What we can know - Macleans.ca

What we can know


Stockwell Day says the government will not comply with Parliament’s demand for access to uncensored information on Afghan detainees. Wesley Wark, appointed to the government’s advisory council on national security in 2005 and reappointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2007 (his term has since expired), suggests the government take a different approach.

Intelligence specialist Wesley Wark said the heavy censorship of the documents supplied to the parliamentary committee probing the handling of prisoners has turned the hearings into a “farce.”

“I think a much more liberal approach to provision of documents would be the way to go so that the public at large doesn’t feel that the government is simply trying to stiff the parliamentary committee, which is very much the impression one gets at the moment,” said Wark, a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa.


What we can know

  1. Get a Speaker's Warrant, and when they refuse, vote them in contempt of Parliament and order the cops to collect the documents.

    • I hope they do, this is getting ridiculous!

      • More than ridiculous, this could, in very short order, move from a game of procedural brinksmanship to outright sedition. Day and Nicholson are on very dangerous ground here.

    • order the cops to collect the documents

      SH knows that everyone will be afraid to move, and if you remember his announcement that the Coalition was illegal, you know he'll be throwing shovelfulls of dirt into the water. You can bet there will be ads coming proclaiming that the motion to release the documents is politically motivated and that the Conservatives will fight to their dying breath to keep the opposition from "betraying" the troops….. and will stay focused on the economy….. and serving real Canadians, while the opposition play their games…….

      They can't fight this one on level ground, so it's time to spend some money and change the optics.

      There is no road too low…….

      • Thought I'd get it out before they do:

        A jarring montage of grainy still photos of armed Canadian soldiers in hostile warzones. In the background the sound of bombs… gunfire… unintelligble voices shouting….. it's frantic and unsettling….
        Voiceover: Peacekeeping in hostile lands is a proud Canadian tradition. Safeguarding civilians from terror. Making tough calls. It's a hard job, but no one does it better than the Canadian Military.
        The coalition of Liberals, NDP and the Bloc question the integrity of our military.

        Cut to a grainy image of a gavel pounding… They want to drag our soldiers through the courts, playing partisan political games.
        Our Soldiers are the finest in the world and our job is to support them, not betray them.

        Cut to a slo-mo Canadian flag rippling in a strong breeze
        Stand up for Canada.
        Stand up for what's right.
        Support our Armed Forces.

        Cut to a photo of Stephen Harper saluting the the troops
        This Message brought to you by the Conservative Party of Canada

        Run endlessly during Hockey Night in Canada

        • We were always at war…

      • Awesome!!!!…two christmas' in a row where we all get a truckload of bs from SH!!!

    • Wait… along with a secret compartment in the Prime Minister's office, there is a dungeon underneath Parliament Hill?

      Anything else awesome about that building?

      • Also, is there a picture of parliament's dungeons anywhere? I want to see!

          • That's the place! Prisoners have to use MS-Dos and 5 1/4 floppies! It's hell down there I tell ya …

          • My disappointment knows no bounds.

          • DOnt be disappointed.

            Just talked to the Liberal staffer again: his boss said he would get the sgt of arms to take them down there, and he promises me he'll get a picture of the old prison/dungeon/vault next week.

          • Please post it up somewhere if you can produce it. I'll watch your Intense Debate page.

          • Not making stuff up. A Liberal staffer tells me there is an old locked vault down there.

          • Where the speaker keeps his private stash…for those really difficult days. I hear he's stocking up.

    • Is there really a dungeon? Is that where they've been keeping Stéphane Dion?

  2. I don't think Canadians would like the fact that our troops would be unnecessarily exposed….

    …..could imperil our own troops and could imperil the citizens

    Imagine! Those damned dirty Liberals deliberately trying to endanger the troops! I bet they'd take those documents and hand them directly to the Taliban!

    Are you buying any of this?

    • Well, but here's the argument about that. In effect, the Conservatives are saying that our military is in breach of the Geneva Conventions because they handed over detainees to torture. They are redacting the very thing that would exonerate these military men and women! Or to put it another way, the Conservatives are preventing the soldiers from defending themselves by showing they reported up their chain of command that they did something about it. How is this soldier going to prove he rectified the problem if he can't refer to his notebook on what he did? How can he show his innocence if he can't show the pictures he took?

      The Conservatives are leaving the soldier's defence in the hands of the detainee himself. And said detainee may have tried to kill said soldier, so this can't be a comforting thought for a soldier.

      Of course we all know that it makes no difference to the Taliban or Al-Quaida–if it did, we would expect our NOT transferring to torture would mean better treatment from our enemies. Yeah, right.

      • There seems to be a legitimate tension between two sets of law – a traditional power of Parliament and the Access to Information and security legislation. It's not clear which one has precedence. Why not have the A-G allow criminal proceedings against a few soldiers that are already implicated and let the courts sort this out? The internal inquiry now underway could provide some suspects for criminal investigation.

        • Throw soldiers to the wolves?

        • Ah, this explains it. So, when Conservatives say "support our troops" or "stand beside our troops" they really mean, "abandon our troops" or "who cares what we put our troops through"

          This goes a long way to fixing the disconnect between the words of the Conservatives and the actions. I wasn't understanding Conservative English.

  3. This is mindblowing. This is tossing everything about parliamentary primacy out the window.

    I can't believe that the Tories had the audacity to take this step – everything now relies on two groups: the media, to get out what a serious situation this is, and all of the other parties in the House to close ranks and force the government to do what it's legally obligated to do. If parliament backs down now, if the Tories get their way, it effectively neutralizes the power of all parliamentarians for the future – we won't even need MPs anymore, just Harper.

    • I agree. The other parties cannot back down. Any attempt to limit the power of parliament limits the rights of Canadians.

    • I think it's a game of chicken, one that could damage the conventions and traditions that are a huge part of our parliamentary democracy.

      The trouble is, the government doesn't respect those conventions. Now the opposition has to decide whether to let this defiance become an unacceptable precedent, or to risk further damage to our system by challenging the government.

      • The problem is we don't have a history of minority governments so we've never tested the limits of parliamentary conventions in this way before. It's hard to argue there's any tradition at work unless you have some historical examples of Parliament enforcing such orders against the government.

        • Surely you are not suggesting that the principle of the supremacy of Parliament works differently in a minority than majority Parliament? Just like Harper's fixed election law — not meant to apply to a minority Parliament? Are these the latest PMO talking points?

        • This is not true. Sadly, Harper's antics last year seem to have worked — in altering reality. Alexander Mackenzie, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Arthur Meighen, John Diefenbaker, Lester B. Pearson, Pierre E. Trudeau, Joe Clark, Paul Martin and now Stephen Harper have all governed under minority parliaments — sometimes more than once. One needn't bring in countless Provincial examples to demonstrate that Canada has a substantial history of been governed by minority governments, in peace and at war, and produced important legislation … all without the need to abandon the principals of Parliamentary democracy or the supremacy of Parliament.

          • Yes, we've had minority Parliaments on occasion (maybe Diefenbaker's isn't the best example here, since Pearson's request that Dief hand the government over to the opposition, totally in keeping with Parliament's supremacy, led to the 1958 snap election). The narrow question is whether a government has ever complied with a demand from Parliament for sensitive files. Happy to hear examples.

    • What bothers me is what would happen if there was a majority in parliament.

      • "All bets are off"

  4. Another stupid unnecessary crisis, just a year after the last one. Both provoked by foolishly aggressive political tactics.

    • Will the Liberals never learn? Didn't they dump their last leader over his foolish tactics?

      • Hahaha! That's actually very funny. Stupid and completely wrong but funny nonetheless.

        • Shucks, you're too kind. Of course, implementing a campaign promise to cut subsidies to political parties was foolishly aggressive, while installing the deposed Liberal leader as Prime Minister in a coalition minority government expressly disavowed during the campaign was the height of sanity and pacifism.

          • "Of course, implementing a campaign promise to cut subsidies to political parties was foolishly aggressive"

            Harper didn't run on this during the last election…i'm not even aware it was ever part of any campaign.

          • In fairness, Harper didn't run on anything during the last election.

          • SH is a sandkicker – and he enjoys it.

    • Christmas Crises are becoming a Conservative Holiday tradition.

  5. Imperil our troops! That's rich, coming from this lot. The ham-fisted ways of Harper, Day, MacKay, Nicholson et al increasingly expose our national defense to international prosecution. To suggest that MPs opposite would break public trust and give succor to the Taliban or Al Qaeda bespeaks a whole new order of dishonour. It reinforces the impression of a government more demagogic than democratic. “Patriotism,” that staunch Tory, Samuel Johnson, once decried, “is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” This is a government loaded with scoundrels. One hopes their reckoning approaches.

  6. Isn't this how we usually proceed when we suspect there's been a crime?

    • Dont' we usually try to get the crime boss?

      • Sure, but we've seen the tv shows so we know that usually works by arresting the underlings and making deals with them.

  7. They truly do not get that Parliament is the source of their legitimacy, eh?

    The Tories should have been defeated last December due to their contempt for Parliament. I guess they feel like pushing their luck again.

    • They get it. They just don't care. That's what's scary.

      • They get it. They just do care. That's what enables me to sleep at nights.

        • If by care, you mean care so much that they think they know better and should thusly ignore 200 years of convention, sure.

        • Um, the committee asserted its right to have access to the documents and witnesses. The law clerk agreed. The government refused the decision of the committee, so the committee took the matter to the Speaker. The Speaker ruled this was indeed a matter of Parliamentary privilege. The House, as a whole, voted and the decision of the House supported the committee's request for access. Failure to comply with the will of the Parliament as a whole is an illegal act. That makes you sleep better?

  8. Stockwell Day — the incoming Minister of Defence?

  9. Norman Spector has a good point:

    Do Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff really want to make the argument that secrecy provisions and national security laws do not apply to Gilles Duceppe and members of his caucus?

    • Last I checked they were Canadian MPs representing Canadian voters.

      The scope of what was passed in Parliament doesn't extend past documents relating to Afghanistan detainees in a certain time frame.

      In my opinion, it would be a very weak point.

    • Ah, more of the whispered inferred or otherwise talk that the BQ are traitors. You Conservatives throw that line out there like it's going out of style.

    • Oh get over it. If Maxime Bernier can be cleared anyone can.

    • Norman Spector is a fear mongering idiot for writing that.

    • So you are saying that only *some* MPs are legitimate?

      I guess if you take that idea to its extreme you could say that only CPC members are legitimate MPs. oh …maybe that's what Stockwell Day is saying …

    • Do [you] really want to make the argument that secrecy provisions and national security laws do not apply to Gilles Duceppe and members of his caucus?

      Yeah, we just can't trust those Québec sovereigntists. We need to place all our trust in the people who declared Québec a nation through Parliamentary motion. Those folks clearly stand behind Canada 100%.

    • Have they been cleared for access to that level of documentation? If so, I believe the point is moot…

      Afterall, the functional problem at the moment is that people with the required clearance to be able to read these documents are being denied access to them despite that reality.

  10. If a majority has voted for the realease of the documents, then that is the will of the parliament. Harper seems more and more like a tinpot dictator.

  11. As an aside, I'd like to congratulate Critical_Reasoning for being able to inspire Peter Mackay's staffers/ cheer up Peter Mackay and be the subject of 2 blog articles today.

    • Thanks, Scott! I haven't felt this influential since I coined "Wafergate".

  12. Stephen Harper 1.0 (Leader of the Official Opposition version): "The Prime Minister has the moral responsibility to respect the will of the House" (April 13, 2005)

    Stephen Harper 2.0 (Prime Minister version): meh, the House.