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Trudeau defends apology and $10.5-million payment to Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr leaves the home of his lawyer, Dennis Edney, to speak to the media in Edmonton in May, 2015. Mr. Khadr was accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. Army medic in Afghanistan in 2002.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended the government's apology and settlement for Omar Khadr, saying his rights had to be defended.

"The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects all Canadians, every one of us, even when it is uncomfortable," Mr. Trudeau said at the end of the Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. "This is not about the detail of the merits of the Khadr case. When the government violates any Canadian's charter rights we all end up paying for it."

This week, the government officially apologized to Mr. Khadr for the role Canadian security officials played in the abuses he suffered as a teenage prisoner of the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The apology came days after Ottawa paid $10.5-million to Mr. Khadr to settle a $20-million lawsuit he filed over violations to his rights as a Canadian citizen.

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The apology and payment have been controversial. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has denounced the government for making a millionaire out of what he called "a convicted terrorist."

"Justin Trudeau should never have agreed to a secret deal that gave a convicted terrorist millions of dollars. Seeking money from the Canadian taxpayer is just a sign of continuing contempt for the country that Khadr has fought against," Mr. Scheer said this week.

Mr. Khadr pleaded guilty in 2012 to killing U.S. Delta Forces Sergeant Christopher Speer so he could be moved to a Canadian prison. He later recanted the confession and is appealing the U.S. conviction.

In two interviews on Friday, Mr. Khadr called on Canadians not to judge him for his conduct as a teenage enemy combatant in Afghanistan, where his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, was a top al-Qaeda commander before he was killed in Pakistan.

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Mr. Scheer said the former Harper government's repatriation of Mr. Khadr in 2012 was a sufficient response to the Supreme Court's ruling that his rights were violated. "The fact that [Mr. Khadr] is in Canada today is the remedy, that is the compensation," he said. "If Omar Khadr is truly sorry for what he's done, that money would be given directly to the family of Sgt. Speer."

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