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Nearly Half of Canadians Are Fine with Omar Khadr’s Bail, but Not Many Like Him

While nearly 40 percent of Canadians see former Guantanamo prisoner Khadr as a child soldier, about one in four still consider him a terrorist.

by Rachel Browne
19 May 2015, 5:55am

Omar Khadr at his first press conference after being granted bail. Photo via Nathan Dennette/Canadian Press.

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

Shortly after Omar Khadr was released on bail last week, he pleaded with Canadians to give him a chance.

"I will prove to them that I'm more than what they thought of me," he said outside his lawyer's home in Edmonton, where he will live pending appeal of his war crimes conviction in the US. "I'll prove to them that I'm a good person."

But a new poll provided exclusively to VICE shows that the former Guantanamo Bay prisoner has his work cut out for him.

Based on a new Forum Research poll of 1,286 Canadian voters, most Canadians either have an unfavorable view of him (34 percent) or no opinion of him at all (46 percent). Almost half of those surveyed agreed with the court's decision to release Khadr on bail at 45 percent, compared to 33 percent who opposed bail.

Related: Watch 'Guantanamo: Blacked Out Bay'

There's a sliver of hope for Khadr yet, as 80 percent of those who agree with his release do not see him as a threat to Canadian society. Most of those who approve of Khadr's release are either from Quebec or earn more than $100,000. And 39 percent of voters see Khadr as "a child soldier," just as the Supreme Court of Canada ruled he was sentenced as a youth, not an adult, the third time it has sided with him. However, one quarter of voters—most of whom identified as Conservative—still think of him as a "terrorist."

Khadr, now 28, was 15 years old when he allegedly threw the grenade that killed US Sgt. Christopher Speer during a firefight in Afghanistan, according to the plea deal he signed with the US military. His lawyers claim his confession was obtained through torture.

"While Canadians may not like Omar Khadr, and may not like what he's done, they recognize he was dealt a grave injustice at far too young an age, and should now be allowed to live a normal life" said Forum Research president, Lorne Bozninoff.

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