It was 5:25 a.m. Utah time Friday when retired American special forces Sgt. Layne Morris did a double take with his only working eye to read again what I had texted him.
“I just heard how they firewalled the money,” I wrote.
It was 7:25 a.m. Toronto time, so I was up and rolling, but Morris was still groggy and went back to sleep.
When he awoke later, he looked at my text again and replied.
“What did they do?” he asked.
“Paid him out ahead, so it makes it hard for you and Tabitha. Government complicit,” I texted.
Morris: “So he’s had time to hide the money?”
I hated to be the one to break it to him but the answer was yes.
Even though his pal Sgt. Christopher Speer was killed by a hand grenade lobbed by then-15-year-old Omar Khadr, and he lost sight in his eye during the 2002 firefight in Afghanistan, this devastating news was happening. Even though he and Speer’s widow had won a US $134-million court settlement in the American courts against Khadr, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government organized their $10.5-million blood money payment to allow Khadr to shield the money from judgments.
It’s all shameful, but that the victims had to hear about this from me, is beyond the pale. Repugnant. It’s like our government thinks they were the terrorists.
This pathetic and disgraceful news came as a total shock to Morris.
“When you have to conduct business in be dark, behind closed doors, there is something not right,” he texted. “I believe we have lawyers in court today. What can be done now?”
I am not sure but outraged Canadians can step up and do their own crowdfunding for Morris and Speer and that is exactly what we are doing.
The thought of backing them first popped up when I got a call from my friend Paul Corvo at 8 a.m., who was with the usual morning gang at Seb’s Cappuccino in The Danforth.
“Everybody here is so upset,” said Corvo. “People are embarrassed.”
His pal, Joe Argier, a lawyer and developer, said, “I want to take out an ad in the Toronto Sun and tell the Speer and Morris families how sorry we are about all of this.”
Out of this, I spoke to my colleague Chris Doucette, an Canadian Armed Forces veteran, who agreed we had to do something. Then I was on the phone with my friend Ezra Levant who – like we did with then Sun News Network – put together an online crowdfund campaign for Speer’s kids, Taryn and Tanner, and for Morris, his wife, Leisl, and their four kids and two grandkids.
Called SpeerKids.com, it’s a transparent effort to stand up to this travesty. While it will not return that $10.5-million to its rightful owners, it’s something from grassroots Canadians.
“That’s very nice of people,” Morris told me after he found out about the initiatives. “For me this has never been about money, but about principle. But for Tabitha, it’s different. I know the kind of tough situation she was put in losing her husband with two infants, so I have always felt the money from the settlement against Khadr would help her and her kids.”
Morris’ wife Leisl added: “I first met Tabitha Speer in Germany after our husbands were wounded by a grenade thrown by Omar Khadr. Christopher Speer was mortally wounded and left his young family with no father to care for them. Tabitha’s children were toddlers at the time and have grown up not knowing their father. Previously, funds have been raised for the Speer children. The Speer family has been touched by the generosity of others and greatly appreciates any assistance offered to them. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!”
Whatever money is raised, it will go to the Speer and Morris families. But unlike Khadr’s settlement – to add insult to injury and pile on irony to the lunacy – they will have to pay Canadian tax on whatever is raised.
Perhaps the newly-wealthy Khadr can make a donation?