Zane Schwartz, Postmedia
, Last Updated: 10:43 PM ET
CALGARY – Justin Trudeau offered his strongest defence yet of his government’s $10.5 million settlement with Omar Khadr on Saturday, saying he hopes it serves as an example to future governments.
“When governments violate Canadians’ fundamental rights there have to be consequences and we hope that the message going forward to all future governments is: you can not ignore or be complicit in the violation of Canadians fundamental rights, regardless of what they did,” said Trudeau.
The prime minister spoke at the Indian Village on the Calgary Stampede grounds, initially reiterating what he’s been saying for the past few days: he understands why people are frustrated but he thinks the government would have lost the case to Khadr if they had fought in court, and it would have cost between $30-40 million in the process. Trudeau then went on to offer the more strident human rights defence.
Trudeau spent the day in Calgary, attending two pancake breakfasts in the morning before visiting the Indian Village in the afternoon and rounding off the day at the rodeo.
He’s faced widespread criticism over the past few days over the Khadr payment. Khadr fought against coalition forces in Afghanistan as a 15 year old, before being sent to Guantanamo Bay where he was repeatedly tortured.
The prime minister initially wasn’t planning on coming to Stampede this year due to a scheduling conflict with the United States’ National Governors Association conference in Rhode Island. However, he managed to get all his meetings at the conference, including a sit-down with vice-president Mike Pence, scheduled for Friday, freeing him up to spend time in Calgary on Saturday.
The prime minister largely had a friendly reception in the city, although he spent most of his time in solid Liberal territory.
Trudeau started the day by meeting Mayor Naheed Nenshi, where the prime minister said he’s lost a few cowboy hats “that supposedly floated.” Neither the mayor nor the prime minister took any questions from the press.
Next he went to the Marda Loop Communities Association Stampede breakfast with Liberal Calgary Centre MP, and Veterans Affairs Minister, Kent Hehr. The prime minister was greeted by a little girl in a pink cowboy hat whose cast he signed and a little boy who got him to sign a copy of the Marvel Civil War comic book where Trudeau appears on the cover as part of the Canadian super hero team Alpha Fight.
Trudeau declined to weigh in on the decision of Tom Mulcair, and all the candidates running for the federal NDP leadership to skip Stampede, simply saying: “I’m not going to comment on decisions that other political parties make.”
He said that several people teased him about his failure to mention Alberta during a Canada Day speech, but they were generally understanding of his explanation that it was a honest mistake.