House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was identity.

Topics

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister allowed his government to mislead Canadians on an issue as serious as torture. Conservatives even blame the military for their own failure of leadership. This is completely unacceptable.

Why will the Prime Minister not do what he should have done months ago: stop blaming others and take responsibility for his own decisions?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the hon. member is even talking about. We have one credible allegation against Afghan authorities in terms of prisoner abuse, an allegation that this government revealed publicly in the House of Commons.

In two years there have been all these attempts to write the Canadian Abu Ghraib story. The fact is there has not been a single credible allegation made against any member of the Canadian military, and that is something of which we are proud.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, we have the utmost respect for the judgment of our officers in the field. The issue of whether or not to transfer detainees to a system where they might be tortured does raise questions of operational security, but it is first and foremost a human rights issue. It is a matter of principle, and responsibility for this ultimately rests with the Prime Minister himself.

Will he promise that, from now on, he will make such decisions himself and be accountable for them in this House and to Canadians?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, that is the reason this government created a new agreement with the Afghan government to monitor our prisoners and meet Canada's international obligations.

As we said, we have one credible allegation of abuse of a Taliban prisoner, an allegation this government revealed in the House, but there have been no allegations against Canadian soldiers in two years, and we are very proud of that.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, when will the Prime Minister realize the buck stops with him on the leadership of this mission? He cannot scapegoat the military. This is completely unacceptable.

The Prime Minister announced the transfers would resume at some unknown time. What steps is he putting in place then? Does he even have a concrete plan to ensure that when the transfers resume, the torture will stop?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we have a prisoner transfer agreement with the Afghan government that allows us to fulfill our international responsibilities to do surveillance, to ensure that there are inquiries when there are problems and that action is taken. That is what has happened.

The government has not attempted to scapegoat the military for anything. There is nothing to scapegoat the military for. Members of the military are doing a tough and dangerous job in Afghanistan. They are doing it in our interests. They are doing it with a United Nations mandate and in the interests of the Afghan people. They deserve to be congratulated for everything they have done.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister said that he accepted the broad recommendations of the Manley report. I wonder whether he accepted the scathing criticism of his leadership.

The Afghan mission cannot be delegated to an assistant deputy minister, no matter how hard he works. When will the Prime Minister address this failure? Specifically, when will he grab hold of the mission, show prime ministerial leadership and end the departmental dysfunction that has plagued this mission on his watch?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the report of the former deputy prime minister was a strong and balanced report. It does lay out some criticisms of all the governments that have handled this mission. However, it does point out also that on all these various things governments have been making progress under very difficult circumstances.

Obviously the prime minister is ultimately responsible for everything in the government. However, let me assure the hon. member that not only ministers and officials at all levels, but literally hundreds of thousands of Canadian government officials and military people are involved in making this mission a success. That is what we are going to continue doing.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Manley report criticized the Prime Minister's lack of leadership on Afghanistan. We have noticed the same thing from the start: ministers contradicting each other, confused messages, management chaos.

What specific changes in managing the mission will the Prime Minister propose in order to respond to these specific criticisms of his lack of leadership?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the Manley report is a very balanced report that recognizes not only the difficulties of the mission, but also the progress that has been made on many fronts.

I can assure the hon. member that the government intends to continue working alongside its allies to achieve success in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government has already developed new strategies for getting around the problem of transferring Afghan detainees. In some cases, detainees captured by the Canadian army will be held at the base in Kandahar, and in other cases, the Canadian army will let the Afghan army capture the Taliban. The Canadian army has officially stopped transferring detainees to Afghan authorities on suspicion of torture.

Will the Prime Minister admit that by allowing the Afghan army, instead of the Canadian army, to capture the Taliban, the result is the same, in other words, the risk of torture remains and Canada is washing its hands of it?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I cannot comment on the details of this report. I can say that this report states that I had a telephone conversation with General Hillier last week, when in reality, I have not received any telephone calls from General Hillier in the past few weeks.

One must be careful in assuming that these anonymous allegations are true. We are training the Afghan forces to assume responsibility for their country, as the Bloc asked.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, they are not being trained; they are being allowed to do as they please. The Canadian government has suspended the transfer of detainees to Afghan authorities because of a risk of torture, which goes against the Geneva convention. The government said so; it cannot deny it now.

Does the Prime Minister realize that by making the Afghan authorities responsible for the detainees, under the pretext that he is showing them how to handle detainees, he is being complicit and is violating the Geneva convention since there is a risk of torture because of the suspension of official transfers and leaving the authorities unchecked?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, obviously as the Afghan forces assume more and more responsibility in the mission in their country, they are also taking responsibility for various aspects of the mission. That is the opposite of what the leader of the Bloc said.

The Canadian Forces have always respected their international obligations under the agreement we signed with the Government of Afghanistan. We should be congratulating the Canadian Forces for their performance in fulfilling these obligations.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to see the reaction of the Conservative government regarding the transfer of Afghan prisoners. First, they did not know. Then they knew, but they were hiding it. Now, we learn from a government lawyer, apparently acting on his own, that there have been no transfers of prisoners since November 5.

Just like what happened in the United States with Bush's 534 lies about Iraq, is this not a campaign to fool Quebeckers and Canadians about the true fate of Afghan prisoners?