Canada won't take any Guantanamo detainees
Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, June 04, 2009
OTTAWA — The Harper government has rejected a request from the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to accept a group of Chinese Muslim detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday night that Ottawa's position on the Uighurs remains unchanged: Canada is not willing to accept any Guantanamo detainees as refugees.
“We had a previous request from the Bush administration as well,” said Kory Teneycke. “But given that these detainees have no link with Canada . . . I do not see our policy changing. I don't see us taking any detainees from Guantanamo.”
The U.S. base is still holding 17 ethnic Uighurs, despite the fact that a U.S. judge last year cleared them of posing any terrorist threat to the United States and ordered them released.
China has demanding their return, claiming that they are terrorists who are seeking an independent Muslim homeland in the northwestern part of the country.
In February, Canwest News Service reported that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was looking into the possibility of accepting some of the Uighurs at Guantanamo Bay, without setting a precedent for other detainees at the U.S. military camp who would like to settle in Canada.
Mr. Kenney was considering the option of rarely used “temporary residence permits” for three Uighurs who have applied to settle in Canada with the backing of Canadian sponsors. The permits, which are valid for up to three years, would allow the detainees to bypass the backlogged refugee process.
Mr. Teneycke said he wasn't aware of any plan to issue temporary residence permits to some or all of the Uighur detainees.
The Uighurs' quest to settle in Canada is complicated by the case of Omar Khadr, a 22-year-old Canadian who has been detained in Guantanamo since 2002 on accusations of lobbing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier during a battle between al-Qaeda fighters and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Mr. Harper has refused to repatriate the Toronto-born Mr. Khadr, whose vast and growing network of supporters contends he was a child soldier at the time of his alleged war crime.
“Obviously Mr. Khadr is a different case, being a Canadian citizen,” Mr. Teneycke said. “But we intend to let his legal process continue.”
The only Uighur Guantanamo refugee applicant whose name has been revealed is Anvar (Ali) Hassan, a dissident who fled China to live in Afghanistan in 2001. He was later caught in the hills of Pakistan and handed over to the U.S.
Mr. Hassan contends he will be tortured if he is forced to return to China, where authorities say the Uighurs detained at Guantanamo were fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.