Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s exchange with reporters after Question Period today.
Question: What should happen to Colvin now that you think he’s not credible? What are you going to do about him?
Hon. Peter MacKay: Well, what we’re going to do is continue to do what we’ve done since arriving in Afghanistan. We’re going to build in their own capacity, particularly in their justice system –
Question: You haven’t answered the question.
Hon. Peter MacKay: — particularly when it comes to things like investing in their prisons, their capacity to deal with prisoners, issues related to the justice system.
Question: What are you going to do about Mr. Colvin?
Hon. Peter MacKay: Mr. Colvin doesn’t work for me. Mr. Colvin is a member of the public service. Mr. Colvin is a member of the public service who has a job in Washington and as far as I’m concerned his job is there for him.
Question: (Inaudible) intelligence officer in Afghanistan is not credible, how can what he’s saying as intelligence officer in Washington be credible?
Hon. Peter MacKay: His evidence yesterday in my view was not credible.
Question:So what (inaudible).
Hon. Peter MacKay: His statements – if I could finish, his statements that he made yesterday do not stand up to scrutiny. When pressed on the important issues of what was the source of his information, all he could tell us – and he was asked a number of times and given opportunities to clarify – all he could tell us was it came from second, sometimes thirdhand information. It came from reports that he had read. It came from a Taliban himself who, I note were not even Taliban that he could say were transferred from Canadian prisoners – or from Canadian Forces. So what we’re talking about here is not only hearsay, we’re talking about basing much of his evidence on what the Taliban have been specifically instructed to lie about if captured.
Question: Why was this man promoted to an important job in Washington and charged with intelligence if he has no credibility?
Hon. Peter MacKay: Look, I can’t answer that question and I suspect that promotion took place or it did take place long before he gave his evidence yesterday.
Question: You talk about evidence, you talk about evidence, he has to have firsthand evidence but the police and the courts don’t see a murder happen. They take it from the evidence that they see. He saw what he said were people in handcuffs, what he believed to be issues of torture on prisoners.
Hon. Peter MacKay: Listen, I’ve been in a few court trials myself. I’ve dealt with a lot of police in my career as a crown prosecutor. The facts as they are initially presented, reports that first come up have to stand the crucible of testimony and cross examination. Yesterday, Mr. Colvin told us that his evidence was based on what the Taliban told him, what reports he’d read and what was second and thirdhand information. He also confirmed that the individuals that he talked to, including the one that you’re referring to that showed marks wasn’t even necessarily somebody transferred by Canadian soldiers so therefore his entire testimony is suspect. It’s not acceptable.
Question: (Inaudible) Arar’s injuries also reported to Canada as secondhand information and we believed Mr. Arar when he came home that he was tortured.
Hon. Peter MacKay: Well, look, what I can tell you is what I heard yesterday doesn’t stand the test of cross examination, doesn’t stand the test of credibility. When pushed on how he drew these conclusions, do you remember him saying every single Taliban prisoner was tortured? Every – do you remember him saying that innocent people were rounded up by Canadian Forces? Based on what? Something somebody else had told him.
Question: And you don’t think any innocent person was ever rounded up by the Canadian Forces and transferred to prison?
Hon. Peter MacKay: Look, we’re talking about specific information that makes explosive allegations about the behaviour of the Canadian Forces and the behaviour of our officials on the ground in Afghanistan. Two and a half years ago – two and a half years ago based on what we felt was credible, and it came from a number of sources, we began to invest in their prison system, in their justice system, in their policing. We started to invest in training. We started to invest in all sorts of human rights concerns that were being expressed. We continue to do so today. $132 million have been sent in that regard. They’re much better off today as a result of the efforts of Canadians, of soldiers, diplomats, aid workers who continue to do that work.
Question: You said that a number of those changes were – in the House you said a number of those changes were based on the reports of Mr. Colvin and other officials.
Hon. Peter MacKay: Correct.
Question: So it was credible, it was fine then but it’s not now?
Hon. Peter MacKay: Because there were a number of other sources. Because it was credible. Because of the concerns that had been expressed, we started to invest in the system. What don’t you follow?
Question: Is he rogue? What happened to him?
Hon. Peter MacKay: Look, I’m not commenting on him as an individual. I’m commenting on his testimony yesterday which I find not credible.
(Several questions at once.)
Hon. Peter MacKay: Pardon me?
Hon. Peter MacKay: He said he did not see these reports.