Give us sight - Macleans.ca
 

Give us sight


 

Wesley Wark outlines the necessity of a lasting solution to our current predicament.

A long-term solution is important, because Parliament has a role to play as a check on government power on national security issues. However deferential Canadian public opinion has tended to be in the past, we live in a time of vastly different national security problems and a higher level of public expectation about government transparency. There is more at stake than just parliamentary privilege, which might strike some Canadians as an arcane matter. Parliament serves, at least in theory, as an important channel for public education on matters of national security policy and threats. If Parliament is blinded by insufficient access to national security information, the public is blinded as well.


 

Give us sight

  1. Good points by Wark.

    The inconsistencies in redaction revealed by the documents that were released at different times to federal court, to the MPCC, and to the Afghanistan Committee point at best to a flawed system for deciding what is a security issue and at worst to opportunistic abuse by a government that wants to avoid being accountable.

    We still don't know who did the redacting or on what basis they made their determination or when. For all we know several departments or even the PMO had a black magic marker. And is there any process for unredacting once material is no longer sensitive?

    That utter lack of transparency about the process for redacting documents considered sensitive, and the lack of any process for appealing a decision to withhold information, along with a general failure to respect access to information that has existed for much longer than the current government, means that we have to do more than figure out how to deal with the detainee documents.

    We need an ongoing process that is non-partisan, fair, and balanced or the opportunity to keep something under wraps will attract abuse.

  2. Why can't the government simply explain in general terms what kind of 'national security' information is under all that black ink – dates? names? engaging the enemy plans? military equipment specifications? movie times? …

    • I don't think it's necessarily a good idea to allow the people who are saying "you can't see that" to broadly explain what and WHY Parliament can't see. Not the least of which because it is not up to the government of the day to even DECIDE what Parliament can and cannot see, much less to explain why.

      As it relates to Parliament (as opposed to the public at large) your suggestion amounts to having the government explain in broad strokes why they're doing something that they're NOT ALLOWED TO DO, which hardly seems helpful. If the government were able to explain in general terms just what it is that they're insisting on keeping secret from Parliament, that would have little impact on the fact that THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT ALLOWED TO KEEP THINGS SECRET FROM PARLIAMENT.

      • It just seems to me that if the government couldn't even explain in general terms what information they're 'protecting' then we would have an even better idea of what it is they're hiding. But you're right, of course.