An exchange of letters

Two weeks ago, Gen. Walter Natynczyk wrote to the Afghanistan committee in response to the testimony of Malgarai Ahmadshah. In that letter, he stated that “Canadian Forces do not transfer individuals for the purposes of gathering information.” This caught the interest of the NDP’s Paul Dewar and Jack Harris, who wrote Natynczyk seeking an explanation as to how this could be squared with an October 2007 transfer report.

Their letter has received a response from Rear-Admiral R.A. Davidson and Messrs Dewar and Harris wrote back with a missive yesterday, the text of which is below.

Rear-Admiral R.A. Davidson
National Defence Headquarters
Ottawa, ON K1A 0K2
April 29, 2010

Dear Rear-Admiral Davidson,

Thank you for your response to our original inquiry to the Chief of Defence Staff regarding the transfer of detainees to the National Directorate of Security (NDS) for the purpose of gathering information.

You have established that detainees are often transferred to the NDS for further questioning in order to investigate evidence of wrong doing and potential connection to the insurgency that was not discovered during interrogations by Canadian officials. You also emphasized the information obtained by the NDS in its additional interrogation of Canadian-transferred detainees is meant to build the case for the prosecution of suspected insurgents.

We appreciate your clarification.  However, your letter has raised further questions which we wish to pose in our response.

1.      With regards to the October 31, 2007 transfer of detainee report, which was attached to our previous correspondence, what was the intent of transferring the detainees to the NDS for further questioning? Did Canada receive any information from the NDS that would have been obtained through interrogation of the detainees named in that document?  If yes, what was the nature of the information?

2.      You state that “the Commander is prohibited from transferring an individual with the intent that they would be tortured for information”.  You further emphasize that “simply put, the Canadian Forces do not transfer individuals for the purpose of gathering information for our use”.  Given that Canada uses information provided by the NDS, if the Commander is satisfied that no substantial risk of torture exists, what is the basis for prohibiting the transfer of detainee for the purpose of gathering information for Canada’s use?

3.      In his testimony to the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan, BGen Denis William Thompson established that “we acted on the intelligence we received from the NDS”.  According to your letter, Canada would not explicitly request that the NDS interrogate a Canadian-transferred detainee in order to gather information for our use.  What assurances are in place so that the information provided by the NDS to Canada would not have been obtained through further questioning of Canadian-transferred detainees?

We look forward to your response to these additional questions.


Jack Harris
Member of Parliament
St. John’s East
New Democrat Defence Critic

Paul Dewar
Member of Parliament
Ottawa Centre
New Democrat Foreign Affairs Critic

Looking for more?

Get the best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.