In simpler times


A not disinterested observer passed on this QP exchange, from Feb. 6, 2002, yesterday.

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, on January 29 the Prime Minister told the House that Canada had reached an agreement with the United States regarding the transfer and treatment of prisoners captured in Afghanistan that is based on compliance with the Geneva convention. However, if this agreement does exist, it is so vague that the Americans must now provide clarification. Did the Prime Minister, as head of a government, not act imprudently by authorizing the transfer of prisoners without having first received firm assurances from the United States that the Geneva convention would be respected?

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have been in politics for many years and I know that Canada, the United States, Great Britain and all western countries have always respected the Geneva convention. Therefore, it was not imprudent on the part of the government, in the context of our fight against terrorism, to side with a nation that was attacked and not become the defenders of terrorists, as the Bloc Quebecois has.

Years later, it’s difficult to say which part of the answer is more unsettling: Mr. Chretien’s suggestion that the Bloc is sympathetic to terrorism or Mr. Chretien’s assurance that the United States could be counted on to follow the Geneva conventions. The rest of the exchange is here.


In simpler times

  1. Calling them defenders of terrorists is pretty reprehensible and I don't excuse that.

    As for defending the transfer program at the time, don't forget that was before the US had invaded Iraq, before Abu Ghraib, before Guantanamo, before Bush lost the almost unanimous international support after 9/11 and as the Afghanistan war was just underway.

    Even after that, Martin should not have buckled to public pressure and started sending Afghani detainees to Afghani authorities instead of American. It was obvious there was a high degree of risk of human rights abuse.

    Colvin's memos show that. It's just too bad that Martin's weakness coupled with Harper's incompetence and ass-covering priorities have resulted in this mess that Harper has been desperately trying to cover up.

  2. Colvins memos in 2006 were not warnings of abuse,
    they were complaints of process, of advising the Red Cross about handovers.
    Colvin didn't start raising the alarms until AFTER the G&M story,
    and by then the govt was already a couple months into the planning stage of enhanced detainee policy.
    Most of Colvins memos came out in April 2007,
    the improved detainee agreement came out in May 2007…….

  3. I agree with Prime Minister Chretien.

  4. I wonder how much bad press Jean Chretien got for saying that the Bloc were defenders of terrorists. Probably not even a tenth as much as Stephen Harper gets when he does the same thing, or even something less inflammatory. Google news archive shows nothing from Feb 2002 for the usual media suspects.

    This is exactly what I'm talking about when I say you in the media own a large share of responsibility for the state of things in the House today. The groundwork was laid long ago…you all just chose to look the other way, and to this day prefer to affectionately remember Chretien as a "street-fighter" or a "brawler" instead of the vicious nasty partisan that he truly was.

    Perhaps if more media types had made it their personal crusade to drag the name of our partisan Prime Minister through the mud like Aaron has decided to do for Harper, instead of allowing statements like the above to fester unchallenged, our discourse might be in better shape today.

  5. Wilson are you really Christie Blatchford? Come on, fess up.

  6. I wonder how many times he made the charge?

  7. Unsurprising. The Conservatives have taken it to a deeper, and even worse level, but they learned from the best. No one savaged the Opposition by wrapping themselves in the flag like the Liberals from 1968-2004.

  8. The more you look back the more the news guys in charge look like caricatures of the old guys in charge…

  9. Aaron, you ruined my day. I prefer the rose coloured glasses for my political heroes.
    The petite guy that said no to gwbush regarding the Iraq disaster, succumbed to his baser ward-healing instincts when he said those words. Lucky for us that the good stuff Jean did and said far out-weighed the bad stuff.

    A similar reckoning for the Harper regime will be very lopsided the other way, especially in the matter of smearing your enemies as traitors.

  10. Well well! How about that? Seems Conservatives aren't the only ones ready to hop into that particular sewer pipe from which governments of the day shout "traitor" at anyone who questions the mission in Afghanistan.

    If no one else is going to, I will say it: Liberal / Tory same old story.

    Nova Scotians were right last spring when they decided it's time to give the New Democrats their kick at the can.

  11. There is not a word of truth in what you say Wilson. Not a word. He sent 6 memos expressing concern and findings about torture in 2006 alone.

    You have to stop relying on Say Anything Steve's self-protecting spin for your "facts".

  12. Or in front of how many soldiers he made it.

  13. Yes, that is always the most important issue, not whether there was torture or not, not whether the government knew about it or not, not whether it was right or wrong to transfer detainees to Afghanis instead of Americans, but the most important issue as it is on all issues is whether Harper was treated exactly the same as a Liberal, regardless of context or circumstances or contrary examples. At least it is the most important thing always for whiny conservatives.

  14. I'm going to go with a) calling the Bloc terrorist sympathizers.

    Reason: Because that's part of the propaganda campaing that creates the conditions for b) the lack of respect for the Geneva Convention

  15. Chretien's foresight and attitude here both look terrible — inexcusable BS at the time, deeply wrong about US detainee policy in retrospect. So I'm not excusing it when I say that virtually all the MSM (and this in pre-blogosphere days) and almost every politician was screaming hysterically about terrorism in 2002. Harper's rhetoric on this stuff is about 7 years out of date, and it really appeals mainly to people who feel nostalgic for the hysterical screaming.

  16. Chretien really was a disgrace. At the time I'd have given my left arm to see him removed from office. I think I'd still give my left arm to see him exiled.

Sign in to comment.