Retired Lieutenant-General and Senator Roméo Dallaire says if Omar Khadr had been repatriated as soon as possible, his rights could have been protected.

Dallaire is responding to reports that a majority of Canadians disagree with the Liberal government's apology and reported $10.5 million payout to the former Guantanamo Bay prisoner.

Dallaire tells Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Evan Solomon that, for him, the issue is not about the money.

“What I am really turned off about is that people have lost sight of the fact that we took a kid and let him rot there [in Guantanamo Bay] and we don’t want to recognize the facts of the case,” he said.

Dallaire has worked to eliminate the use of child soldiers, and used that exact phrase to describe the Toronto-born Khadr, who was 15 years old when he was first imprisoned in 2002.

Critics contend that Khadr was not a child soldier, because the United Nations’ Conventions on the Rights of the Child, Article 38, proclaims “States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities,” and Khadr was already 15 at the time.

But Dallaire says Khadr was still a child, caught up in circumstances beyond his control.

“Yes, he was building IEDs. He didn’t volunteer to go over there,” Dallaire said. “[His father] pushed him into a program in which he’s doing that. How many eleven-, twelve-, thirteen-, fourteen-year-olds are going to take on their father under such circumstances?

“We hate the politics of his family. I’ve got no time for them, and they’re the ones who are to be really held accountable for creating this child soldier.”

Dallaire says previous governments refused the opportunity to repatriate Khadr and he believes they should be held accountable for that.

“Given the opportunity to solve the problem, as the Brits and the Australians did, by bringing him home and taking care of him, there wouldn’t have been the 10 million bucks,” Dallaire said. “There wouldn’t have been any of this stuff and maybe we wouldn’t have worries about his future because he’s been through all this trauma. If we had acted appropriately, we would not have this.”

When pressed to comment on the reported payment, Dallaire asked the question, “How much is ten years of your life worth? How much is your future destroyed life worth? How can you put a dollar figure on it?”

Solomon replied by saying if Stephen or Laureen Harper were on the phone, they’d ask, “How much is the life of Special Forces medic Christopher Speer worth?”

Speer is the soldier who was killed in 2002 by a grenade that Khadr, in 2010, admitted to throwing. He has since launched an appeal of that conviction, arguing he only pleaded guilty in order to secure his return to Canada.

When asked about Speer, Dallaire said his death was “absolutely terrible” but also said death on the battlefield is a risk all soldiers face.

“He was a special forces professional soldier and, in war time, professional soldiers die and child soldiers die,” Dallaire said. “That that soldier died I think is absolutely terrible. That Omar Khadr had two bullets in him and nearly died, I think that was terrible, too. But what cannot be fiddled with is the fact that, when we commit ourselves to these missions, we commit ourselves to the unlimited liability of the possibility of dying.

“It is still horrific. It is still terrible for families, and it’s a sacrifice that nobody should have to pay. But we do because governments and organizations simply can’t find solutions to the frictions that have created so many of the conflicts today.”