UPDATE: To be clear, the committee has every right to demand whatever papers it deems necessary from the government, who in turn have certain prerogatives within the law as to what they choose to release to them. I’d prefer that Canadian parliamentary committees had greater powers of subpoena, or at least that would use the ones they have — if the Ethics committee is any guide, they’re strangely pusillanimous about asserting their authority.
But. There is also a public interest, and an ethical imperative, in having David Mulroney, and others named by Colvin in his testimony, appear before the committee as soon as possible. The public interest requires them to explain themselves; the ethical imperative requires that they be given a chance to defend themselves. For if Colvin is right they are potentially guilty of war crimes: not only deliberately acquiescing in the torture of scores of prisoners over many months, but leaning on him to keep it quiet. That’s about as serious as it gets. Yet they have not been charged, only accused, in a forum that, unless I’m mistaken, precludes them from suing to protect their reputations. They have both the right and the responsibility, therefore, to answer their accuser in the same forum, promptly, rather than leaving these charges to fester in the public mind for weeks on end. We were all properly concerned for Colvin’s reputation. We should be no less careful about the reputations of those he named.
No, Mulroney should not be able to dictate the timing of his appearance before the committee. But neither should the committee hold him hostage to their demands for more documents, the more so given the urgency of Mulroney’s duties as ambassador to China, where he is preparing the ground for the Prime Minister’s coming visit. Call him back later, if need be, but let him testify soon.