Many Canadians take pride in a government that relentlessly opposes the exploitation of child soldiers. In fact, Canada was the first to sign an international treaty that requires participating nations to give exceptional consideration to any captured enemy fighters that are under 18. Yet, when it came to Omar Khadr, the Canadian government abandoned its own citizen.
Khadr’s desertion is the focus of Luc Côté and Patricio Henriquez’s documentary, You Don’t Like The Truth. The genie-nominated film is based on video footage of Omar Khadr’s 2003 interrogation by Canadian representatives at Guantanamo Bay.
Grainy clips from the seven-hour long video, taken over four days of illegitimate grilling, form the documentary’s backbone. What surfaces is a dark reality of closed minds and incessant accusations. Initially, when the Canadians first arrive, Khadr is thrilled. He mistakenly believes his government is finally helping him, and the agents don’t bother to disclose their intentions. From day one, the CSIS agent’s mind is already made up—he’s not there to support Khadr but only to blame him.
Screenshot of Omar Khadr's interrogation by Canadian representatives at Guantanamo Bay
They bribe him with McDonald’s and Subway sandwiches and when their attempts fail, they turn to emotional blackmail, claiming they will help his family in return for his cooperation. After Khadr speaks out about the brutal torture he endured, the CSIS agent shrugs off his claims, and says he’s “happy not to be in [Khadr’s] position.”
There are also interviews with Khadr’s lawyers, former cellmates, journalists, and even an ex-torturer, Damien “Monster” Corsetti. Deployed as an interrogator at the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan, Corsetti strikes a powerful chord: “Ultimately the blame now lies on the Canadian people, of how I, as a cold, callous son of a bitch, had more compassion for that boy than his own people?”
Essentially, Harper’s minority government doesn’t represent the majority of Canadians. In fact, Côté and Henriquez screened the film in Ottawa for members of Parliament a couple months ago, as part of an event organized by the Bloc Quebecois for all MPs. Some Liberals showed up, some NDP and a lot of MPs from the Bloc, but there were no Conservatives.
After Thursday’s screening at the Human Rights Watch film festival in Toronto, Henriquez said, “The Conservatives don’t like to have another point of view represented. When it came to Omar Khadr’s case they had their own agenda.”
Everyone has their own stand regarding Omar Khadr, and this documentary will do little to sway them in a particular direction. Interestingly, in a panel discussion following the film’s screening, Côté revealed a surprisingly beautiful statement made by Khadr in court:
“There are two things I missed out on because of prison. The first thing is an education, and the second is a relationship.”
After Côté mentioned this quote to a Quebec audience a couple weeks ago, a wealthy elderly lady offered to finance Khadr’s postsecondary studies in Winnipeg, where he plans to study medicine once released.
He insists that the pain his body endured during years of torture will help him understand his patients’ suffering. This reminds me of Plato’s Republic, when Socrates pictures a just city. The city’s best doctors are those who’ve had contact with “the greatest number of very sick bodies from childhood on, have themselves experienced every illness.”