This post is part of the LRC’s 25 year anniversary project. We are asking our readers for the most influential Canadian books published in the last quarter century. For more information, click here.
In a tireless exposition, Michelle Shephard invites us to examine an explosive Canadian story unfolding at the intersection of some of the most pressing issues of our times: the US-led “war on terror,” the flourishing extremism, and the controversial fate of Guantanamo Bay and its prisoners. All this while raising timely questions about the state of Canada-US relations, the extent of the responsibility of the Canadian government to its citizens, the rights and responsibilities of those citizens, and about our notions of loyalty and belonging.
The convoluted case of Omar Khadr is the story of a Canadian teen entangled deep in Osama bin Laden’s world. A child loaned by his father to extremist fighters, who then went on to kill and injure, sustain his own serious war wounds, then become a prisoner of war—all before he turned 16. Khadr was then incarcerated with hundreds of others in a dark corner of the US justice system on the sunny shores of Guantanamo Bay.
The importance of Guantanamo’s Child lay in its stark presentation of the conflicting challenges Omar Khadr and his family present to many of the values Canadians hold dear. We are shown Khadr both as combatant and victim, as adult and child. We sense that tension between the Canadian government and the judiciary, even among the various levels of Canada’s courts.
The book chronicles the growing discomfort with each revelation about Guantanamo, shining a light on the conditions that brought home to Canadians the controversy in the US and around the world. In exploring Khadr’s legal odyssey in the US military justice system, the book also highlights the growing challenge to liberties in the post-9/11 world not only in the US, but also in Canada.
Nahlah Ayed is a veteran foreign correspondent for CBC’s The National. She is the author of A Thousand Farewells: A Reporter’s Journey from Refugee Camps to the Arab Spring (2012).