The Commons: The meaning of courage -

The Commons: The meaning of courage

Peter MacKay utters what surely must be three of the most profound sentences ever uttered in this place


peter mackayThe Scene. Michael Ignatieff had barely so much as said the words “Mr. Jaffer” aloud then a great moan rose from the government side.

This first intervention was fairly perfunctory. And, in response, John Baird stood and said as little as possible. Not until his second query, stumbling a bit with whatever he had prepared, did Mr. Ignatieff arrive at a point—something that might be taken away from not just these past few weeks, but perhaps these past few years.

“When the Prime Minister gets information he likes, he calls it credible. When he gets information he does not like, he attacks the witness. When he gets information from a private detective, he listens. When he gets credible information from Richard Colvin, a reputable diplomat, he attacks the witness,” the Liberal leader stammered. “How can we trust the Prime Minister’s judgment when he puts his political interests ahead of the public interests in every case?”

Mr. Baird stood here and jabbed his finger and punched the air and spoke emphatically about unrelated matters. Mr. Ignatieff tried again, this time en francais. For a third time Mr. Baird rose, this time to quite helpfully make the point the Liberal leader had been trying to make.

“Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, when serious allegations arose about a former member of his ministry, did the ethical thing,” the Transport Minister testified. “He did the right thing. He did not accept the information. He referred the entire matter to an independent authority so that they could make a determination of what to do with it. That showed a high ethical standard. The Prime Minister did the right thing.”

So here, finally, was everything the opposition has been asking for in response to the numerous allegations about Afghan detainees, proudly held up as the good and just response to another matter entirely. The day’s irony quota was thus met. But there were a full 40 minutes left on the clock and the day would not climax for another 20 with a rousing declaration of righteousness. Only then, after more questions about the matter of Ms. Guergis and Mr. Jaffer and after Jack Layton had loudly and pointedly suggested that the government’s support for the troops was insufficient to those veterans now reliant on food banks, did opposition members start hounding the Defence Minister.

First it was Claude Bachand, then Bob Rae. The Liberal critic asked his questions and then heckled from his seat. The minister responded, then sat and motioned with his hand to indicate he viewed Mr. Rae’s shouts as nothing more than so much chatter.

Then it was Ujjal Dosanjh’s turn. “Mr. Speaker, the facts are there for all to see. The evidence of detainee torture is mounting. We have Colvin, Anderson, Gosselin, Malgarai, the U.S. Department of State, our own human rights reports and the Afghan Human Rights Commission. The government makes the feeble defence that none of these allegations is true and if they are true nobody has told it,” the Liberal explained. “Whether the Conservatives have been guilty of continuing the torture of detainees by sending them to the NDS or the subcontracting of torture, that ought to be determined by a judicial inquiry. Why would the government not have the courage to call one?”

Mr. MacKay, not one to hesitate in the face of challenge, was up before Mr. Dosanjh had finished. “Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is doing exactly what he is accusing others of doing by accepting this evidence without taking it into account,” he declared. “He has listed a number of names. I can list all the names of the senior officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs. I could list all of the leadership of the Canadian Forces, all of whom have given a completely contrary view of the evidence of what was taking place around the allegations of Taliban prisoners. Those forums are there. We have the MPCC. We have the parliamentary committee. We now have Mr. Justice Iacobucci reviewing documents. The honourable member is on a different track for political reasons.”

Over to Mr. Dosanjh, now waving his arms and wagging his finger and stumbling over his words. “Mr. Speaker, nobody is asking the current government to accept any evidence. There are allegations and there are counter-allegations. It says these allegations are true. Others are saying other allegations are true. The fact is nobody can determine the truth, least of all that government,” he ventured. “We need a public inquiry. We need a judicial inquiry. We need the scrutiny of a sitting judge. The current government does not have the courage. It is a coward government. It does not want to face the facts. It should stand and be clear with Canadians and call a public inquiry.”

Once more to Mr. MacKay, the Minister rising to utter what surely must be three of the most profound sentences ever uttered in this place. “Mr. Speaker, we can talk about courage in this place. It is very easy from the safe sanctuary here in the House of Commons to judge this,” he demurred. “However, the courage that I am interested in is the courage of the Canadian Forces, the men and women on the ground in the Afghanistan at this very moment, fighting to protect our values both at home and abroad.”

From across the way, various Liberal backbenchers lodged their complaints. One seemed confused as to where one might find Mr. MacKay’s courage.

The Stats. Helena Guergis, 13 questions. Afghanistan, eight questions. Veterans, five questions. Crime and arts funding, three questions each. Parliamentary Budget Officer and pensions, two questions each. Intellectual property, air travel, innovation and Aboriginal affairs, one question each.

John Baird, nine answers. Peter MacKay, seven answers. Christian Paradis, Rob Nicholson and Stockwell Day, four answers each. Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Tony Clement and James Moore, three answers each. Lawrence Cannon, Gary Goodyear and Chuck Strahl, one answer each.


The Commons: The meaning of courage

  1. Poor Lib's today (1) first Jack cuts em off at the knees with the committee (2) LPC then leaves talking points at the NFLD airport in the fog with most of their MP's (3) Iggy starts talking big about the whip on his rural MP's – well the list goes on and on today

  2. After the Liberals devoted the first half of Question Period to Ms. Guergis and her husband, It was good to see Mr. Wherry praise Peter MacKay for his statement concerning courage on the battlefield as opposed to courage as legislators.
    I didn`t see any confusion in his remarks. I think he was saying that it is absurd to think that any MP ( including himself ) would have any idea of what it takes to have the courage to face possible death on any given day.

    • I am pretty sure he was being sarcastic.

      Wherry seems to see through the lie that this is about attacking the troops.

      • I don`t think so…..I can`t imagine a man of Mr. Wherry`s integrity being sarcastic about such an important subject.

    • Mr. MacKay says "the courage that I am interested in is the courage of the Canadian Forces, the men and women on the ground in the Afghanistan at this very moment, fighting to protect our values both at home and abroad.”

      The troops are certainly brave to be fighting against the Taliban. But the point Mr. MacKay is running from is that our people who are fighting to protect our values (i.e. don't torture people) find themselves fighting against their own government.

    • Indeed, he spells out quite clearly that he has no interest in any MP's (including himself) showing courage.

      • I don`t think so Gilbert. I suspect MacKay is like the rest of us; he`s sick of Dosanjh squealing in his high-pitched voice about how he`s the one true patriot. But then again you do like high-pitched voices, don`t you Gilbert.

  3. Shorter Wherry: These MPs are all jackasses, and I must have done something awful in an earlier life to have to cover these morons day in and day out.

    • really, he should just quit, it'll just get worse int he next one. (life that is)

  4. And the MSM would love a big official and expensive public inquiry too. Why, because it fuels the fire. Does it get anything done? Well ask the MSM that, because we never got a dime back from the Liberals through the Gomery Commision, and the MSM lost interest – yesterday's news.

    All these lefty Ottawa hacks look at the big whistle-blowing, and brave bureaucrat Colvin, like a 17-year old puck girl looks at a junior hockey player at the local rink – Welcome to Canada

    • Welcome to Canada yourself. For the record, some of us here let our daughters PLAY hockey.

    • Tony, sorry, but you're speaking like some boxer who's had a few too many blows to the head.

      What this call for an inquiry gets done is demonstrate that Canadians stand by the Geneva Convention; which indirectly protects our front-line soldiers. If the inquiry finds that we have deviated by passing our detainees to the NDS where they would be tortured, then lets fix it fast; because complity to tortre is NOT in the best interests of our soldiers! Nor does it help our overall reputation as Canadians worldwide.

      So, would a big expensive inquiry achieve anything? You bet it would! And quick knocking Colvin; he has nothing to gain for his honesty.

  5. Thank you once again, Aaron, for giving us the gain without the pain of having to sit through Question Period, even on TV.

  6. These liberals disgust me with the way they treat our people in uniform. Cant wait till they no longer have a voice in this country!

    • Yes, it's shameful how they want our troops to not have to decide between following orders or following the Geneva Conventions.

    • Please don't cross the street by yourself… ummm scratch that.

  7. If there were a general election now, the Liberals and NDP would crater with a QP parliamentary performance like that … smutmongering, smearmongering, fearmongering, hatemongering … like a bunch of monkeys hurling their feces and hoping something will stick to take the stink off of them …!!!!!

    • If there were a general election now, the Conservatives would crater with a QP parliamentary performance like that … avoiding accountability, insulting our troops, insulting the intelligence of Canadians, smearmongering, fearmongering, hatemongering … like a bunch of monkeys hurling their feces and hoping something will stick to take the stink off of them …!!!!!

  8. It takes a great deal of courage to risk your life to improve the lives of others in a foreign country. I challenge anyone to find an elected official say otherwise.

    It takes considerably less courage for an elected official to admit they were wrong, but still requires some guts.

    It takes zero courage for an elected official to slander a respected diplomat when he says something you don't like.

    It takes a policy of cowardice for Mr. MacKay, Mr. Cannon and Mr. Harper to hide behind the censors pen and statements like this one.

  9. So the Liberals take allegations that they like as fact and run with it – Afghans abusing their own people and it is Canada's fault. Boy doesn't that just nail the white liberal guilt trips that run rampant in Ottawa these days.
    And then they take allegations that they kind of like – Jaffir and Geurgis – and love the conumdrum they seem to have the conservatives in. Damned that Helena is forced from cabinet in a public manner and also damned if they didn't ask her to resign because the evidence is suspect.
    Meanwhile back in the real world nobody cares that Helena and Jaffir may have been doing coke and seeing hookers nor that Afghans are doing to themselves that they have done for centuries,

    • So when the Taliban torture, abuse and kill their own, that's not our concern either?

    • Uh, no.. they're not taking it as fact. They're taking it as allegations, and saying "Look, we've got a lot of people on one side saying one thing, and a lot of people on the other side saying something different. Let's have an independent judicial inquiry so that we can find out who's right and who's wrong."

      And I find it really quite shocking that you don't care at all about Afghans torturing their own people, with instances recorded of the Afghan NDS (who we're cooperating with) raping girls as young as nine.

      • So you support us leaving right now then?

        • I support us doing the job right.

          • I think that we are doing a bang up job right now with the limited people (2500 of which maybe 1/3 are actually outside the wire) to patrol and secure the area the size of southern Saskatchewan, resources (very little organic – re Canadian- air support), a government (Lib and Con) who have done an absolute crap job of explaining why we are there, a Press Corp who only seem to concentrate on the body count (ours only) and a group of Neo-Quislings who will take second and third hand info as fact and totally discount anything that our people on the ground and at the coal face have to say on the matter.
            But you have made up your mind Thwim and it is a waste of time and bandwith to even engage with you.

  10. I for one an shocked, shocked I tell you to hear that one group of third world tribemen are "putting the boots" to a rival bunch of third world tribemen. Didn't anyone tell our troops that their main business over there was to teach the Marquis of Queensbury rules of boxing. Harump! Truth is the vast majority of Canadians have tuned this out long ago. If Iggie and Jack ever realize there are no points to be scored on this, it would be the last you would ever hear of it. Desperate for something, anything they can latch onto to move their moribund polling numbers, they keep bellowing and people just tune the set to the playoffs. Cheers.

  11. I think it's incredible how people still can't grasp the fact that a public inquiry into the detainee issue has nothing to do with questionning the dedication of the troops.
    People blame Mps for being partisan when in fact, the major issue is that the constituents are far more partisan and simply think along party lines.

  12. aid and comfort to the enemy, is all the Liberals really are.

    was a time there was a simple way to solve that problem.

  13. Should Minister Baird have exposed this document the day he received it in the name of transparency since no money was going to be given to Jaffers company? And the Prime Minister should have questioned his Junior Minister the day when Rashim Jaffer was charged with possession of cocaine and driving drunk? Was that the right thing to do or not ?