Okay, so in order to see the Afghan detainee documents, members of the ad hoc committee set up by agreement between the government and opposition parties (minus the NDP) have to subject themselves to a long list of security measures. They have to sign a confidentality undertaking. They have to get security clearance. They can only view the documents in a “secure location.” They can’t bring staff with them, or any recording device, can’t remove any material or make copies. They can make notes on what they’re reading, provided they leave them on site, and destroy them in six months.
And they have to swear an oath. It’s described as an “oath of confidentiality.” But it’s not only that. Here’s the text:
I, [name], swear (or solemnly affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true loyalty to Canada and to its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and freedoms I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey. I further swear (or solemnly affirm) that I will not communicate or use without due authority any information obtained in confidence during the review of documentation.
The second sentence is the oath of confidentiality. The first is something quite different: an oath of loyalty. Nothing remarkable in that. These are Members of the Parliament of Canada, after all. And the information they are being permitted to see, as the tight security rules imply, is of the most delicate nature. Nothing less than the national security of the country is at stake. Of course you’d only extend that right to people who were loyal to Canada, and had Canada’s best interests at heart.
Except … the Bloc Québécois signed this agreement. As such, it is entitled to nominate a member (plus an alternate) to sit on the committee. If you’re like me, you have a problem with people who are openly dedicated to the destruction of Canada being privy to our most sensitive national secrets. Still, I realize in this benighted country there are those who disagree. There are even people who think the Bloc should be allowed to participate in the executive government (as opposed to the legislature) of Canada.
Fine: except the terms of the agreement says no committee member can see the documents unless they swear to “be faithful and bear true loyalty to Canada and to its people.” Regardless of whether you think there should be such a loyalty test, there it is. Regardless of whether you think it is fair to subject the Bloc to such an obligation, they agreed to it. I’ll put aside my objection in principle to the Bloc seeing any of these documents if the Bloc can explain how they can possibly swear that oath.
“That I will be faithful and bear true loyalty to Canada and to its people”? Is this not an explicit repudiation of their party’s central purpose? If they swear such an oath, then, they can’t possibly mean it. And if they don’t mean it, what good is the oath? If they are taking one part of the oath, as it were, with their fingers crossed, who’s to say they are not doing the same with the other?
How, in good conscience, could the Bloc agree to swear an oath to one thing when it believes the exact opposite? Or never mind conscience: are there no legal consequences for swearing oaths in bad faith? Oaths aren’t just words on paper. They are legal documents. They are intended to ensure people make honest statements, where honesty is a vital necessity, as it surely is in matters of national security. And yet any Bloc MP who takes this oath must, by definition, be lying.
I realize the separatist movement has confronted this question before. It is a constitutional requirement, not only for Members of Parliament but for members of the National Assembly in Quebec, to swear an oath of loyalty to the Queen, and somehow they have managed to work themselves around to doing that. I recall Gilles Duceppe pointing out that there are members of the British Labour Party who don’t believe in the monarchy, and yet are permitted to swear a similar oath before entering their own Parliament. But this is something else again. There is no possible way to square “loyalty to Canada and its people” with membership in a party whose stated objective is to tear that same country, and its people, apart.
In which case, if we permit any Bloc MP to take this oath, it is not only the Blocquiste who would be committing a fraud, but us. And yet the oath speaks of upholding the laws!
ADDENDUM: Here’s the oath Members of Parliament (and of the provincial legislatures) are obliged to swear before taking office, as prescribed by Section 128 of the Constitution Act 1867 and set out in the Fifth Schedule:
I, [name], do swear, that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Je, [nom], jure que je serai fidèle et porterai une vraie allégeance à Sa Majesté la Reine Élisabeth II.
But what do solemn and binding oaths mean in this country? What does anything? We are so used to looking the other way at the Bloc’s sincere and determined enmity that I suppose we will do the same with their mocking professions of loyalty.