What was known - Macleans.ca

What was known


The Torch unearths and translates an April 2007 story from La Presse.

Canadian diplomats stationed in Kabul warned the former Liberal government in 2003, 2004 and 2005 that torture was commonplace in Afghan prisons. In spite of these warnings, the Martin government signed an agreement with the Karzai government in December 2005 to hand over all Canadian-captured prisoners to Afghan authorities, Foreign Affairs documents obtained by La Presse reveal.

From 2002 to 2005, the Canadian practice regarding Afghan detainees suspected of Taliban ties was to hand them over to US military authorities. Ottawa decided to shift its transfers to Afghan authorities, however, in response to abuse allegations at the Guantánamo Bay internment center and the controversy that erupted over revelations of torture and degradation at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq [“An Afghan ghost of Abu Ghraib?”].

La Presse likens the documents in its possession to annual report disclosed by the Globe two days earlier. The Prime Minister responded to the Globe’s story that afternoon in Question Period. Here is some of that.

Hon. Stéphane Dion (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government was told by its own officials that Afghan detainees face a high risk of torture and extrajudicial executions. However, yesterday the Prime Minister told this House that he had no evidence at all to support these allegations. Why did the Prime Minister hide from Canadians the fact that he had received this damning report?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition should know that annual reports on governance, democratic development and human rights have been prepared by our embassy in Afghanistan since 2002. They document general concerns and the various actions that the government and its officials are taking to deal with those concerns. We have no evidence of the specific allegations that appeared this week in the The Globe and Mail but, obviously, as I have indicated, we take any such allegations seriously. Officials are working with their Afghan counterparts and, I am told, receiving full cooperation in getting facts.

Hon. Stéphane Dion (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.): I have some questions, Mr. Speaker. Who told foreign affairs officials to release only positive sections of this report? Who told them to black out those sections that warned about these potential abuses? Who told officials to deny the very existence of this report on human rights issues in Afghanistan? Was it the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defence or the Prime Minister?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I wondered how long it would be until we got the conspiracy theories going but here is the reality. The Leader of the Opposition, who is a former minister of the Crown, knows the process. The process is very simple. When it comes to access to information, these decisions are made by government lawyers. They do not consult politicians or ministers. They act according to the law and their decisions can always be appealed through the Information Commissioner. I have to note that the previous government received reports since 2002 and some of these problems had no policy on detainees until January 2006.

Hon. Stéphane Dion (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence has repeatedly told this House that the government had no information about any abuse Afghan detainees might have been subjected to. We now have proof that this was not true. The Prime Minister no longer has any choice. Will he finally fire his Minister of National Defence?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, as I have just said and have said on many occasions this week, we have heard these allegations. We always take these allegations seriously. That is not the same thing as assuming that every allegation made by the Taliban is true. We are, however, consulting with our partners in Afghanistan and, so far, we have had full cooperation in finding the facts.

Mr. Michael Ignatieff (Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first, there is no proof that these detainees were Taliban and, second, it is impossible to believe the government did not know. We now have a report by officials warning the Conservative government of torture, abuse and murder in those prisons. After first denying the existence of the report, the document was released with disturbing sentences blacked out. Who among the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs saw the report and, above all, who ordered the cover-up?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I think I have already answered the question on the process. I suppose the deputy leader of the Liberal Party who has not been in government does not understand the access to information process. As the member knows, this is a general report prepared for the last five years on some of the challenges in Afghanistan and some of the actions taken. I want to quote another section of the report which also said: –judges and prosecutors are being trained, more defendants are receiving legal representation, courthouses and prisons are being built or refurbished and the capacity of the permanent justice institutions has been enhanced. We are not under any illusion about the big challenges in Afghanistan but progress is being made.

Mr. Michael Ignatieff (Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence has told us repeatedly that the Afghan commission could deal with this issue, but the commission itself admits that it cannot do so. He has told us that the government had no evidence of abuse, but we now know that he had an internal report confirming such abuse. This is a scary tale of incompetence and deceit. When will the Prime Minister assume his responsibilities and dismiss his disgraced minister?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, military leaders in Afghanistan are constantly in contact with their counterparts and with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. So far, they have not indicated to us that they have encountered these problems. Of course, we made it clear that we are there to help to any extent necessary.

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister said he did not have any evidence to substantiate the allegations that Afghan prisoners have been tortured. The Minister of National Defence told us a number of times that everything was going very well, while the Minister of Foreign Affairs said he had confidence in the Minister of National Defence. This morning we learn that a report prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs confirms that executions and torture are commonplace in Afghanistan. The member for Mississauga—Streetsville, special adviser on the Middle East, suggested in a press release that this was part of Afghan culture. How can the Prime Minister minimize such things and be so irresponsible?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, these reports have been prepared annually since 2002. There are many challenges to governance, democracy building and human rights in Afghanistan. This is a general report that also contains the actions taken by the governments in response to these problems. We will continue to work with our departments and agencies to ensure progress.

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, since April 2006, the Bloc Québécois has asked 36 questions about the fate of the Afghan prisoners. Each time we were told falsehoods—the Red Cross, false; the independent human rights commission, false. Now we are being told about senior officials, but this is being minimized: the report is not important. His so called special adviser on the Middle East says this is part of the culture. Does he realize that the reports from these senior officials are causing Canada to violate the Geneva convention? Does he realize the position the Prime Minister is putting Canada in?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I do not agree that the purpose of this report is to minimize the challenges in Afghanistan. On the contrary, this report admits that there are many challenges to governance, democracy building and human rights. Furthermore, there is a report on the actions taken by the ministers, the departments and the officers in response to these problems, and these efforts continue.


What was known

  1. I sometimes wonder what Stevie boy's last card in this hand is? maybe in QP another liberal demand for a public inquiry and he will stand up and say YES (just like he did with Dion – anyone remember when Dion stood up and asked the question again as if he didn't hear the answer – or maybe he didn't hear it – who knows – funny either way) .. only this time the scope will be a little wider than the lib's anticipate. unless of course – the lib's are bluffing could be after all they could tie up the inquiry by demanding a say on who heads it and then stall forever and a day!

    • Given that the Liberals have called for an investigation looking all the way back to the very beginning of the mission in Afghanistan, how could the scope of an investigation be "a little wider than the lib's anticipate"?

      • The Liberals also released an Afghan detainee "timeline" that curiously omitted the diplomatic warnings Martin received in 2004 and 2005, among other things. I suspect that they're not really interested in this part of the story.

        • Ignatieff is on record as saying the inquiry should look at the detainee timeline going back to 2002.. yet it isnt the Liberals stonewalling Parliament, et al.

        • Ignatieff has been pretty clear that he wants it all out on the table, Crit. He's not afraid of what the evidence will show. It's called being a responsible leader.

          Harper, by contrast, is a self-interested scum bag.

    • Let's assume past Liberal governments were just a culpable in all of this. I have to admit I'm scratching my head as to how this would ultimately benefit the current government.

      Side question: At what point in the tenure of a sitting government does that same government assume responsibility for such things?

      Is Harper's only defence going to be that he was just as corrupt as the Liberals? As I said, I'm honestly confused about any Conservative glee on this front.

      • How can the present government be considered corrupt (for this particular offense) in light of the fact that the Liberals were themselves aware of the problems, and it was the Conservative government that subsequently corrected the prisoner transfer agreement?

        • Yet they fear an inquiry, and are going desperate lengths to avoid turning over relevant documents.

        • If it was that simple, why the stonewalling?

        • I see where you are going wrong, let me help you.

          If we find corruption of the previous Liberal government on this issue, it is completely irrelevant to the finding of corruption of the current Conservative government on this issue. It doesn't cancel out or get subtracted or anything like that. It would appear at this stage (but who can tell because we haven't had an independent body see the documents?) that the previous Liberal government, in spite of earlier warnings of torture, thought (perhaps hoped is a better word) that the Afghanis had improved to the point where torture was not an issue. It seems to me that they wrote an extremely weak agreement but immediately on signing it (in fact it may have been so weak because Hillier had to–come up with and?–sign it himself since we were in an election period) lost the government and had no chance to monitor its effectiveness. As far as we know right now, that was bad on them. They should have done a hell of a lot more than "think" or "hope". They should have ensured there was a tough agreement that allowed for oversight.

          • I don't disagree with you…bad agreement…slow correction.

            Where we part company is that somehow the Conservatives had a deliberate strategy to ignore warnings of abuse. According to what we know of Colvin's reports and his statements, he warned that prisoners could be subject to abuse and there wasn't sufficient follow-up of transfers. Isn't this exactly what the Liberals already knew before they signed the agreement (see above)? I agree it would be nice to have the actual reports to see whether Colvin provided generalities or specifics. But, so far, unless I missed it, he did not provide specifics in his presentation to the committee.

            When specific reports surfaced in the G&M in 2007, the Cons belatedly took action.

          • That seems like a reasonable line.

            Only problem is, it is not what the Conservatives said. They said, quite recently, that there never was any credible evidence of abuse and they never heard any credible evidence of abuse. In fact, at one point, Baird even said in one single QP response that they had never received a single shred of credible evidence but, when they did, they acted!!

            Governments screw up all the time. Canadians understand that there is a war going on and sometimes rough justice may result. It's not Canada in peacetime over there. But if that is the case, why all the attempts to squash any reasonable inquiry by anyone?

            It has been the government's resistance to any accountability by anyone – and the related blatant lies and demonizing – on this file that rankles with Canadians.

          • We do know of specific allegations of specific abuse because of that one soldier's notebook, which was redacted, which when unredacted told of it. What we have no idea about is whether any of the other redacted portions of any documents also provide specifc allegations of specific abuse.

            And seriously, if it were the Liberals in government right now, would you just take their word for it at this point? I mean, here's a smoking gun, but you'll just have to trust me when I say no shots were fired.

        • This would be a good reason for being forthcoming and truthful instead of insisting there was no evidence of torture for almost four years.

          I agree the Liberals should shoulder some of the blame for what happened, because they committed us to the Afghanistan mission without a solid idea of the repercussions, a strategy for adminisitering the civilan-military overlap, or providing effective civilian oversigh. But I don't recall her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition raising any of those issues at the time, or showing any concern for prisoner transfers or torture, so I don't see any evidence of lies and coverup by the Liberals. Perhaps we might have if the Conservatives had done a better job in opposition?

          • Kind of hard to have asked questions since the agreement was signed in Dec 2005 and the Conservatives were elected the following month.

      • "Let's assume past Liberal governments were just a culpable in all of this. I have to admit I'm scratching my head as to how this would ultimately benefit the current government."

        Dude, you spend enough around here to note that the con talking point of choice is generally: "the Liberals did it!!!!"

        • I think people are failing to see how this looks to the mythical objective observer.

          If this plays out the way it's presented here than the take-away story is that the Liberals signed a flawed agreement knowing full well that tortured detainees were a likely result. Then, once they were in opposition, they sat quietly on their hands for a year or so and then started raising a ruckus about those same tortured detainees that they betrayed in the first place. That takes cynicism to a whole new level.

          • lgarvin, respectfully, speaking about mythmaking, that is extremely speculative post.

          • Not speculative at all… The Liberals have been playing shocked and apalled for more than a year, acting the part of the horrified onlooker with each new revelation about the duplicity of the Conservatives. But the facts seem to suggest that the Libs were never once displaying honest concern or surprise, because they knew all along what they only pretended to be just finding out. The entire sequence of events was just an elaborate role-playing exercise because they set the entire situation up in the first place.

            Politicians seem to think that we voters are self-cleaning blank slates who can't put together a sequence of events without their self-serving and highly subjective "timelines" helpfully provided. It looks to me like the Liberals sat quietly on their own evidence for a year or two (letting the odd Afghani get beat senseless by-the-by) because bringing it forward too quickly would not be "good optics" for them.

            Not one Liberal has the decency to stand up on his hind legs and tell the truth "We know the Cons are lying about what they know, because WE were told of torture in Afghan prisons and, to our shame, we did nothing about it."

          • "It looks to me like…"

            like i said, your scenario is speculative. which is not to say it is incorrect.

          • Ah! well… I mistook your meaning and took the opportunity to rant again for a couple paragraphs.

            I think my scenario is better called subjective which I would certainly cop to… that's why I made the comment about the mythical objective observer, I've never met such a beast myself.

  2. The way this sounds, no matter where Canadian troops sent our detainees, no matter when they were transferred, they'd be tortured. Rock, meet hard place.

    Perhaps releasing additional documents – if only to committees – would help. Perhaps not.

    • Well.. yes and no. Remember, the Danish had suggested to us that we build and man our own facilities there. That was also an option on the table, but not one that the politicians wanted to consider at the time.

  3. Ottawa decided to shift its transfers to Afghan authorities, however, in response to abuse allegations at the Guantánamo Bay internment center and the controversy that erupted over revelations of torture and degradation at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq ["An Afghan ghost of Abu Ghraib?"].

    I'm surprised that no journalists have interviewed the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin to discuss the reasoning behind this spectacularly bad decision. (Maybe someone has, but I'm not aware of it).

    • My best guess is that it would have been entirely redacted by government lawyers on the grounds that the decision-making processes are covered by some form of privilege.

      • Some enterprising young journalist could always phone Mr. Martin and set up an interview. Mr. Martin, of course, is free say whatever he wants. I'd be interested to see how he defends this decision. When he made the call in 2005, Mr. Martin was in full election mode, bashing the Americans like no PM before or since. I wonder what role political considerations played in his decision to transfer Canadian detainees to Afghans instead of Americans.

        • Indeed. I wonder what the headline would have been, had our detainees continued to be transferred to the US even in light of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

          • The Americans, to their credit, cleaned up their act after those abuses in Iraq's Abu Ghraib came to light. I'm not aware of any controversy at all surrounding American treatment of Afghan detainees in their facilities in Afghanistan. I don't think anyone would dispute the fact that the American detainee system is much more civilized and humane than Afghan prisons.

          • I do know (or think I know) there were complaints on American detainee abuse in Afghanistan. They had allowed the detainees to be detained by one of the companies, I forget which one now but I don't think it was Haliburton. I believe this was before the Abu Ghraib thing came to light, and it didn't get as much airtime, obviously. But it is all very fuzzy to me now.

          • Obama decided not to release photos of detainee abuse by Americans in Afghanistan, while acknowledging the abuse – maybe his administration even described it as torture.

    • I'm not that sure it was a spectacularly bad decision to make at the time. I'm also not sure they had a choice–i.e., I don't think the Americans were going to take detainees anymore.

    • Spectacularly bad…in hindsight.
      Perhaps Martin felt an agreement that he and Hillier had brokered was less of a risk poltically, even if it was a kind of Hobson's choice…there were at least some possibility of having some imput into an agreement with the Afghan govt…and none whasoever with W. Events may have proved the 05 deal wasn't adequate. But this hardly absolves the Harper govt from their duty to fix things…and not 18months later…presumably they had acess to the same reports as the libs?

  4. What Mr. Harper has been tiptoing around for so long comes to light.
    Even he realized that his friend Dubya's games had repercussions – so he quietly decided to change the rules.
    But now he can't point the finger at the Liberals under Paul Martin – because their rules of engagement for treatment of detainees was based upon the US under Dubya following the Geneva Convention in its own detainee jails…and we all know that under Dubya – "Stuff happened"!

  5. What a surprise! This shouldn't be news to anyone. The Chretien and Martin governments were certainly aware of ongoing abuses in Afghan prisons. Yet the Liberals still approved the prisoner transfer agreement at the end of 2005 to the Afghans, without inclusion of a clause to permit unannounced inspections by Canadian authorities.

    So where does this leave us? The Libs had 3 years of information available to them before the signed a document to transfer detainees to potential abusers. The Cons had little more than one year of complying with this agreement before they modified it.

    The Liberal squawking about war crimes and cover ups is starting to wear pretty thin as it becomes apparent that they were responsible for this mess.

    • That's fine and dandy, AT1 but inconveniently for your spin, Ignatieff is on record as saying he supports an inquiry looking at the detainee timeline going all the way back to 2002.

      Yet, it's the Cons who refuse to call the inquiry, and they've shut down the MPCC, boycotted the Parliamentary Committee. prorogued parliament.. etc..

      I'd say that gives an indication which party fears an inquiry more, and it isnt the Liberals.

      • It's entirely possible that nothing will be served by spending millions on an inquiry, when the situation was corrected by the new prisoner transfer agreement in 2007.

        • I'm not so sure the situation was corrected in 2007. I don't even think the current government believes that's entirely true, or they'd be making that claim much more vociferously than they have. The government line tends to be "raising these issues is an attack on our troops" not "raising these issues is redundant, as we've already fixed the problem".

          • You're right that the new agreement doesn't correct the situation entirely. But it's the best we can do short of building our own prison.

      • That's right Scott….he said that on the record AFTER he became a politician.

        Before he became a politician, he's written of his support for torture, assassination, and rough handling of prisoners to extract information.

        If you're going to point out Iggy's record……make sure you report all of it.

    • To be fair to the Liberals, they didn't sign the agreement – Hillier did. And who would have thought he was capable of overlooking the potential for detainees to be abused?

    • Why would they modify it when there was no credible reports of abuse?

      Its not the crime. Its the cover-up.

      • They modified it after the G&M published stories in 2007 of abuse in Afghan prisons but not necessarily related to prisoners transferred by Cdn troops.

        • So I've heard, which makes beliveing they never saw Colvin's reports damn near impossible.

  6. Can someone point me to the military investigation into detainees that Martin shut down? or the court order he fought against? or the Parliamentary Committee on detainees that he defied and then shut down? or the documents he redacted for political and not security reasons? or the unprecedented Parliamentary order, the equivalent of subpoena, he ignored?

    or the Parliament he shut down to avoid difficult accountability questions?

  7. Do you have some basis for this insight? So you're prepared to forgive the Liberals for signing a prisoner transfer agreement knowing that prisoners would likely be abused, and then blame the Conservatives for not modifying the agreement soon enough.

    There is a word for this – hypocrisy.

    • See my response to you below.

  8. What does this have to do with Harper and his ministers shutting down inquiries and muzzling public servants in 2008 and 2009? What does this have to do with Conservative Ministers making laughably false statements in the House in 2008 and 2009?

  9. I'm confused now. The Conservatives were saying there were no credible reports of torture for quite awhile until 2007 or so (roughly, I don't recall the exact dates) when they acted to re-negotiate the transfer agreement, and that as soon as they were aware of credible reports, they acted. And therefore they weren't misleading parliament and Canadians pre-07 when they denied there was a problem (while ignoring Colvin's reports).

    Now they're claiming the Liberals knew there were credible reports back in 05 and ignored them so they're being hypocritical and what not.

    But if there were credible reports back in 05 that the Liberals allegedly ignored, wouldn't the Conservatives have become aware of those reports when they came into government, certainly prior to 07? And if they deemed them credible, wouldn't the government have acted on them, instead of insisting on the absence of such reports up until 07?

    They've been saying all along there were no credible reports until they acted in 07. Now they're saying there were and the Liberals knew and did nothing. The two are contradictory. They can't have it both ways.

    Once again, why we need an independent inquiry to get to the bottom of this. Too bad the Conservatives won't allow one, an shut down parliament to avoid any proper examination of this.

    • "The two are contradictory. They can't have it both ways."

      Yes they can. Conservatives: Our principles don't apply to us.

    • "They've been saying all along there were no credible reports until they acted in 07. Now they're saying there were and the Liberals knew and did nothing. The two are contradictory. They can't have it both ways."

      Welcome to Harper's World. They only seem contradictory … until you recognize that the Conservatives were lying then and they're lying now. Look at their 5 or was it 7 oh now it's 9 reasons for proroguing Parliament. They say something totally different nearly every day … no consistency and not a care. Harper and Flaherty can say completely opposite things about the economy or the deficit to the press on the same day — to the same news organization, even — and not even blush.

    • The Conservatives should have cleaned up this Liberal mess in 2006, rather than 2007. Still, it's worth remembering that if Martin hadn't dropped the ball in 2005, there would have been no mess at all.

      • But CR [you know i'm no defender of Martin, whom i disliked just about as much as harper – maybe more] what choice, other than a better agreement – or building prisons, did he have? Granted those are two choices…but remember this is hindsight.

      • Except, and I think you know this, the issue has not been about what happened, but what this government knew and when and what did they do about it.

        As Coyne wrote months ago, there probably is nothing there so it was stupid for Harper to block the MPCC from doing its job (in private, away from the public eye, under the protection of security confidentiality) and then basically firing the chair, stupid of him to fight the MPCC in court, stupid of him to… etc. He has done everything he can to muzzle questions and accountability.

        And if he would do it on this issue and in this way, including defying the majority of our elected representatives, what else is he willing to do? what else has he done?

      • You give me a wonderful lesson on logic and then you come and peddle this crap, what's up?

        • I'm glad you enjoyed the logic lesson!

        • Welcome to the real world. Feel fortunate. Some never get there.

          • Still sore?

          • Nope, just given up.

          • Btw our debate was a classic win-win: You think you are right. And I maintain I'm right.

            You have your understanding from philosophy – mine from math/engineering (and no I do not beseech you to take these courses). The dictionary definitions suggest one should be broad rather than narrow in interpretation. Still, if the meaning is understood by the reader, then the communication was effective (Communications 501)…

  10. Martin wasn't in power very long, so maybe he didn't get around to it.

    However, you could look up how Chretien's government shut down the Somalia inquiry which was investigating actual abuses by our soldiers (not second or third hand abuse as in the present case).

    "The inquiry ran until 1997 when it was cut short by the government in the months before the 1997 election. The government was critical of the direction of the inquiry, noting that it was far exceeding its mandate"

    • Yeah, the Somalia example is not a relevant one on a number of fronts. First, it was an inquiry that happened and then was cut short from the point of view of the Chair (long after it had exceeded its budget and established timeline) it was not, as is the case now, an inquiry the government refused to even begin. Second, the Somalia Inquiry produced a report. Again, there's a difference between Chretien holding an (arguably shortened) public inquiry that reported on the Somalia Affair and Harper refusing to even begin an inquiry at all, despite a majority vote in the House of Commons calling upon him to do so. Third, the Somalia Inquiry was looking in to events that happened when Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister, so Chretien wasn't even cutting short an investigation in to his own government. Fourth, good Lord, can we stop using the "anything Chretien did is fine for current Prime Ministers to emulate" line of argument? The counter to Chretien cutting a public inquiry short is allowing public inquiries more leeway to fully investigate the matters they deem important, not not holding public inquiries at all.

      • Wouldn't you concede that allegations of direct involvement of Canadian Forces in torture is substantially more serious (to us, that is) than what was happening in Afghanistan, particularly as the agreement was modified 3 yrs ago?

        • Maybe (indeed, probably, but I'll stick with maybe). It's difficult to say that item A is significantly more important than item B when we've already held a public inquiry into A while the government of the day continues to stonewall Parliament's efforts to investigate B.

  11. I'm also not sure they had a choice–i.e., I don't think the Americans were going to take detainees anymore.

    I've never heard that, before Jenn. The Americans had a large system to handle their own detainees, so I don't see why they would refuse Canadian contributions to the detainee pool. However, I don't really know.

    • Well, I think this because it wasn't only us. Perhaps it was a NATO decision not to use the Americans anymore? But everybody moved away from letting the Americans handle detainees at the same time, so I can't think it was a coincidence.

      And as per my previous response to you, maybe the Americans cancelled the contract with whatever company was handling the detainees, so maybe they no longer had that system. I don't really know either.

      • I'd read that the move to active combat by Canada and other NATO allies meant they would be processing more detainees than the Americans could hold. The reference is probably buried in the comments section of Macleans now…There's also the consideration that NATO wants to support the Afghan authorities, not become (or be perceived as) an occupying force so there's a policy reason for transferring detainees to the Afghans. Why our military thought the Red Cross was monitoring abuse and would notify Canada of any remains unclear…and why our government defers so much to a military that makes such weird mistakes is similarly unclear.

  12. It had exceeded its mandate, had been extended a couple of times and still hadn't come up with a report and had cost something like 5X the original cost ($80M??).

    It was still wrong to shut it down, but let's put some context on it.

    And he did actually hold an inquiry into it. And he never shut down any inquiries into his actions as government. Indeed, he called in the RCMP to look into Adscam. Martin put the Gomery Inquiry together and actually held a confidence vote he knew he would lose rather than prorogue Parliament.

    • OK, didn't Chretien also initially stonewall on calling an inquiry into the actions of the RCMP during the APEC meeting…

      "Allegations of political interference by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) into the actions of the RCMP were also made. An official inquiry into the events at UBC was launched by the RCMP's Public Complaints Commission (PCC) on February 20, 1998, and formal hearings commenced October 5, 1998. Following allegations of further political interference, the hearings ended abruptly with the resignation of the Inquiry's Chief Commissioner, Gerald Morin, on December 4, 1998."

      Or how about the inquiry that never happened into the happenings at the BDC and the involvement Chretien:
      see CBC report on the L'Affair Grand-Mere and the wrongful dismissal of François Beaudoin at
      http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/chretien/shawin… and http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/chretien/beaudo

  13. Agree. We don't have to defend bad decisions in opposing Harper's actions, Jenn.

    Based on the information that I have, it was a pretty base political move by Martin stemming from that one photo of Canadian soldiers on the tarmac herding Afghani prisoners onto a US carrier.

    Canadians dumped the Liberals in 2006 for good reason. And we have good and often similar reasons to dump Harper now.

    • See my response to AT1 below. I am not defending the outcome, I am defending the initial decision, based on information available to the man when he made the decision–not information we know today. I thought I was fairly clear on that. I am certainly not defending the handling of it, once the decision was made.

      • Jenn, if that's the case, and the Liberals were really unaware of the problems in Afghan after 3 years of 'on the ground experience', isn't it a bit rich for them to complain that the Conservative's continued to operate under the same agreement for another year and a half.

        I'm not trying to defend the Cons here, as much as it may seem that way, but the partisanship on this blog is spectacularly one-sided. Dosanj, Macallum and others are accusing the Conservatives of war crimes. Surely, that is over the top rhetoric if the Liberals knew what they were doing as the article above suggests.

        • Sadly, it is not over the top rhetoric, because knowingly delivering detainees into hands that will abuse them is a war crime.

          Which isn't to say that MacKay and Van Loan and others shouldn't be accusing the prior Liberal government of war crimes. I do not know why they aren't, but is it really the current Liberals fault that they aren't?

          The Liberals knew that Afghanis tortured their own detainees. That's why their (very weak) agreement called for Afghanis not to torture Canadian detainees. They didn't *know* the Afghanis would break their word, until they did.

  14. Is there any evidence that they 'fear' it? Inquiries of this nature rarely end up providing us with useful information. Seriously, what did the Mulroney inquiry tell us that wasn't already known?

    • That's probably not the most helpful example to use, in that Harper set the terms for inquiry such that the truly damning allegations were off limits for exploring.

      Just so I'm straight on this, you're saying that I should – as a citizen – accept that a) the past Liberal government likely holds the lion's share of culpability, b) I've misinterpreted the actions of the current Conservative government as stonewalling, evasion and obfuscation, and c) I shouldn't be pushing for an inquiry since no useful information would likely be gleaned from such an exercise?

      • I'm suggesting that the inquiry will tell us little of anything new….a flawed agreement was effected by the Liberals and the Conservatives took their sweet time fixing it.

        Moreover, even the present agreement doesn't prevent the abuses from occurring, just that we have a better chance of finding them out.

        • We don't really know anything yet, do we?

  15. Old news. The government peddeled this weeks ago, and Ignatieff said that he would want the inquiry to go back to when the war started.

  16. It is truly unfortunate that this issue has been swept up in the partisan fever that has engulfed Canadian political discussion. To my mind, the detainee issue is much more about public policy than party policy or government actions. Yes, the Liberals no doubt were aware of potential problems when the original decision was made to direct detainees to Afghan officials. No, CR it was not a spectacularly bad decision, since at that point in time the Americans were not only know to be guilty of torture in two different jurisdictions, they had also begun a process of optimizing the application of torture for strategic objectives, and normalizing appropriate government channels for the approval of the use of torture. At the time, the decision between Afghan prisons and American detention centres was a choice between two rather poor options. Politically I don't really have an issue with how the Conservatives dealt with the detainees either. Their point that they recognized a problem and eventually resolved it is well taken.

    The public policy issue is that we really do not have a well developed strategy for having our military operate in failed states. One could argue that not becoming involved makes us complicit in the atrocities that happen all too frequently in such areas. One could also argue that engaging our military in such activities with all of the appropriate resources to ensure both their (relative) safety and appropriate conduct of our forces and their allies is prohibitively expensive.

    Good governance is in part about choices of political parties and their leaders, but it is also about have a government bureaucracy that aids in the development of better options.