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Omar Khadr’s First Words as a Free Man

After 13 years in custody, Khadr spoke to the media shortly after being released on bail.
May 8, 2015, 4:04pm

Omar Khadr speaks to media outside his new home after being granted bail in Edmonton on Thursday, May 7. Photo courtesy Canadian Press/Nathan Denette.

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

Hours after an Alberta Court of Appeal released Omar Khadr on bail, the infamous former inmate of Guantanamo Bay's military prison spoke to reporters on the steps of his lawyer's Edmonton home, where he will now live. This is what he had to say to reporters and the public.

Omar Khadr: I would like to thank the courts for… releasing me. I would like to thank Dennis and Nate, my lawyers, and their families for all the way they've been working for such a long time. And I would like to thank the Canadian public for trusting me and giving me a chance. It might be some time, but I will prove to them that I am more than what they thought of me. I will prove to them that I'm a good person. Thank you very much.

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Reporter: Omar, what do you want Canadians to know about you?
Just to give me a chance. See who I am as a person and not as a name and then they can make their own judgment after that.

Who are you as a person?
I'm still learning about myself. I'm still growing. I believe in learning. I didn't have a lot of experience in life and I'm excited to start my life.

What do you want to do most?
Ah, that's a hard question. Everything and nothing in particular.

What do you want the Americans to know about?
I can say I'm sorry for the pain I caused the families of the victims. There's nothing I can do about the past but I hope I can do something about the future.

How do you feel right now?
I'm still in a bit of a shock. I'm happy, but I still I think I'm going to crash sometime later. But I'm still very controlled.

What about the modern world shocked you the most since you've been out?
Nothing so far. I'm really surprised that freedom is way better than I thought. And the Canadian public so far has been way better than I anticipated.

Can you tell us what you did this afternoon?
We went to lunch and we had to go back to the court to sign some papers. I was surprised with some of the sheriffs, they went out of their way to being kind and buying me some drinks because we were waiting there for a long time. Everybody's been very nice.

What do you want to do with your life?
Ah, finish my education. I have a lot of learning to do. A lot of basic skills I need to learn. So, just take it one day at a time, take it slowly

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Do you speak French at all?
No, unfortunately not.

What do you think about this lovely western suburb?
Ah, it's pretty nice, I have to say. It's very nice.

Do you have anything to say to Prime Minister Harper?
Well, I'm going to have to disappoint him. I'm better than the person he thinks I am.

Physically, how are you?
Pretty well. I have some problems, but I'm doing pretty well.

Anything that would stop you from doing the work you would want to do?
Ah, no. Not really.

What do you make of how polarizing a figure you've become in Canada?
Well, I can't do anything about that. All I can do is work on myself. That's all I can do.

Can you categorically say you denounce violent jihad, Omar?
Yes. Yes I do.

It's not something…
Nope. It's not something I believe in right now. I want to start a fresh start. There's too many good things in life that I want to experience.

Do you have any career aspirations?
Something in the healthcare. I believe you have to be able to empathize with people in pain. I've experienced pain so I think I can empathize with people who are going through that. And I hope I can do something in the healthcare.

Omar, so many Canadians know about your father (who had links to al Qaeda before his death). What do you think about your father all these years later?
Well, there's a lot of questions that I would like to ask my father. I can't change the past, all I can do is work on the present and the future?

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What do you want to ask him?
Everything. A lot of decisions he made. The reasons he took us back there. Just a whole bunch of questions about his reasoning behind his life decisions.

These are not life decisions that you want to make going forward?
No.

What would you say to someone contemplating extremism and looking to you?
What I would tell anybody is to educate yourself. Don't let emotions control you. Education is very important thing. I've noticed that a lot of people are manipulated by not being educated.

Are you going to get on social media?
On a personal level only, maybe.

What do you say to this man [his lawyer, Dennis Edney]?
He's an amazing man. I really appreciate him working for the last 11 years. I'm surprised he's not sick of me yet.

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