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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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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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