Monday, November 23, 2009

Harper in Hiding is Making Him Look Awfully Guilty

A real leader stands up and fights for those he is supposed to lead. Instead Stephen Harper has gone on a photo-op. Should we be surprised?

I think it's an insult to the Canadian people that he would be seen smiling with a Lacrosse sweater, when something as serious as torture is being discussed in the House.

And if the allegations are true, the plans to cover up the potential war crimes came right from his office. This is very serious and our troops deserve better. Denial is not going to work, because if we don't deal with this we could see our PM and defense minister on trial at the Hague. Is that what he wants?

Michael Ignatieff pressed the government for answers two years ago, but they just said it was being taken care of. It was being taken care of alright. Swept under the rug.

Mr. Michael Ignatieff (Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have been in Afghan places of detention and I have no confidence in the capacity of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission to protect prisoners.They were beaten, whipped, starved, frozen, choked, electrocuted.

These are very serious allegations, and Canada's honour is at stake. When will the Prime Minister replace his incompetent Minister of National Defence with a minister who can make sure our allies and Canada itself respect the Geneva convention?

Globe and Mail
Monday, November 23, 2009
Lacrosse trumps torture for Stephen Harper
John Ibbitson

All available opposition guns were brought to bear against the government on the question of Afghan detainees during Question Period. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper wasn’t in the House to return fire. His more pressing engagement was a photo opportunity with the national men’s lacrosse team.

So Mr. Harper didn’t get to hear the Liberals join the NDP in calling for a public inquiry into whether and why Canadian forces transferred Afghans in their custody to local officials, who proceeded to torture them, according to testimony last week by Richard Colvin, a Foreign Affairs official who was in Afghanistan during the years of alleged abuse in 2006-2007.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff opened the questioning, asking why the government stopped transferring prisoners on several occasions, unless it was suspicious of exactly that abuse?

“Can’t the government tell us the truth on this issue?” he asked.
We stopped the transfers when the Afghans refused us access to their prisons, Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who was on his feet during much of Question Period, replied.

Then the Liberals unleashed the hounds. “This government is engaged in a massive obstruction of justice,” Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh stormed, repeating the demand for a public inquiry.

The Bloc Quebecois wanted to know why the government is trying to impeach the testimony of Mr. Colvin. “Why not investigate the allegations, rather than attack the messenger?” asked Bloc MP Claude Bachand.

To which Mr. MacKay repeatedly replied that “there has not been a single, solitary proven allegation of a prisoner being abused who was transferred” by Canadian authorities to Afghan authorities.

As for Mr. Colvin, “the testimony that was heard last week is not credible,” he maintained.

Many have stated such torture was routine, but the Conservatives have imposed a high burden of proof in this instance.

Such accusations, the minister suggested, impugns the integrity of the Forces. “The last thing they want to do is be smeared by the opposition,”

NDP Leader Jack Layton mischievously took a swipe at Mr. Ignatieff’s who controversially (though with many, many qualifications) supported the use of torture in extreme circumstances, after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

“Unlike other party leaders … we are not going to write books justifying torture in any way shape or form.” Mr. Layton reported to the House. (Jack Layton Sir, you are officially an idiot. What is wrong with your head? Your comments undermine Mr. Colvin more than Peter MacKay's. I expect it from him. I thought you were better than that. Shame.)

Mr. MacKay also counterattacked, claiming it was the Liberal government of Paul Martin that put the initial “inadequate transfer arrangement” in place. Mr. MacKay seemed prepared to comply with an opposition request to release all related ministerial and prime-ministerial briefing documents, broadly hinting that it was the Liberals would be embarrassed by what they read. (Rick Hillier signed the agreement during the 2005/2006 election campaign. It was up to the new government to monitor it. Nice try Mackay. Maybe you should stick to photo-ops too, because you're clearly over your head here)

Then after almost half an hour, it was on to desultory questions on other topics, the only one of real interest being questions of Environment Minister Jim Prentice about what, if anything, Canada would be bringing to the climate change summit. Describing the negotiations as “among the most difficult our country has ever been involved in,” Mr. Prentice insisted any agreement Canada signed on to would need the signatures of the United States, China, India, Brazil and other major emitters.

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