Justice Minister Rob Nicholson speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, February 13, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/PATRICK DOYLE
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OTTAWA -- Federal Justice Minister and Attorney General Rob Nicholson says the question of laying charges of treason against Omar Khadr is a provincial and police matter.
The issue was raised after Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced last week that he had received an American request to transfer the Canadian-born convicted terrorist and murderer to Canadian custody.
"We cannot comment on specific cases," said Julie Di Mambro, spokeswoman for Nicholson. "In Canada, the decision to lay and pursue Criminal Code charges rests with police and provincial Crown attorneys."
The shifting of responsibility is a change of tune for the Tories compared to their policy convention last year.
Last spring they debated a proposal dubbed the "Khadr resolution" that stated: "The Conservative Party of Canada believes that any Canadian citizen ... who commits treason by taking up arms against the Canadian Forces or the
Forces of Canada's Allies automatically invalidates his or her Canadian citizenship or claim to Canadian citizenship and, if and when returned to the jurisdiction of the Canadian Legal System, should be tried for high
treason under the Canadian Criminal Code."
The charge of treason and high treason is an ancient law, dating back to 1351.
The Criminal Code states that a person can be charged with high treason if he or she "assists an enemy at war with Canada, or any armed forces against whom Canadian Forces are engaged in hostilities, whether or not a state of war exists between Canada and the country whose forces they are."
Khadr, 25, who fought on the side of al-Qaida in Afghanistan, was sentenced to eight years for murdering American soldier Christopher Speer in 2002. He also admitted to building improvised explosive devices to kill allied soldiers.
Khadr was born in Toronto and is a Canadian citizen.
He has been held in Guantanamo Bay since he was captured in battle.
The federal government and Washington agreed that Khadr is allowed to return to Canada after serving one year in U.S. custody.
The last Canadian to be tried and convicted of treason was Kanao Inouye.
He was the soldier born in Kamloops, B.C., who fought on the side of the Japanese in the Second World War.
He tormented and killed Canadian PoWs and eventually hanged for treason in Hong Kong in 1947.