The Commons: Full disclosure -

The Commons: Full disclosure

The government reaffirms its commitment to do something or other


The Scene. In an effort, perhaps, to enliven the proceedings slightly, Michael Ignatieff opened with a minor flourish. Between January 2006 and May 2007, there had been, he said, a “cascade” of reports about torture in Afghan jails. One imagines a great rush of paperwork spilling over the Peace Tower, tourists frolicking in the mess at the bottom as if in a ticker-tape parade.

“It defies belief that this information never reached the Prime Minister,” Mr. Ignatieff ventured of this metaphorical waterfall. “How can anyone believe that the Prime Minister did not himself know about torture in Afghan jails and the risk that detainees transferred there would be tortured? And if that is so, how can he possibly justify his failure to act for those crucial 18 months?”

The Prime Minister stood, adjusted his left cuff and proceeded with a series of shrugs. “Mr. Speaker, once again, everybody knows that there are widespread allegations,” he said. “Taliban make allegations in every case.”

Congratulations to those of you who had “11” in the “How many words will the Prime Minister speak today before referencing the Taliban?” pool.

Mr. Ignatieff sought to get specific. “The question is whether the government will now make available to the parliamentary inquiry the documents that it needs in order to get to the bottom of this affair,” he clarified. “Why is it if the government is so sure that no detainee transferred by Canada was ever abused in an Afghan jail, it will not supply the documentary evidence to prove its case before a parliamentary committee?”

Mr. Harper sought to reassure the Liberal leader. “The fact of the matter is the government has and will continue to make all legally available information available,” he explained.

And in case there was any confusion over the phrase “legally available,” the Prime Minister next clarified himself en français.

“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “the Government will make available all documents.”

With the Prime Minister back in the House, the Defence Minister had been relegated to his seat to this point. But with the Prime Minister having stated something without equivocation, Peter MacKay was apparently compelled here to stand and proclaim a caveat.

“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. MacKay said after Ujjal Dosanjh had finished with the fourth Liberal question, “as the Prime Minister has just said, all documents that are legally required will be disclosed.”

It was unclear to which legal structure the Minister was referring.

Mr. Dosanjh sought specifics. “Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are not just withholding documentary evidence, they also sent a letter from the Justice Department telling 28 public officials to keep quiet or face possible consequences. The only official to defy the threats in that letter was Richard Colvin and he has been publicly smeared by the Conservatives for speaking out,” he explained. “Will the Minister of Justice table this and any other letters sent by his department relating to this issue? Will all of his cabinet colleagues do the same? Will they now produce all their documentary evidence in the House?”

Mr. MacKay took this one too. “Mr. Speaker, again, all documents legally required by the government to be disclosed will be disclosed,” he said. “That is what we have been doing and that is what we will continue to do.”

It was unclear whether this constituted a yes or a no.

Gilles Duceppe next got quite red in the face and rather pointy with his index finger. Then, after a short meditation on poverty, Jack Layton proceeded with the inquiry. “Why,” he wondered, “will the Prime Minister not agree to our call for a public inquiry to get to the bottom of this whole matter?”

The Prime Minister stood to pronounce the matter both closed and open. “Mr. Speaker, of course appropriate action has been taken on all these matters, and in some cases taken years ago,” he said. “Of course, once again, if the NDP and the other opposition parties are at all serious about getting to the truth, they will actually hear from those who want to testify before the parliamentary committee. There are a number. Let them be heard. What is the opposition afraid of, other than the truth?”

This was Mr. Harper’s attempt at a demure reference to David Mulroney, our ambassador in China, who has stated his intention to appear before the special committee on Afghanistan and apparently made—or will be making—the trip across the Pacific. Unfortunately, he’s not yet been actually scheduled by the committee to testify. And the NDP’s Paul Dewar, in all his earnest ambitions, has formally asked that all relevant documents be provided to committee members before Mr. Mulroney is placed before them to testify so that he might more properly be interrogated.

And so it is, apparently, that now everyone can be said to be scared of whatever it is the truth is.

Bob Rae stood last, with a slight smile, and attempted to impose clarity on the matter. “Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. No witness will ever be blocked by the Liberal party or the Liberal caucus with respect to documents. That is not the issue,” he said.

The Conservatives howled.

“At the same time we need the minutes of the cabinet committee leading up to the change in 2007,” he continued. “We need the memos of Richard Colvin and we need the memos of those in response to Richard Colvin. We need the human rights reports of the Department of Foreign Affairs with respect to Afghanistan. I would like to ask the minister this.”

He took aim at Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. “Can he not commit today to doing what his colleague, the Minister of National Defence, said yesterday,” Rae asked, “and commit to releasing those documents to the committee?”

Mr. Cannon stayed seated. On his behalf stood Mr. MacKay, he who had committed to do something or other the day before.

The Minister sought first to repeat his previous assurance. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “as has been stated many times, we will release all documents legally obliged to do so.”

He next flirted with irony. “What is interesting is these qualifications that are now being put in place by members opposite,” he ventured. “These aspersions that are being now cast upon individuals who want to come forward and testify, somehow suggesting that they are partisan.”

And he then finished with reference to Paul Chapin, a former diplomat whose dismissal of Richard Colvin’s testimony Mr. MacKay finds quite reassuring, even if Mr. Chapin is admittedly responsible for the 2005 detainee transfer agreement Mr. MacKay has lamented as both “inadequate” and “failed.”

After another question from Mr. Rae and an allegation from Mr. MacKay that Mr. Rae’s “hot breath” was “dripping with hypocrisy,” this day’s attempt to make sense of it all was done.

The Stats. Afghanistan, 15 questions. The environment, six questions. Election financing, three questions. Poverty, ethics, employment and medical isotopes, two questions each. The Mint, taxation, transport, crime, air travel and diabetes, one question each.

Stephen Harper, nine answers. Peter MacKay, six answers. Jim Prentice and John Baird, four answers each. Diane Finley and Pierre Poilievre, three answers each. Leona Aglukkaq, two answers. Vic Toews, Rob Merrifield, Lisa Raitt, Tony clement, Jim Flaherty, Rob Nicholson and Gary Goodyear, one answer each.


The Commons: Full disclosure

  1. Why did Ignatieff select the date Jan 2006 as his starting point? Oh yes, something about an election perhaps?

    • More likely it was the beginning of the calendar year, as the election wasn' t until the end of the month.

    • Liberals don't control the timeline but want to restrict ANY investigation so only the current government can be blamed.

  2. Way to go Stevie boy : I think he likes it when the heat is turned up in the HOC you get some of his best lines. Poor Iggy he sounds foolish even just reading the exchange I can't wait to catch CPAC! – the thing is gfolks the oppostion leaders seem to miss a very basic trait by Stevie – the guy is a counter puncher they should stop giving him such good setups!

    • Actually, what you really meant to say is this Prime Minister is a partisan cheapshot artist who demeans the very chair he sits in as PM.

      • "There are many PM's rolling in their graves at how low Harper has taken the office of Prime Minister down to."

        Grammar: terrible. Psychic hotline to dead PMs: just silly.

        • Typical con.

          • Typical Liberal : )

          • I think the PM wa sgreat in QP>Iggy, not so much

      • Are you part of the "wafer" chasers?

        • Scott was the very first Liberal blogger to blog about "Wafergate". He's sort of a legend around here.

          • It is sad how some people are filled with hate and can't accept the truth.

            No one is denying torture may have taken place. Some of us expect the opposition to have their evidence in hand before alleging the government, military, civil servants are involved in war crimes and cover ups.

            After months of wafersm body bags, bubble boy H1N1 hysteria stories you think the MSM would stop chasing political Salem Trials.

    • I almost felt sorry for the opposition asking questions and forced to eat their own words.

  3. So… when did Richard Colvin join the Taliban?

    • Spring, 2006…He was recruited by Jack Layton

  4. Afghanistan:

    Methinks it would have been nice to see the Prime Minister rise to the occasion and be a little less partisan today.

    No one there can ever admit they made an error. It seems no one could end up at The Hague over this from either Party so why not disclose?

    It is the lack of a proper review so far … and consideration of this as merely a 'political problem' or a 'political opportunity' and not something that damages Canada … which is frustrating. … ?Canada?

    … And politicians (maybe others in the days to come) hiding behind the rhetoric: 'the brave men and women etc.' … who ARE BOTH brave AND innocent when policies from politicians are flawed.

    It would be nice to see those in the clean soft chairs, enjoying Parliament Hill rations, get sweaty and gritty for a change.

  5. What are the opposition afraid of, other than the TRUTH?There were no papers required to hear Colvins testamony. Everything he said was GOSPEL. We have been hearing about his testamony for over a week straight ,by the circling Liberal media sharks. Lots of names being smeared by his comments. Now one of the people he smeared wants to come forward and set the record straight, and the opposition are going to muzzle him? Guess it's come down to only wittnesses who will comply with the oppositions objective……GUILTY without EVIDENCE…all they want to hear is Colvins hear-say evidence and anything they can muster against the Govt.
    No wonder the Liberals are at 23% and after this in single didgets , along with their coalition buddies.Yes the coalition seems to be alive and well.

    • Um, can you point to the documents in the opposition's or Colvin's possession that the opposition or Colvin are refusing to provide?

      Seems to me that one of the difficult aspects of being a whitleblower is that you are, in fact, a whistleblower.

      Oh, and the fact that Colvin was, in fact, scheduled to attend and didn't bully his way into the committee whenever it suited him, as though he was more important than everyone else.

    • "There were no papers required to hear Colvins testamony"

      CONS keep saying this, but Colvin presented a 69 point affidavit to the MPCC based on the diaries, notebooks and reports he has in his posseesion. It provideds timeline about what he reported, when he reported it and who he reported it to.… if you are at all interested in facts.

      • "if you are at all interested in facts"

        I think you know the answer to that.

        • Now the government is not allowing other papers to be turned over by Colvin that would establish a better picture of what the CONs hope is just a case of Stockholm syndrome in Kabul. Who's hiding from facts now?

  6. Uh, Mr. Colvin did not blow into town one day, call up his buddies, and tell them to get the
    band together so he could come over and jam for a few hours because it would be q-l,dude.

    He was "called" to appear. And principally because gummint lawyers were playing silly buggers
    at an "in channels" investigations.
    Mr. Mulroney should stick to his ginger noodles and await his "call". It will come.

    • Yikes trashing the credentials of a senior civil servant. If Colvin was allowed so should ANYONE who wants to clear his or her name.

      They can always recall them back when the CPC send in those documents.

      • He wasn't "trashing the credentials of a senior civil servant." That is clearly the role of the Harper cabinet.

        Colvin was supplying the testimony that he was subpoenaed to present at the MPCC hearings. Unfortunately he has to date been unable to comply, because the government, which pretends it is cooperating with the MPCC and says it wants a full and fair hearing, has been filing motions to suppress that testimony for months. That's why the Afghanistan Committee called him to appear, to get the evidence on the record. Too bad if that means someone named Mulroney (or someone named Mackay) have to be accountable for their actions. That's what they get paid for.

        • Sadly the Liberals only want to hear from the period the Liberals lost power. They don't want to examine the whole truth.

          You don't get to cherry pick your witnesses.

          The majority controlled comittee Democrats invited Al Gore to testify and blocked the Republican rebuttal witness at the hearings. (Same pattern from Liberals.)

          The Liberals and NDP are now discrediting the other witnesses and have demanded documents before contradictory opinions can introduced into the public domain.

          Who is now muzzling the experts and senior people on the ground?

          • It would appear that there were mistakes made re. Afghanistan detainees by the previous government. Unfortunately for all Canadians including senseless above, the CONs are the government now and have been since 2006. The questions centre mostly on what did the government know and what did the government willingly share before finally changing the policy that they so artfully and belligerently defended for 15 or so months.
            When Harper starts using the 'Taliban defence' then I think people should be looking under a lot of rocks.

          • Revisionist History attempt.

            Omar Khadr captured in 2002 CPC took over file in 2006.

            Nato mission 2002-2006, CPC took over file in 2006.

            Both cases Liberals have four years to fix or correct problems. In the words of MI. "We did not get it done".

  7. Guess Stephen ran out of photo opts…had to do his job today…may want to stick to the photo opts in the future

  8. I can't wait for the redistricting so we can get more a-holes in one room!

  9. The Libs continue to be in dissaray. They can't get their narrative together. If they think they can go on a fishing expedition asking for documents it ain't going to happen. Mulroney is back from China, call him and see what he has to say. If necessary they can call him back again. However, the ball is now in the Conservative court because they have made the Libs look partisan and petty. The Libs can't help shooting themselves in the feet.

    • Sure, sure hollinm, so if they "made the Libs look partisan and petty" how come:

      "Canadians not buying government denial of claims Afghan detainees tortured: Poll
      OTTAWA — Canadians aren't buying the Harper government's assertion that there's no credible evidence Afghan detainees were tortured, a new poll suggests.

      Indeed, The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicates Canadians are twice as likely to believe whistleblower Richard Colvin's claim that all prisoners handed over by Canadian soldiers to Afghan authorities were likely abused and that government officials were well aware of the problem."

    • The pattern of the Liberals, NDP, Bloc looking petty are not the fault of the government. The smear brigade over the detainee policy failed in 2007 to stick. The H1N1 smear failed miserably. They can't find another "wafer" story to fabricate for next week so they had to recycle an old issue. The economy, dollar, stock market won't cooperate to smear the government.

      The problem with the Liberals is noted below.

  10. What, no questions on H1N1? Is the pandemic already over? Good grief, could there be any more reason not to pay attention to the daily shrill session we call Question Period?

    For that matter Wherry, you seemed awfully insistent last week about the comparison of Canadian vaccinations versus other jurisdictions. Surely, you haven't given up after so soon?

    Now the opposition is on to more important and relevant matters. What did the government know about the prisoner transfer process set up by the previous government? Our inability to verify potential abuses ended more than 2 yrs ago with a new prisoner transfer agreement. I'm pretty sure that the Taliban has moved on and so to has the Karzai government , who seem not to be bothered much by all this.

    As much I don't like the idea of any sort of torture allegations in the same sentence as Canadian forces, let's keep in mind that this is in no way similar to the Somalia story. The public inquiry into that much more serious affair was subsequently shut down by the Lib government and the airborne regiment disbanded in a stunning display of overreaction.

    Is this seriously the route that the opposition wants to take on this largely defunct matter…that has been corrected…and which did not involve any corruption on the part of Canadian forces?

    • If they can smear the current gov't, why not? Note on how they are now screaming in 2009 after H1N1 and the economy could not be used. In 2007 it was raised and dealt with and two years later the allegations have become explosive from events in 2002-2006 ?

      The Liberals are demanding the investigation only report details after they left office and want to prevent the most senior Civil servant from testifying until they get their "talking points" in order from the friends in the Press and NGO's.

    • Harper makes like Cheney, shoots accountability and responsibility in the face…

      • than why are the opposition terrified to remove their confidence in the HOC?

        The only party according to every "official" Public Poll since 2000 have lost support holding at 23%……..hmmmmmm

        Look up Trust Index Nik Nanos Poll Sept 1, 2009 and compare the "other" parties.

        If you are going to talk Disney trash at least have some FACTS to back it up.

  11. Not sure why you are spending so much time speaking of the Liberals and the torture case ….. Deware and the NDP have been the front runners in this matter, with Iggy & Rae adopting their points.