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Omar Khadr’s request for eased bail conditions denied by judge

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An Edmonton judge has denied former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr’s request to have his bail conditions eased.

There’s no evidence of hardship or that the conditions are needlessly onerous, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice June Ross said Friday.

She said nothing has really changed since the last time Khadr asked for changes to his bail conditions and the restrictions he faces are “reasonable” and “standard.”

Ross said her decision is not etched in stone and conditions could change in the future.

“Based on all of the evidence I have seen, Mr. Khadr is not a flight risk or a risk to public safety,” Ross said. “Nonetheless, it seems to me it’s reasonable to make sure the courts are kept up to date on his whereabouts and activities.

“The public would expect we have up-to-date information about his whereabouts,” Ross added. “They would expect reasonable travel restrictions.”

Khadr, 32, has been on bail since May 2015 pending an appeal of his conviction by a U.S. military commission on alleged war crimes. The appeal has stalled, so Khadr has no idea how long he will be on bail.

Khadr didn’t speak to reporters after Friday’s ruling.

“We’re going to review the decision and consider our next steps,” his lawyer, Nathan Whitling, said outside court.

Whitling said it’s not fair that Khadr’s life remains restricted by a stalled U.S. court process with no end in sight.

“His case is different because of the extraordinarily long time that he’s been on bail … because of the extraordinary delays that have occurred with his foreign appeal,” Whitling said in an interview.

Wanted to make pilgrimage to Mecca

Khadr wanted to be able to travel to Toronto without the approval of his bail supervisor to visit his family more easily and to make court appearances related to a civil lawsuit filed by the family of an American soldier killed in the Afghanistan firefight in which Khadr was captured in 2002.

He also wanted unsupervised conversations with his sister and a Canadian passport so that he could make the hajj to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The Islamic religious pilgrimage is considered obligatory for practising Muslims.

Currently, he must contact his bail supervisor if he wants to leave Alberta. He can only talk under supervision to his sister Zaynab, who has spoken in favour of al-Qaeda and was investigated in Canada more than a decade ago for helping the terrorist network.

Khadr said his sister now lives in the country of Georgia.

Whitling said his client has lived quietly for years, is happily married, follows bail conditions to the letter and poses no threat. Khadr’s affidavit says he has been to Toronto eight times without issue since the conditions were imposed.

‘Depressive symptoms’

In support of the application to ease bail conditions, Whitling submitted a letter from Brooklyn, N.Y., psychologist Katherine Porterfield. She has been in regular contact with Khadr since his detention as a teenager at Guantanamo Bay.

Porterfield believes Khadr’s mental health is suffering due to the ongoing nature of his bail conditions.

“He has recently experienced some depressive symptoms, as well as an increase in his symptoms of PTSD,” Porterfield wrote. “Specifically, [he] is manifesting a foreshortened sense of future and a return of symptoms of hyperarousal and re-experiencing of memories of prison.”

The psychologist’s opinion is that Khadr’s “legal limbo” is triggering memories of the time he spent as a teenager in Guantanamo Bay.

Ross called Khadr’s feelings “understandable,” but said they don’t change the fact that he has not served his sentence for crimes to which he pleaded guilty.

“Bail cannot provide an alternative way to serve his sentence,” Ross said.

This is Khadr’s latest of several attempts for relaxed bail conditions. In 2017, a judge denied most of his requests.

Khadr was sent to the notorious U.S. military holding facility at Guantanamo Bay in 2002 after he was captured and accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier in 2002.

When Khadr was captured, he was 15. He says he can’t remember killing a soldier. He says he only confessed to the crime to get out of Guantanamo and into the Canadian justice system.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that his rights were violated while he was in captivity in the U.S. and that the Canadian government had contributed to that. Khadr settled a lawsuit against Ottawa in 2017 with a $10.5-million payout.

2nd application also dismissed

Khadr’s lawyer hopes to replace his client’s indefinite bail situation with parole, since parole could include a definite end date. The parole board has refused to grant Khadr a hearing because he is not in custody.

Whitling asked Ross to sign an order that would revoke his bail at the start of a parole board hearing, and reinstate it if the parole board deferred or denied the request for parole.

Ross refused.

“Such decisions should not be made based on future hypothetical circumstances that may or may not occur,” Ross said, adding that if a parole hearing is scheduled, Whitling can bring forward the application again.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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