar’s story comes out through a variety of literary forms including reflections, speeches, plays, and poetry of people who knew him only through released interrogation recordings, newspaper articles, and books, as well as those who knew him personally, including former lawyers Richard J. Wilson and Dennis Edney.

‘Omar is distinguished by two crucial factors,’ explains Wilson. ‘First, his family is highly visible and controversial in Canada. They are not seen as sympathetic by the public and press, and the presumptive prejudice against him and his family plays out strongly in the accusations against and custodial treatment of Omar [. . .]. Second, Omar was a boy of fifteen, alone and isolated from his family at the time of his capture.’

And….[Dennis Edney cites] cites Islamophobia as one of the reasons that citizens in both the US and Canada have acquiesced to government claims that ‘drastic measures must be taken in the interest of our security…. Our security is such a priority that it means the suspension of civil liberties, a limitation on ethics, and infringement on the rule of law – for the greater good of our society.’

Communications scholar Yasmin Jiwani also points to ‘guilt by association’ as the reason that Canadians did not respond with outrage to the violation of Omar’s Charter rights, as outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Omar’s treatment at the hands of the Canadian government, condemned by many of the book’s contributors, including lawyer Robert Diab and academic Alnoor Gova, represents a ‘lasting shame.’ Not only are Omar’s rights neglected, but within the country’s rich mosaic, Canadian Muslims are left to wonder about the value of their own citizenship. “We argue instead that the lingering ambiguity – the uncertainty as to why Canada has committed and then neglected to address a series of similar human rights violations involving Muslims – does violence to our very idea of citizenship, multiculturalism, and liberal democracy.”

Previews  –

Some cases enshrine the defining moments of their time.  Omar Khadr’s is one.  Future generations will rightly judge our shocking derelictions of responsibility in this matter.  Here is an anthology that strips bare our collective Canadian failure to extend justice and humanity to a child soldier.  Read this brilliant, powerful, compelling collection and weep.

 Constance Backhouse, recipient of numerous awards and honours, Distinguished University Professor and University Research Chair at the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa. Her published books are written in narrative form and concern issues including the history of racism in Canada and the history of sexual assault.

This book is an emphatic response to Omar Khadr’s cry “Nobody cares about me.”  Omar’s ongoing story is one that brings shame to Canada, but one that we cannot forget. He has suffered unspeakable harms and the least we can do is learn from them. Many Canadians believe that Omar Khadr is a terrorist who deserves the treatment that he has received. This book chronicles the many inhumanities that he has borne. It offers gripping, stimulating, and shocking facts and arguments about Omar’s family history, his plight as a child soldier, his torture, his legal battles and the many violations of law that occurred in the process.  It should go a long way to changing people’s minds. 

Natasha Bakht, legal scholar, Associate Professor in the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, and editor of Belonging and Banishment: Being Muslim in Canada

Williamson has drawn together a remarkable multidisciplinary collection of essays, poetry and drama, which traces the complexities and contradictions of the still unfolding Omar Kadar story. Provocative and compelling, this book exposes both the plight of children trapped by conflict and the uneven and fragile terrain of contemporary Canadian citizenship.

 – Janine Brodie, FRSC, is Canada Research Chair  in Political Economy and Social Governance and a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Alberta. She is widely published on Canadian politics and public policy.

Omar Khadr, Oh Canada acts as a Canadian social prism through which we may finally begin to see important glimmers of the life of Omar Khadr beyond the moral panic of media accounts and the sterile analysis of judicial decisions.  This introspective, nuanced and multi-dimensional consideration of Omar’s story inescapably confronts us with Canada’s willful involvement in a racist system that has denied and continues to deny Omar’s humanity.

Yavar Hameed, Human Rights Lawyer

A justified indictment of Canada’s abuse of a child soldier. Every Canadian who is concerned about human rights, the rule of law, and the cracks that have appeared in our inclusive democracy since 9/11 must read this important book.

– Erna Paris, award-winning author of seven acclaimed works of literary non-fiction including  Long Shadows: Truth, Lies, and History and her most recent work, The Sun Climbs Slow: The International Criminal Court and the Struggle for JusticeHer work has won ten national and international writing awards.

A very important contribution to this very serious matter of a Canadian whose fundamental human rights have been abused with official complicity.

Reg Whitaker,  Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at York University and Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Victoria. He writes on Canadian politics; security, intelligence, and politics of information issues including The End of Privacy: How Total Surveillance is Becoming a Reality ( 1999) and Canada and the Cold War with Steve Hewitt (2003). See his review article about Omar Khadr in the Literary Review of Canada April 2012 issue.