The Commons: The wild west

Who needs warning shots when you’ve got torture?


The Scene. Joe Comartin stood up, stepped forward and ventured a novel theory.

“Mr. Speaker,” the NDP House leader posited, “you cannot be half for torture. You are either for or against.”

Given those choices, the Defence Minister decided to go with latter. “Mr. Speaker, our government has always respected the law and our position is clear,” Peter MacKay reported. “Canada does not approve of the use of torture and does not engage in this practice.”

Alas, this simple equation seems only to make perfect sense if you leave it at that.

For Mr. MacKay’s benefit, Mr. Comartin returned to his feet to review yesterday’s rhetoric. “Yesterday, the Minister of National Defence acted irresponsibly by suggesting that Air Canada Centre was a prime target for terrorists. Then the Minister of Public Safety soon followed with his own hypothetical scenarios about planes full of Newfoundlanders being blown up. All of this is to back up their irresponsible message to other countries that Canada is in the market for information based on torture,” he recounted. “The government should oppose torture, no question about it. When will it rescind the directive?”

Here then the Defence Minister decided to revisit Mr. Comartin’s first point. “Mr. Speaker, let me be clear again, Canada does not condone torture and does not use torture,” he said. “However, Canada will use information to save lives.”

Mr. MacKay apparently had nothing more to say to explain this nuance, so he opted to suggest that the NDP’s justice critic had somehow contradicted himself—the Defence Minister did not indicate how—in speaking with reporters outside the House yesterday. Whatever Jack Harris said or did not say, he has apparently not learned that when faced by a pack of reporters shouting difficult questions, the politician is better off making for the stairs.

Mr. Comartin was now, quite literally, flabbergasted—increasingly animated and noticeably struggling to convey what he was hearing, at one point failing so profoundly to find the words that he went silent for a second or two. He spat out what seemed to him the logical conclusion: “In this case they may as well torture people right here in Canada by the message they are sending out.”

There were groans and grumbles from the government side. The Speaker called for order.

“Mr. Speaker, then yesterday, or the day before, the Minister of Justice was out publicly advocating for people to shoot warning shots. We heard that prisoners should hang themselves,” Mr. Comartin continued. “We heard that from them. People should shoot from the hip. Torture is okay. Those are the messages we are getting. This is not the wild west, this is Canada.”

Not that there was a question here, but Mr. MacKay stood anyway. “Mr. Speaker, what a litany of misinformation and convoluted facts,” he moaned. Not that he could say what specifically Mr. Comartin had misstated.

A few moments later, Bob Rae attempted to follow up on one of Mr. Comartin’s complaints. “The Minister of Justice stated that, in his opinion, when faced with a hypothetical, I thought it would be okay for a property owner to shoot a few warning shots in the air or perhaps even over the head of the perpetrator,” the interim Liberal leader reported. “I would like to ask the minister this very simple question. What is he going to say to the family of the little girl crossing the road down the street when somebody fires a warning shot at somebody entering their property? Does he not understand the danger of promoting vigilante justice in our society?”

Tuesday, the Minister of Justice was indeed asked if, in the hypothetical, he felt it reasonable to fire a shot “in the air” or “around the people” if a trespasser was observed attempting to steal one’s all-terrain vehicle. “I think it is,” he apparently responded.

Here though Rob Nicholson was positively besmirched. “Mr. Speaker, that is not what I said, at all,” he groused.

Furrowing his brow, raising his voice and fuming all about, the Justice Minister proceeded to condemn the Liberals for having dared question him on this point. “Why is it so difficult for the Liberals to figure out who the real victims are?” he begged. “If people are coming onto other people’s property to set fire to their car, breaking into their house or attacking their family, those are the bad guys. Why can the Liberals not ever figure that out? How come they cannot figure out who the real victims are and stand up for them for a change?”

Of course, if the waterboarding of someone in a foreign land should provide us with the information necessary to preemptively stop a marauding hoard of pyromaniacs, we might even save ourselves the warning shots.

The Stats. Pensions, nine questions. Trade, six questions. CSIS, search-and-rescue and military procurement, three questions each. The disabled and the CBC, two questions each. Crime, foreign investment, terrorism, the census, equality, infrastructure, national parks and bilingualism, one question each.

Diane Finley, nine answers. Peter MacKay, eight answers. Deepak Obhrai and Denis Lebel, five answers each. Julian Fantino, three answers. Christian Paradis and James Moore, two answers each. Rob Nicholson, Dave Anderson, Keith Ashfield and Peter Kent, one answer each.


The Commons: The wild west

  1. Well, we all know where the ‘wild west’ attitude is coming from.

  2. I expect that in order to cut costs, the Harper government will use contractors to provide information obtained under torture, which they can use to find all those terrorists in Canada.  They previously used Syrian contractors, but that has been tainted by recent mortar fire. 

  3. “Why is it so difficult for the Liberals to figure out who the real victims are?” he begged.


    There, there, Rob. There, there…

  4. “We do not advocate firing a firearm any place you don’t know where the bullet is going to go,” he said.”

    S’what they taught me.

    Personally i wouldn’t trust Nicholson with a pea shooter.

    • Let’s not forget, this is our Justice Minister.  We need to tear ourselves from the dumb, but entertaining quotes from the Republican primaries and pay more attention to what’s going on up here.

      • Yeah, they really seem to be stepping it up lately.

        • I think they’re preparing the way for the right to carry.  I’ve read that this is what the gun lobby wants. 

          • That sounds too far fetched to me.

  5. Hey, whaddya know?  Spiralling partisan groupthink on Wherry’s comment board.

    • Welcome to the pig sty, pig.

    • You’re fellow travellers are too embarrassed to try and defend this stupidity.  What happened, did you get the short straw?

      • Maybe today is a holiday at Spin Central?

  6. I really don’t understand what’s so controversial here.  If a country that uses torture gives us a tip that someone’s about to kill a bunch of canadians we’re supposed to not investigate it because the information might have come from torture and therefore the terrorists deserve to be able to kill those people?

    There’s good reason to not use torture – it doesn’t yield reliable results.  But information is information, and whether or not it’s reliable information, if it’s of a serious nature someone ought to look into it, attempt to verify the information through other means – treat it like an anonymous tip.  It might well be useless, but at least you won’t look like a fool for sticking your fingers in your ears screaming ‘torture torture torture’.

    • The information is unrealiable; the tortured eventually tell the torturer what they think they want the torturer to hear.  Information gleaned from torture is only going to be accurate if the torturer already knows the truth, and is seeking confirmation of that truth.  In other words, it’s sadism for the sake of sadism (which explains why the Conservatives support it).

  7. Conservatives are the real victims, as we know.  That card will always be in play.

  8. And yet “progressives” have no qualms about effectively advocating for the purchase of oil from countries that routinely torture as a matter of public policy, rather than our ethical oil.  Another great moment in “progressivism”:

    Potentially indirectly supporting torture by the use of information gathered from torture, on the premise that it could save lives – bad.

    Financially supporting torture as a byproduct of the “green”/anti-capitalism movement in North America – good.

    If one remembers that all “rights” advocated for, and all “victims” defended by “progressives” is strictly dependent on whether such can be used to attack their ideological foes, then it all makes sense. 

    • Yet Cons have no problem selling resources to countries that use torture…. 

    • Why aren’t you folks calling for a boycott of all those oil companies that fill their coffers in countries that practice torture?

    • Harper hisself stated “the market should decide” how oil gets bought and sold, globally, when asked about the logic of shipping tar sand oil to China while importing Arab oil to eastern Canada.  Such a bunch of hypocrites, these Cons.

  9. What is particularly repugnant regarding the left’s political weather vane approach to indirect support/opposition to torture, is the class of individual being tortured in each case. While vociferously defending the radical terrorist’s right against torture, the torture victims thrown under the bus by “progressives” are invariably innocent people who’s only crime is to seek to have the freedoms that today’s “progressives” have in North America: Gay’s wishing to be who they are, young activists simply wanting to express their political views, advocates for freedom – those are the one’s tortured in Saudia Arabia, Iran and the like.

  10. I grew up in a rural town. The first thing I was taught when learning to shoot and care for a gun, is that you never fire off rounds anywhere people could potentially get hurt.

    More importantly, the second you pull out a gun in the face of a potentially dangerous situation and shoot off a “warning shot” you better be bloody well prepared to shoot the person you’re trying to scare off, because if it doesn’t work, you’re probably in mortal danger.

    So unless this government is prepared to allow for reasonable self defense in such situations by passing legislation to that affect, there is no bloody way a minister should be saying such things.

    As it is, if a someone comes at you firing rounds, and you shoot them in self defense, whether or not your life was in danger doesn’t matter to the courts one damn bit. Whether you get hit yourself or not by the attacker, you’ll be charged one way or another for shooting the criminal.

    I’m very pro rehabilitation and progressive in terms of criminal law, but in this case I have to say that our laws make no damn sense at all.