Michael Ignatieff sends an open letter to the Prime Minister.
Dear Prime Minister:
Your government’s decision to appoint Justice Iacobucci is an overdue admission that action must be taken to get to the bottom of the Afghan detainee scandal.
Justice Iacobucci’s reputation is beyond reproach and his record of public service speaks for itself. The problem lies not with Justice Iacobucci but with the job you have given him to carry out. We do not know what his mandate or deadline will be, and we do not know whether or how he will report to Parliament and the Canadian people.
Further, Justice Iacobucci will not be empowered to do his job adequately, unless the government gives him the mandate to hold a full public inquiry.
The Afghan detainee scandal is about much more than the government’s refusal to hand over to Parliament and the Canadian people the documents they need in order to get to the bottom of this sorry affair. It is about the government’s handling of the detainee issue from the beginning.
That is why on December 1, 2009, the House of Commons called for a full public inquiry, into the transfer of detainees in Canadian custody to Afghan authorities from 2001 to the present, in accordance with Part 1 of the Inquiries Act. Anything less will fail to provide Parliament and Canadians with the answers they are entitled to.
Under the process you have proposed, Justice Iacobucci could review documents provided to him by the government, but he would have no way of getting at the complete picture or even of knowing which documents should be made public.
A public inquiry would give him the power to demand materials from the government, to call witnesses and to subpoena testimony. An inquiry could establish the facts and make recommendations for the future.
Detainee transfer is sure to remain an issue of importance for future Canadian missions overseas, and it is vital that Parliament and Canadians learn from the mistakes of the past in order to prevent them from happening again.
Accordingly, I am writing to urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to appoint a full public inquiry, in accordance with Part 1 of the Inquiries Act, to report to Parliament and Canadians, in a timely manner, on the transfer of detainees in Canadian custody from 2001 to the present.
The reputation of Canada and of our proud serving men and women demands nothing less.
Leader of the Official Opposition