The Commons: Adjust your cuffs and carry on -

The Commons: Adjust your cuffs and carry on

Questions of mandates, trust and rendition


harper houseThe Scene. “Mr. Speaker,” the Liberal leader began, “every day there are new allegations about Afghan detainees.”

The Conservatives across the way groaned and moaned their agreement.

“Recently we have seen reports about the role of CSIS in interrogation and detainee transfers. These are disturbing reports but the government keeps holding back the truth,” Mr. Ignatieff continued. “It has now appointed Justice Iacobucci, for whom we have great respect—”

The Conservatives cheered, perhaps prematurely.

“We share those sentiments entirely,” Mr. Ignatieff continued pointing his left index finger slightly, “but if he does not have the power, if he does not have the authority, if he only sees what the government wants him to see, how can he get at the truth? Why will the Prime Minister not do the right thing and appoint a full public inquiry?”

This question would go unacknowledged as the Prime Minister stood, adjusted his left cuff, and ventured his own version of events.

“Mr. Speaker, the party opposite has suggested I think unfairly and without really any evidence that somehow public servants are withholding documents they are not supposed to withhold under the law and public servants are charged with reviewing all documents,” he explained. “However to provide further assurance we have asked Justice Iacobucci to review all of these documents and he will give us his report.”

Mr. Ignatieff was unpersuaded. “Mr. Speaker, the government’s record on this lacks all credibility,” he posited. “It shut the House down to avoid questions on this subject.”

The Conservatives across the way guffawed—mocking the suggestion, celebrating their tactical brilliance or lamenting that it hasn’t seemed to resolve their predicament, it was unclear.

“It has withheld uncensored evidence from Parliament,” the leader of the opposition continued, wagging his left fist in the Prime Minister’s general direction. “Now it has asked the justice to decide what evidence Parliament should and should not see, but how can he do his job properly? We have not even seen the mandate. We have not even seen his authority. Why not give Canadians the truth? Why not appoint a full public inquiry to get to the bottom of this sorry affair?”

Mr. Harper stood, adjusted both his right and left cuffs, and quibbled with the Liberal leader’s choice of adjective. “Mr. Speaker, I reject the categorization,” the Prime Minister lamented. “I think the Canadian Forces and Canadian diplomats have performed admirably throughout the Afghan mission. To be very clear, Justice Iacobucci will have access to all documents and he will give us a public report.”

En francais, Mr. Ignatieff suggested Mr. Harper was now hiding behind both the troops and Mr. Iacobucci.

And with that allegation on record, it was Ujjal Dosanjh’s turn to raise the rhetorical stakes. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “the CBC and the Canadian Press—”

“Woah!” sang the Conservatives.

“—have both reported that the government ordered the transfer of detainees to the notorious Afghan NDS for the purposes of extracting additional information. We are not questioning the actions of our troops as the Prime Minister continues to say, we are questioning the actions of the government,” Mr. Dosanjh attempted to clarify for perhaps the thousandth time. “Did the government conduct a deliberate policy of rendition, the outsourcing of interrogation and torture of Afghan detainees for extracting additional information?”

The Prime Minister stood, folded his hands in front of him, and made every attempt to sound reassuring while not quite directly responding to the question at hand. “Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows all transfers up to 2007 took place under agreements signed during the period of the previous government and since 2007 there has been a new transfer agreement in place,” he said, “and of course, Canada at all times respects its international obligations.”

Mr. Dosanjh returned to his feet and first clarified for the Prime Minister’s benefit what exactly he had just asked him. “Mr. Speaker, my question is, did this government conduct the policy of rendition?”

Then it was back to the questions Mr. Ignatieff had tabled. “Each week media are reporting more troubling information. None of this information so far has helped the government’s claims,” Mr. Dosanjh reviewed. “Allegations as serious as rendition require more than just a vetting of the documents. They require a full and transparent public inquiry to look at all the facts. Will the government do the right thing and call a public inquiry?”

Mr. Harper stood, adjusted his tie, and tried once more to shoo this fly from his vicinity. “Once again, Mr. Speaker, Justice Iacobucci will have access to all documents that have been looked at by public servants. He will review them and he will give a public report,” the Prime Minister restated. “I hope if the honourable member does not trust the government, does not trust the Canadian Forces, does not trust the foreign service, does not trust anybody else, at least maybe he can trust Justice Iacobucci to review the matter.”

And so we are all apparently agreed that Justice Iacobucci is worthy of respect and trust. Now if only he could be asked to reverse time and single-handedly extract the country from this mess.

The Stats. Equality, 11 questions. Afghanistan, seven questions. Rights & Democracy, four questions. Foreign aid, three questions. Government spending, employment and aboriginals, two questions each. Firearms, seniors, taxation, the public service, national security, forestry and the seal hunt, one question each.

Stephen Harper, 10 answers. Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Lawrence Cannon and Jason Kenney, four answers each. Bev Oda and Diane Finley, three answers each. John Baird and Vic Toews, two answers each. Helena Guergis, Stockwell Day, Chuck Strahl, Denis Lebel, Leona Aglukkaq and Gail Shea, one answer each.


The Commons: Adjust your cuffs and carry on

  1. You know, it's funny how Wherry mocks everything that the Conservatives say, but seems completely infatuated with everything Iggy and co. utter.

    • Quit whining.

  2. I know! It's almost as if there were some grand conspiracy underway where Parliament was set out in such a way that the government might occasionally come off as fallible and the opposition, as they cannot be setting policy for obvious reasons, as blameless!

    • No kidding. Or how it's only the government that makes comments worthy of sarcasm and derision, while the perfectly eloquent and serious opposition is completely infallible and immune from any satire in the slightest. Imagine that.

      But I'm glad you at least conceded a difference in the coverage that the two sides get. Again, many of my opponents help make my points for me. Thanks.

      I know, thumbs down. Booo! Say the leftists! Probably on taxpayer dime, too. lol

      • Yup, as usual, Cons playing the victim card. Doesn't look very impressive making yourselves the victims all the time.

        Want some cheese with the whine?

  3. Way to go Harper .. I love the way he plays whackamole with the opposition .. he reminds me of chretien only you can understand what he says. the mention trust 3 times on the response is brilliant!

    • You may not have been able to understand Chretien, but at least he had something to say.

      • Really? Like what?

  4. Wherry's a one trick pony…

  5. Parliament has a right to the uncensored documents. Period.Everything else is RAGGING THE PUCK. Parliament has a right to uncensored documents. PERIOD.

    • Wow, you'd make a better dictator than Harper probably is in your own mind.

      • How is having federally elected representatives power paramount to unelected officials dictatorial?

    • How do we then investigate and prosecute the MP or his-her staff for the inevitable leaks to the press?

      I agree there's got to be SOME way for the accountability to be there. I just don't see how national security gets protected when several hundred MPs get their grubby paws on the info just because they voted themselves the privilege.

      • Don't be deliberately obtuse. No one's suggesting all the mps get to see all the documents. It wouldn't be pracitical in any event.

  6. Not when security is an issue.

  7. “I hope if the honourable member does not trust the government, does not trust the Canadian Forces, does not trust the foreign service, does not trust anybody else, at least maybe he can trust Justice Iacobucci to review the matter.”

    Without Parliamentary immunity, how will Iffy fight those talking points on the election trail?

    • all about talking points, nothing to do with good governance and respect for taxpayers eh wilson?

  8. Is this then a game? Torture, war, canadian and Afghan lives … all reduced to some game of talking points on the election trail?

  9. Harper's security?

  10. Yes, even when security is an issue, Parliament remains supreme. Weird, eh?

  11. No matter how hard I squint, I'm not seeing any PM wanting that to be an issue in play during an election campaign.

    • Do you remember the Libs using Harper's suspicion of the judiciary and the civil service against him during the 2006 election?
      Pundents said it lost him his majority.

      Read that passage again
      Iffy doesn't trust the government, Cdn forces, foriegn services, and doesn't trust Justice Iacobucci

      • Just because Harper SAYS it doesn't mean anyone believes it

  12. wanna bet?

  13. I still don't get this. If Parliament voted to hand over secret documents to Cuba, would the government be obligated to do so? My guess is that it could give the opposition the finger, rightly so, and Canadians would approve mightily. Just sayin.

    • Yes. It would be obligated to do so. If the PM felt strongly enough that they shouldn't he could call an election.

      • Exactly. Otherwise, this whole democracy thing wouldn't work.

    • Sorry Dennis F, what a dumb thing to say.

    • It's actually easy to get, Dennis. Parliament IS the supreme law of the land. Not even the whole Supreme Court, much less one retired justice, could overturn one of its decisions. A government can chose to ignore Parliament, but would face a vote of non-confidence at the discretion of the opposition.

      Good luck to Harper if he wants to fight an election on this platform.

      • It is not true that Parliament IS the surpreme law of the land. Parliament is also bound by the Canadian constitution.

        Remember the SSM thingy? Chretien's government sent an inquiry to the Supreme court first to ask for an opinion. Parliament can be ruled out of order if it does not comply with constitutional rules.

        The judicial and legislative branches are separate branches, and then their is the executive branch. Think about it for a while. I know it is complex, but what did you think – this issue would be simple?

        • Being bound by the constitution confers no special privilege to the executive branch. That's what this arguement is about. Asking to see whatever docs it so wishes is not in anyway unconstitutional.

        • Of course, of course. Now, which section of the Constitution acts makes a government NOT accountable to Parliament?

  14. Well at least Harper is on record as saying the judge will see all the documents…at least the ones seen by public servants. I don't suppose that's a qualifier. Curiouser and curiouser.

    • And you still trust his word? Remember the fixed election law which was even passed by Parliament?

      • I certainly don't rust him. But at least he's on record.

        • There's a striking difference between what Harper has on record and Harper's record.

    • What do you mean "at least the [documents] seen by public servants." There are no other documents.

      • Oops…my bad. I was searching for the weasel words, a little too hard i guess.

  15. "Me, pepper, I put it on my chicken."

    Nuf said. But, just in case;

    "Deficit reduction is not an end in itself. It is the means to an end, … Canadians must now decide what kind of country they want to build with the hard-won dividend."

    • Clearly these statements should be inscribed on a granite monument so that our descendants, a thousand years hence, can benefit from their timeless wisdom.

      • Now ,now CR, that's a pretty high bar there. Has anyone, ever, said anything ever, [ asuming in parliament] that will need to be read a thousand years from now?

        • Well, lots of people have said stuff that should be read a thousand years from now, but i'm not sure one could find anything in Hansard that deserves to be memorialized in this way. ;-)

          • Fuddle duddle.

          • Da proof is da proof

        • "The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation." – Pierre Elliott Trudeau

          Timeless wisdom.

          • He only said that because he was in most of those bedrooms.

      • Considering we are spending our way out of deficit, the second quote could be relevant to those who promise us mountains and deliver us bogs.

        Defeating Conservative waste is going to be an incredibly tough job- one our government is not equipped to address.

    • That first one is supposed to be one to strengthen my case, right? Right? Because that's exactly what I was thinking when I first replied to you. Shrugging shoulders and gobbledygook, for the most part.

      • The first one is on par with everything every minister in this current government has said. Take an issue and spin it into something different.

        At least Chretien made himself the punchline. One cannot help but cry at the current bunch in government…

  16. I have trouble believing we didn't have a policy of deliberate handing over of detainees for the purposes of torture when Harper responds in such an equivocal and uninformative manner. If it was untrue, why not simply say so?

    The more we hear about this, the more disturbing it gets. The Commons, or at least a small committee including members of all parties, needs to see all the documents. Any student of history knows that national security has been invoked many, many times for the sole purpose of preventing a government from losing face.

    • Yup, truly disturbing. Harper is increasingly looking like he seriously has something to hide!

  17. Public servants are allowed to see the documents, but the member of parliament I elected isn't. I thought parliament was accountable to the people?

    • That's a wild thought isn't it? Unless these PS have some sort of stratospheric security clearance. i'm dumbfounded that Harper hasn't invited the opposition leaders [ at least the leader of the opposition] to view the docs. This could have been dealt with a long time ago.

      • Of course he could have invited opposition leaders and other Parliamentarians. This information is not cabinet confidences, it is administratively classified material that can be unclassified whenever and however a government chooses to do so.

        In this case, since it is Parliament doing the asking, the government has no choice but to hand the information over. MPs on the receiving end will need to ensure, with the cooperation of the government, the non-disclosure of any information they receive that they feel should not be disclosed.

        All the legal instruments needed to do this exist. If The Honourable Frank Iacobucci is on top of his game, I should imagine that he should be able to tell the PM sometime next week that that is what has to happen. It's not that complicated.

        • You seriously think that the Opps wouldn't leak every document to the CBC?

          • So you're suggesting that only CONS can see the documents. Even those who leave documents at their girlfriend's house?

        • what's to stop Iacobucci recommending that parliament sees the documents? I imagine he's wary of becoming a political dupe.

          • Let's hope so.

        • Is Iggy a member of the Privy Council? How about Iacobucci? Don't they have rules on Confidentail files?
          I think this fishing exercises could have unintended consequences.

  18. At the end of QP, CPAC showed Mr. Harper walking across the aisle. Did he go to see Mr. Ignatieff? Any idea what that would be about? Just wondering.

    • MPs are supposed to bow, or at least nod, toward the speaker when crossing in front of the chair if the House is in session – I noticed Harper acted as if that rule didn't apply to him in the clip you mentioned. A telling scene.

    • I think he saw his own shadow and was heading back to his hole…

      • That's an intelligent reply!

    • Just a stretch here – Stephane Dion's mother just died so perhaps Harper was expressing his condolences.

      • Perhaps that's correct. Many people have said (even Warren Kinsella) that Mr. Harper is very sympathetic to a family loss. MP Leblanc appreciated that Mr. Harper attended his father's funeral. The PM was made to suffer for that, however. One thing Canada has is a classy media!!! (Sarcasm off.)

  19. Often MPs don't do that.

    • How times have changed – for the worse!

  20. The Liberal cause celebre hinges on slamming our troops as war criminals, and raising the stature of captured terrorist monsters as poor victims worthy of our every waking concern.

    My goodness.

    In other news, 500 mostly women and children were slaughtered by muslims in continental Africa. As there is no way these poor innocents cannot be leveraged for political gain,

    Liberals have decided to stick to raising the plight of Islamic terrorist monsters.

    • Biff, your lame arguments are getting so tiring. Enough already! You and your PM still seem to think Canadians are as uneducated and ill-informed as many of the Conservative MP ranks.

    • Got it. Liberals hate our troops and support Islamic terrorism.

      You know, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

      • Of course they don't "hate" our troops,

        but they're more than willing to throw them under the bus to score cheap politcal points, and they're more than willing to attempt to place the Taliban monsters up there with newborn babies, as a group deserving of our utmost concern for,

        desperate as they are to gain their rightful place as the "natural governing party."

        While tut tutting from the leftist media elite, suggests the Liberals are on the right track, the average Canadian likely doesn't think too much the highest of high protective pedestal the Liberals have placed these monsters, nor the lowest of low gutters they're willing to place our troops.

        We shall see in the next election, I guess.

        • I love the swooping, soaring rhetoric you employ…although sometimes it leaves me feeling a little dizzy…how bout you?

        • And there can be no doubt about the desperation.

          The party was convinced of its rightful ruling place for decades, and Iggy its leader surely did not leave his vaunted Harvard Ivory academic tower to languish in opposition, in lesser Canada,

          going from high minded lectures at adoring impressionable students, to following headlines and chirping political insults from the sidelines without a scentilla of policy direction or purpose.

          "Just one scandal away" they're thinking to themselves, as they gin up every issue to come along.

          Poor Iggy, from Harvard elite, to political chicken little.

          • well said Biff – If Iggy were actually serious and was genuine he would try to bring down the gov't and run an election on the care and feeding of the detainees! anything else is poltical cowardice and hypocrisy as it is he will stand in the HOC and rend his garments, ashen his hair and cry ululululu at harper but if a confidence motion pops up he will prorogue his MP's and make sure not enough show up to actually VOTE against them.

      • Give Biff some time…it will, it will.

  21. The proof, as it were, is in the pudding. And so far we've seen no proof of anything. Just your typical undermining the mission, undermining the moral imperative of defeating the gender apartheidists and terrorists, undermining the outrage we should instead place at the feet of the barbaric butchers in Afghanistan whom have the audacity to demand that women act as plants, and then turn and sob when they are roughed up in detention.

    The moral bankruptcy of the left has shot past Barack Obama and is in hock to China.

    • I love it when government supporters applaud every refusal to release information on a matter and then summarily declare the matter dead because no evidence has been produced.

      • Who said I'm a government supporter? I'm a supporter of the mission in Afghanistan. Just imagine what could have been accomplished if the people of Canada were as outraged about acid attacks on women as they are about whether the acid throwers didn't get a proper bed and breakfast in lockup.

        • Imagine what could have been accomplished. Well said.

          I had hoped too that the international effort in Afghanistan would have been able to bare fruits, but alas, if our western democracy no longer understands the difference between the Taliban regimes and our own, then we have no hope in hell of helping any one in the Middle East.

          You know, a lot of people seem to think that incidents in war can be theoretically solved at all times, but being on the ground asks for many, many practical solutions. Don't think for one minute that such war efforts in Afghanistan can operate under perfect conditions. They cannot. For those believing that things can be perfect means they haven't really participated fully in life yet!

          Why, most adults aren't fully capable of solving their own daily problems, and here the common man must offer advise about men operating in war? I couldn't imagine that.

        • Just imagine what could have been accomplished…

          Not sure what you are getting at…can you elaborate?

          • Getting at the fact that this whole "detainee affair" is a sopping wet farce. If these people were around in 1939 we would have been speaking Aryan now.

          • In general terms, would you say that the Allies in WWII treated detainees better, the same or worse than ISAF has treated Afghan detainees?

          • No we would not be speaking Aryan. The term does not apply to the modern Germanic language. To suggest those who do not wish to see our gov't engage in torture are somehow analogous to wartime defeatists is ludicrous.Pretty ironic for someone who likes to point out we shouldn't smear others without evidence.

    • yah, it's hard to know which is worse for our troops,
      when the Liberals are in power starving them, or out of power demoralizing them……..

      • i guess Mulroney was a liberal by your lights.

        Fun fact. By the end of his term in office Trudeau's spending on the military [ as a percentage of gnp] was/is considerally higher than Harpers. But then he's starting to cut the military spending now…you gonna end up hating him too?

    • 'The proof, as it were, is in the pudding. And so far we've seen no proof of anything"

      How mindbogglingly stupid is that statement, when you consider the 'proof",or not as the case may be, lies in those unredacted documents?

    • We're propping up a corrupt and misongynist government in

      Women in Afghanistan have been thrown under the bus by the Karzai government and our government is turning a blind eye to it. So, please, no pretending to care about the women b..s.

      • The argument about WW2 strikes me as profoundly stupid, as well as the one about "what could have been accomplished". POWs captured by the Allies were not in general subject to torture; for many German soldiers, being captured meaned having a break from the war.

        As for the second argument, I don't see any link between asking for respect for the law and canadian accomplishments in Afghanistan. We're not there, so whatever we speak of in here has little impact on the ground. Moreover, looking down on basic standards of detainment is not the smartest way to gather sympathy for ourselves.

  22. But what about the Cubans??

    • Onto mocking their plight?

      Then again, Che t-shirts are "chic" to the left.

      As long as the murder, torture and mass killings are the politically correct kind, I guess.

  23. Well, you all thought that the Conservatives had "something to hide" since 2006. Specifically, that whole "hidden agenda". And how did that work out for you?

    • Since 2003 Adrian, since Harper was 'elected' leader of the CPC.

    • Ask Gerry Ritz.

  24. No them biff, you. I'm mocking you.

  25. L'etat ce n'est pas M. Trudeau, apparently.

  26. This whole issue is about something very simple and very important. Did the government of Canada either through carelessness or deliberate intent, hand prisoners of war over to be tortured by another authority? There is a clear answer to this question contained in the documentary evidence and the government is attempting to stonewall efforts to see those documents. There are international laws and treaties to which Canada is a signatory that forbid certain kinds of treatment of prisoners. I was born in the middle of world war II and as a kid even I knew that there were laws around how you treat prisoners. The question I want answered is, has Canada broken international law? It's nothing to do with how much I really, really hate the Taliban, so stop all this rubbish going on here … and answer the damn question!

    • Ah there's the rub. Whole careers and political movements may stand or fall on the answer to that question, hence the difficulty.

  27. …sigh…trust.

  28. Oh the tired repetitiveness of the PMO talking points – and the trolls that deliver them…
    No – the troops are not being accused of being war criminals. If their leaders -political top brass – order them to do something – they are between a brick and a hard place – mutiny or risk being a war criminal…
    What Harper is conveniently ignoring is – the Judge Advocate General – the military's top lawyer – is now being quoted as advising his chain of command back in 2006 that they were at risk of being in breach of the Geneva Convention…AND THEY APPEAR TO HAVE IGNORED HIS ADVICE – let alone that of Richard Colvin.

  29. Conclusion most reasonable folks i.e. the average Canadian voter – will eventually arrive at is – the Harper government – and apparently top military brass – possibly including Rick Hillier – went ahead with this policy of sending ANY Afghani they captured – in whatever circumstances (remember the two in question were simply driving along a road) to the Afghani Secuirty group – who were known – by numerous sources – to use torture on close to 100% of their captives… 1) could the military conclude that all of these were Taliban. Basically, the purpose of the torture was to get them to admit that – and frankly – I suspect most would admit to anything just to stop the torture… and we are supposed to be their to bring democracy and civilization to this nation….Ha!

  30. The party in power today in Canada is not the Conservative party, but CRAP. And that is exactly what Canadians are getting from the decisions being made by Mr. Harper. Isn't it time to flush the toilet and send the CRAP down the drain? The stench is becoming unbearable.

    This applies to so many recent Government topics (Rights and Democracy, Omar Khadr, The Throne Speech, etc.), I could just copy and paste all day.