Michael Ignatieff’s uncertain position on the civil liberties of terror suspects

“We have to chart a path somehow in which we make some hard choices, some lesser evils, that is to say I’m not sure we can keep to a pure civil libertarian position all the way, for example we might have to engage in the preventive detention of suspects on lower standards that we would use in a criminal case, we might even have to engage in certain forms of targeted assassination of terrorist enemies. These are evils in the sense that people get killed, people get hurt, we don’t keep to the fullest standards of due process, but they avoid greater evils which is that our society lays itself open to constant terrorist attack and in response we still do worse things to our constitutional fabric.” — Michael Ignatieff

“I think you can draw a relatively clear line between interrogations that subject a terror suspect to a certain kind of stress, a certain kind of sleep deprevation, a certain disorientation and you can keep that clear of torture.” — Michael Ignatieff

And in a letter he co-signed with Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP leader Jack Layton, (a lot of tri-partite letters have been signed lately) Ignatieff argues,

“It is also clear that Mr. Khadr has been subjected to conditions of confinement and interrogation that Canadian courts have found violate international prohibitions against torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.” — Michael Ignatieff

I find Ignatieff’s ambiguity on this topic to be notable.

Also, Ignatieff is calling for the repartiation of Omar Khadr whereas Khadr should instead be granted full due process and face his accusers in the United States. Let’s clear up that matter before we embrace him with open arms and “call upon Prime Minister Harper to cooperate in these efforts [to repatriate Khadr] and ensure that appropriate arrangements are made through the provincial government of Ontario and appropriate members of civil society to provide for Mr. Khadr’s supervision and reintegration into the community upon his return to Canada.”



  • http://maxwell-devin.blogspot.com Devin Maxwell

    So, Stephen, is it your position that the torture of Omar Khadr was appropriate?

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    You need to take a course in reading comprehension because nowhere in this article did I articulate my position of Khadr's alleged torture or treatment at Guantanamo.

    The real question I'd like answered is Ignatieff's definition of torture because it seems that he uses a variety of definitions in his communications.

  • rural and right

    Definition if necessary, but not necessarily a definition.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    What I don't get is that Liberals are usually shades of gray on most topics but not human rights. Usually on human rights for Liberals, things are black and white. On human rights, Ignatieff is a number of shades of gray.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    Which version of Ignatieff's statement on civil liberties do you support?

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    Yes, Ignatieff can be hard to read sometime. Maybe there's a Coles notes you could buy?

  • Cat

    So Ignatieff DOES believe in the Coalition. Didn't he tell westerners something else?

  • BoringTory

    A series of quotes out of context is not a good way to build an argument. IMHO.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    Ignatieff was part of the coalition of the willing too!

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    What sort of context would you like? Ignatieff was speaking about his book, The Lesser Evil.

  • wilson

    What you have is the American Iffy version,
    and the new and improved Canadian Iffy version.

    It all depends on the audience Iffy wants to impress, which version he goes with.
    There is likely a version somewhere inbetween those two versions as well,
    we will hear that version if the polls are not in either of those 2 versions favour.

    iffy will be what ever you want him to be, like magic…poof, new version.

  • Bec

    These defenders are hysterical. Shall I lighten things up and succumb to the ridicule and criticism? Oh well, why not.

    Go and purchase the peachy clean bed linens, invite him into your guest room and have your kids and neighbours interact with your decision.
    Hmmmm, thought so. Not so appealing?

    This is no different than having a POSSIBLE, at risk sex offender,POSSIBLE, young offender or POSSIBLE, rabid dog, out on bail.
    It has nothing to do with all of the bleeding heart accusations, it has everything to do with, ARE YOU, willing to take care of Omar Khadr?
    If the answer is no, then please stop the BS, spin. If the answer is yes, let us know how the clean sheets work out.

  • http://maxwell-devin.blogspot.com Devin Maxwell

    Then what is your opposition to Ignatieff’s statement?

  • http://jamesbowie.blogspot.com James Bowie


  • Maria

    I second Bec's suggestion wholeheartedly.

  • Cat

    I'd like to offer a serious apology to Stefan Dion. He was hard to understand, but the dude was likeable at least.,
    With the interim leader, Ignatieff, he's got lots to say but says exactly nothing much at all.
    Is it politicaly incorrect of me to want Dion back?
    Canadians relate better to him than Ignatieff.

  • Michael

    Nice “Straw Man” fallacy, Stephen.

  • M-C

    Whatever out of context quotes you can pull from Ignatieff's past, it doesn't change that he's actually right about Khadr right now. Due process is NOT happening in the US – it's been at a standstill for years – and Harper has done nothing to move things along, let alone to ensure that this young Canadian citizen is treated as a human being. Does Harper really have the right to decide which citizens of our country are not Canadian enough to deserve proper treatment and judicial process?

  • Fel

    “full due process” – is your position then that Canada should go against the Paris Principles are prosecute child soldiers?

    “[Children who participated in armed conflict] who are accused of crimes under international law allegedly committed while they were associated with armed forces or armed groups should be considered primarily as victims of offences against international law; not only as perpetrators. They must be treated in accordance with international law in a framework of restorative justice and social rehabilitation, consistent with international law which offers children special protection through numerous agreements and principles.”

  • Gabby in QC

    I have posted part of this comment on other blogs discussing Omar Khadr, and have included some of the arguments in emails to some MPs. I believe they bear repeating.

    From the letter addressed by the three opposition leaders to Pres. Obama and PM Harper:
    “The interests of justice require acknowledgement of his status as a child soldier, his release from Guantanamo Bay, and his prompt return to Canada to be dealt with in accordance with Canadian law.”

    1. Omar Khadr’s “status as a child soldier” is questionable.
    “International human rights law
    The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Art. 38, (1989) proclaimed: “State parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 15 years do not take a direct part in hostilities.” However, children who are over the age of 15 but still remain under the age of 18 are still voluntarily able to take part in combat as soldiers. …”
    Actually, Mr. Khadr was two months shy of his 16th birthday. Born Sept. 19, 1986, Khadr was involved in that particular battle on July 27, 2002. Strictly speaking, the “child soldier” designation does not apply in his case.

    2. The opposition’s request for “his prompt return to Canada to be dealt with in accordance with Canadian law.”
    On what grounds? Has Khadr committed a crime here in Canada? No.
    • Omar Khadr is accused of committing a crime against a foreign national, NOT a Canadian.

    • The alleged crime was committed on foreign soil, NOT in Canada.

    • Mr. Khadr was apprehended by a foreign force, NOT Canadian forces.

    • He was fighting for an opposing foreign force, NOT for Canada.

    • He has been assigned a foreign (US) lawyer to defend him, as well as Canadian lawyers, to plead on his behalf, thus he is well represented.

    • On June 12, 2008 the United States Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush (see Wiki reference) that the Guantanamo captives were entitled to the protection of the United States Constitution.
Thus, Mr. Khadr’s rights continue to be more than amply protected.

    Should Canada interfere with other countries' sovereignty because the accused happens to be a Canadian?
    If a law is broken in a foreign land, that foreign land should have the right to prosecute the accused according to its laws. The role of Canada should be to ensure that the accused is afforded the opportunity to defend himself, i.e. provided with legal assistance. That has taken place in Mr. Khadr’s case.

    Once a verdict has been handed down, the country of origin can decide to appeal, or not, the decision of the foreign country. Thus the sovereignty of both countries remains intact. But no country should be badgered into handing over a prisoner who has broken its laws. Nor should any country be badgered into patriating nationals who have committed crimes abroad.

    Not only is there ambiguity in Michael Ignatieff's position on the handling of terror suspects in general, there is indeed ambiguity in the Liberals' position re: Omar Khadr.

    On Fridays, CJAD radio in Montreal has an hour segment with the Conservative, Liberal, and NDP party strategists. Last Friday, the Liberal party strategist said something to the effect that there is a US judicial process reviewing Omar Khadr's case, and that Canada should wait for the outcome of that review, which echoes the Conservative position. Yet Michael Ignatieff signed the letter together with Duceppe and Layton requesting Khadr's immediate release. So which one is the Liberal position?

  • http://maxwell-devin.blogspot.com Devin Maxwell

    The one that says its wrong to torture a 15-year old child who has not been proven guilty of any crime.

  • http://maxwell-devin.blogspot.com Devin Maxwell

    How about starting by reading the whole book…

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    Ah, and which of Ignatieff's definitions of “torture” do you support?

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    I cannot republish the whole book here. You'll have to read it yourself.

  • http://searchingforliberty.blogspot.com/ Rob H.

    Why is it, Devin, that when we talk about Omar's crimes, they are “alleged”, but when we talk about his torture, we don't use the same adjective? He is clearly a liar. He was clearly involved, and on video, in seeking to kill western soldiers.. So – he is an “alleged” murderer and terrorist who was “allegedly” tortured.

    Due process is underway – under the guidance and authority of the Obasia. So what's the problem?

  • http://maxwell-devin.blogspot.com Devin Maxwell


    Maybe you should look up the word 'alleged.'

  • http://maxwell-devin.blogspot.com Devin Maxwell

    As far as I know there is only one. Do you know of more than one?

  • J

    Seriously , why hasn't he been extradited back to Canada to face charges of war crimes since by the testimony of his family he eagerly violated a number of the Geneva Conventions?

  • J

    Seriously , why hasn't he been extradited back to Canada to face charges of war crimes since by the testimony of his family he eagerly violated a number of the Geneva Conventions?