What's next? - Macleans.ca

What’s next?


In terms of what a compromise might look like, we refer again to some of the options already explored for establishing a forum that might safely review sensitive documents. The interim committee on national security that studied these sorts of issues in 2004 was chaired by Derek Lee, but also, perhaps notably, included the following members: Joe Comartin, Wayne Easter, Marlene Jennings, Serge Menard, Kevin Sorenson and Peter MacKay.

Also instructive is the parliamentary sub-committee on combatting organized crime which functioned largely in camera and reported to the House in 2000. That committee included members from all parties, including the aforementioned future defence minister.


What’s next?

  1. Hopefully any committee that reviews sensitive documents doesn't include Bloc MPs. The Bloc is always hungry for a juicy issue that they can feed into their propaganda machine to advance the separatist cause. The have a vested interest in embarrassing not just the government, but Canada as a whole.

    It would be a simple matter for the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP to negotiate the composition of a small committee that doesn't include the Bloc. The Bloc would undoubtedly protest, but they can suck it up. A party dedicated to breaking up Canada can't be trusted to keep sensitive national security information secret.

  2. Tell me CR, how does the viewing of documents that may indicate the government possibly broke international law aid in Quebec independence or secession efforts?

  3. As an addendum, quite frankly, if such documents exist, I don't care which party is the one who reveals it, or if it embarrasses Canada or the Conservative government. If such international law violations took place under this government's watch, "embarrassment" will be the least of its worries.

  4. The Bloc will no doubt try to claim that the current government broke int'l law, and so did the preceding Liberal government that enacted the transfer agreement. They would love the chance to accuse the two major federalist parties of "War Crimes" in the next election campaign, which they would turn into persuasive argument to vote for the Bloc. They're very, very good at doing stuff like this.

  5. There's lot of other people besides the BQ who might make that claim CR (and already have), and other parties who might say the same thing. I reject your thesis they would use this to somehow advance separatism.

    Besides, The BQ is not a criminal outfit – they are democratically elected representatives sitting in Canada's Parliament. They are the 3rd largest party – larger then the NDP. They have as much right to be represented on a committee looking at those documents as the other opposition parties.

  6. Wow, I don't know what to make of such a response.

  7. The Bloc isn't a party of idiots. If they did what you're suggesting it would set back the cause of sovereignty for a generation. They would show themselvest o be totally untrustworthy and Quebeckers would recoil from them horror. Which is why they'd never do what you're suggesting.

    The Bloc, whether you like them or not, ain't stupid. They've shown time and time again that they understand these dynamics. They're putting themselves forward as those who would govern an independent Quebec*. They can't appear as if they're willing to blow up the whole country just to serve their own political agenda. If they do, no one will trust them enough to want them as their national government.

    *[I know "the Bloc" per se wouldn't be governing Quebec, but I think you get my point :)]

  8. I agree with you that the Bloc is democratically legitimate, and normally I'd agree with you that they have a right to be represented on every committee, but I believe that this particular committee is one of those rare exceptions. Unlike MPs from the federalist parties, I don't trust Bloc MPs to look at sensitive national secrets because they don't have Canada's best interests at heart.

  9. Aside from the actual question of detainees, what should be next, but likely won't ever see the light of day because of inevitable bickering over the issue of the day are the questions about process on a go forward basis:

    Who is/should be doing the redacting of documents?
    What criteria are they using to redact?
    What criteria are they using to decide who can and cannot see the unredacted material? (given the release to retired generals and Christie Blatchford and other leaks)
    What should be done to ensure consistency?
    How will we balance adherence to the Official Secrets Act with the need for over sight and accountability?

  10. Even making the unworthy assumption that this is true, if Canada is embarrassed than so be it. As long as nothing directly harmful to military operations is made public, the chips will have to fall where they may.

  11. Hear hear! comes to mind….

  12. I guess one of the main problems with this argument is that it leads quite easily to an attitude of "we have to do whatever we can to hid the misdeeds of Federal governments from the BQ, lest they try to use those misdeeds for political gain". Could this not have been used as an excuse to hide Adscam from the Bloc? Hell, didn't the notion of "we have to treat politics in Quebec differently because of the threat of separatism" lead directly to Adscam? 'Cause I think the federalist parties getting together to potentially hide government malfeasance from the Bloc would be an even BETTER line for them in an election than the malfeasance itself. A BQ election ad of "Look at what we've discovered those unscrupulous Tories and Liberals did in Afghanistan!!!" is a bad. An ad that says "Look at what we've discovered those unscrupulous Tories and Liberals did in Afghanistan, and did we mention that the entire federalist establishment in Ottawa rallied together to try hide it, and to keep us from bringing this information to the attention of the people of Quebec?!?!?" is worse.

    Remember the lessons of history. It's usually the cover-up, not the initial act, that causes the most damaging political fallout. I'd much rather the Bloc were out there complaining about what the Liberals and the Tories actually did, then to have them out there speculating as to what the Liberals and Tories actually did, while complaining that every federalist in Ottawa is conspiring to keep Quebeckers in the dark about it.

  13. Jennings and Easter are exactly the kind of MPs Harper is talking about when the issue of trustworthiness comes up. Jennings was one of the MPs who made a public spectacle out of returning some Conservative documents which they acquired under somewhat mysterious circumstances. The documents were properly boxed and labelled, but she had to make a giant show out of it rather than just quietly returning them.

    Is this the kind of MP we want looking at these documents? I don't think so.

  14. We should keep Albertan MP's from seeing the documents too, since they hate Canada even more than the Bloc does. In fact, Ralph Klein almost committed treason I believe when he was tempted to go over the head of the federal government to denounce the Canadian government's opposition to the Iraq invasion.

    I sure if an Albertan Conservative MP found evidence of Liberal war crimes or whatever in those documents,, they've be leaked immediately. To Ezra Levant, no less.

  15. I agree that the Bloc would make that claim, but this claim could be countered by including lots of Quebec MPs from other parties on the committee. It definitely seems like a "damned if we do, damned if we don't" scenario.

  16. I hope you're right, RayK.

  17. Not with you on this one CR. Either on the assertion that the BQ has demonstrated a lack of responsibility in the past or that they have a different status than other MPs. From friends who live and work in Ottawa, I am told that the BQ is well regarded in an objective sense for the way they behave themselves and that they are regularly the best prepared MPs at committee meetings.

  18. Scott_Tribe, with all due respect, but I sure hope no MPS think like you do, because you are really making Harper's point, that they can't be trusted!

  19. Yes, we'd much rather have the kind of MP's that go to another party's caucus meeting and then loudly start announcing what they heard there.

  20. Really? Does international law and war crimes normally cause you to be mystified?

    Sheesh! What's in the water around here today? First we have "Critical Reasoning" telling us he believes the Bloc are a criminal organization whose crimes would appeal to ostensibly morally-bankrupt QUebecers and now we have this one who seems to think it's probably better if we didn't find out if our government committed war crimes.

  21. If those documents revealed that war crimes were committed, I believe the MP's would be duty-bound to take action.

  22. Do Conservatives have orgasms when they assassinate people's characters?

  23. I agree. If you see those MPs on the national security committee list that Aaron posted please feel free to point them out.

  24. I agree that the Bloc is generally well-regarded, and I'm not suggesting that Bloc MPs are dishonest or irresponsible. It's entirely possible that the Bloc MPs would conduct themselves admirably in this scenario. I'm just worried that the temptation to hurt Canada's reputation by leaking ultra-sensitive national secrets might prove irresistible to someone who has a vested interest in making Canada look bad.

    My mind isn't totally made up on this issue, but I do think it's a legitimate concern.

  25. In Jennings case, when talking about her character, it's not murder its suicide.

  26. All of this, to me, begs the question: why are we nominating candidates for election if they can't get the proper security clearance to see the documents they need to do their jobs?

    Public service employees and government contractors can't be hired unless they have the appropriate clearance. Why should it be any different for MPs?

  27. Ooh and make sure none of those MPs have hot biker chick girlfriends and make sure they won't leave confidential cabinet documents at the girlfriends' houses… gosh, I guess we had better not let any Conservatives see those documents either!

  28. Be sure to include Maxime Bernier, so he could leave some of the documents at his girlfriend's house for a month or two. We can't trust Conservatives with important documents, you know.

  29. "We never found out if the Liberals opened and went through stacks of clearly private documents belonging to the Conservatives. "

    No, you have no evidence that the Liberals looked at the documents. So, what's your point?
    On the other hand we do know that when a Conservative MP was accidently given the password to an NDP conference call he not only used it to listen to the call, but then made the contents of the call public.

  30. My point is that MPs that have a past history of questionable behaviour around private documents that weren't theirs and tried to use them to score cheap political points don't belong on this committee. Ditto for the MP (the name escapes me now) who sat in on the NDP caucus call he was invited to.

    It'll never happen but it would be great if Harper could pick the opposition members of the committee, and the opposition could pick the Conservative members.

  31. The only "questionable behaviour" demonstrated was by whichever Conservatives were responsible for leaving behind those documents. You've merely added to the list of Conservatives' incompetence in safeguarding information.

  32. "Please stop misrepresenting what people are saying,,,"

    Oh, dear. We can't certainly can't have that, can we?

    I stand by what I wrote. In fact, I clarified what you said.

  33. Some genius is going to have to determine the difference between national security which the Opposition members can't blab about, and Conservative Party security which they will have the right and duty to expose. So far the Conservatives have obviously blacked out political security information as well as national security information.

  34. If you are right, then please advise Harper to get out in front of the issue, as he did in the case of the Manley panel. Of course, here he would need to pick MP's rather than independents. Nicholson's stance appears to be the more typical "let's see what the opposition comes up with" and then we will react. Although, his stance is not particularly clear… nor given how this government works is it particularly important.

    It is virtually impossible for the Liberals and NDP to shut out the Bloc, if the Conservatives are not actively working with them. Since the Conservatives are unlikely to work with them on this issue, it may be time for another of Harper's surprises. If his picks are strong enough to pass public and parliamentary approval (and contain enough non-Bloc Quebec representation) then he could have another winner.

  35. Ya know, as much as the claim that the Liberals and Conservatives "committed war crimes" would be spun to make an argument for sovereignty, the claim that "the rest of Canada doesn't want us to even look at documents of national importance" would probably make a stronger one.

  36. However, whether international law violations really took place should be decided by a forum 1) familiar with international law, 2) with access to all the information (including rebuttals) 3) skilled in sifting through masses of information, putting the pieces in context, differentiating between speculation and fact and reconciling contradictory information.

    There are enough documents, that pulled out of context a partisan reporter could supplement any fantasy reality with juicy quotes and excerpts. We don't need for the parliamentary committee to read the reports and then throw them out to the public, we need for them to decide if there are grounds for an inquiry with the skill set above.

  37. As I said above, I'd much rather have the Bloc out there complaining about what the Liberals and the Tories actually did, than have them out there speculating as to what the Liberals and Tories actually did, while simultaneously complaining that every federalist in Ottawa is conspiring to keep Quebeckers in the dark about it.

    I'm also with Scott in being uncomfortable with the notion that the priority should be to keep what our government(s) did quiet, lest we embarrass ourselves and help out the Bloc, as opposed to doing everything we can to determine if our government(s) did things that we should be embarrassed (and possibly ashamed) about.

  38. "We never found out if the Liberals opened and went through stacks of clearly private documents belonging to the Conservatives."

    And you say that as support for your claim that they can't be trusted to keep their mouths shut?

    As the original post makes clear, they have been cleared for similar and more sensitive reviews of this sort before.

    Besides, if the documents are as innocuous as Harper claims (with respect to the issue of torture), I'm really not sure how you could justify excluding them.

  39. First we have "Critical Reasoning" telling us he believes the Bloc are a criminal organization whose crimes would appeal to ostensibly morally-bankrupt Quebecers

    Settle down, Tiggy. You're in a punchy mood today. Please stop misrepresenting what people are saying–it's rude and obnoxious.