House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was drugs.

Topics

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the minister should read all of Mr. Mulroney's remarks because he said, “Whether someone was or was not a Canadian-transferred detainee is a very important issue. We were not able to determine that”.

This is simple. If no one knew who was or was not transferred to the Afghan authorities, how can the government claim there was no proof that Afghans transferred by Canada were tortured? Is the government simply trying to cover up its approach of hear no evil, see no evil? Is the government being wilfully blind?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, are the hon. member and opposition members trying to politicize the issue and cast political aspersions?

Let us go back to what Mr. Mulroney said: “I think there was very widespread and incredible understanding that there were a lot of problems in the Afghan justice system and Afghan prisons with Afghan police, as there were many problems throughout the Afghan” justice system. That is why we acted. He went on to say, “We talked to people who made allegations of abuse, which we reported to the authorities, but what is important to note is that these were not, to our knowledge, Canadian-transferred detainees”.

That is the crux of the issue.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his testimony in committee, David Mulroney acknowledged that as early as 2006, Canadian authorities were aware of allegations of torture in Afghan prisons. He also acknowledged that Canada lost track of prisoners once they were transferred to the Afghan authorities.

In light of this information, how can the government still deny that Canada violated the Geneva convention prohibiting detainee transfers when there is a risk of torture?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, let me be perfectly clear. When the military or Canadian diplomats have received credible substantiated evidence, they have taken the appropriate action.

Canada initiated an enhanced agreement with Afghanistan more than two and a half years ago. This agreement replaced the inadequate prisoner transfer agreement left by the previous Liberal government.

We are going to continue to treat these matters seriously. Our first priority will always be, though, the safety of our men and women in uniform.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, David Mulroney, who served as a foreign affairs advisor to the Prime Minister in 2006, stated, and I quote: “—there was very widespread understanding that there were a lot of problems in Afghan prisons with Afghan police. The possibility of mistreatment could not be ignored.”

Is it not because the Prime Minister knew as early as 2006 that Canada was violating international conventions such as the Geneva convention that he is trying to bury the affair today?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, that is why a number of years ago Canada instituted an enhanced agreement with Afghanistan on this issue. That is why we took action.

Whenever there have been credible or substantiated allegations made, the government has treated them seriously and we will continue to do so.

The reality is there is no credible evidence suggesting that any Canadian transfer of a Taliban terrorist has resulted in any torture. Those are the facts.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government is doing everything possible to hide the truth about the atrocities suffered by detainees transferred to Afghan authorities. After derailing the Military Police Complaints Commission, the government is intimidating diplomat Richard Colvin and refusing to release various reports, which it nevertheless provided to witnesses who support its position.

Why put all this effort into hiding the truth if not to hide violations of the Geneva Convention?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, we have provided and will continue to provide all legally available information.

Let us be clear. As part of the preparations to testify in hearings before the parliamentary committee, individuals like Generals Hillier and Gauthier, recently retired, as well as currently serving General Fraser were provided documents relevant to the issues being discussed at the parliamentary committee, as were Mr. Colvin and Mr. David Mulroney.

It is common practice for current and former public servants to be given information to which they are privy to give testimony before the parliamentary committee. It is the normal practice that we follow.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, David Mulroney acknowledged that the government knew that prisoners transferred by Canada to Afghan authorities risked being tortured. The Geneva Convention has clearly been violated by the Canadian government, which was not even capable of keeping tabs on its detainees.

Will the government admit that all its attempts to hide the truth have one objective: to hide the fact that for months it did not comply with the Geneva Convention?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, let us take a direct look at that statement just made.

Here is what Mr. Mulroney actually said: “We never, ever transferred anyone if we thought there was a substantial risk of torture”. The member has made a complete misstatement of fact.

He said, “We knew that there were problems in the Afghan system, but we developed a robust monitoring system”.

Those are the words of an individual closest to the mission, in the best position to make these assessments.

He continued, “I didn't agree with his assertion that everybody who went into the NDS was tortured, that the detainees were all farmers or probably all innocent. This is where I think he went from an observation to speculation”.

Those are the words of Mr. Mulroney in his testimony yesterday.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, on the detainee torture issue, first the government starved the MPCC by withholding documents. Then it fought against the committee hearings. Then it intimidated the witnesses at committee and withheld information from members of Parliament. At the same time, it gave full access to documents to its witnesses, even those no longer working for government.

Despite that, Mr. Mulroney yesterday confirmed our contention that for a year and a half, Canada did not have in place proper protection for detainees, as required by international law, and left them at risk of torture.

When will this government stop playing games and hiding the truth? When will it call a public inquiry?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the government has said, and I will say once again, that it will continue to provide all legally available information. Having said that, our first responsibility, our first priority, is to protect the lives of our men and women in uniform, and that will continue to be the case.

Mr. Mulroney testified before the committee not 24 hours ago that the government never transferred any captured Taliban where there was any realistic fear of torture. “Never” is what he said.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, despite the widespread knowledge of torture in Afghan institutions, despite the recognition of the risk of human rights abuses, the government had no process to monitor whether or not Canadian-transferred detainees were tortured by the authorities.

For over a year, Afghan detainees were thrown into a black hole, prisons where beatings with cables, and electric shocks, punching and sexual abuse were normal practices. No one, not even Mr. Mulroney, could assure Canadians that those detainees were not tortured.

There is only one way to get to the truth. That is to call a public inquiry. Will the government do the right thing and call—

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. Minister of Transport.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, General Hillier dismissed some of these allegations not two days ago as ludicrous.

The member from the NDP, whom I have a great deal of respect for, seems to be happy to believe that Canadian soldiers are somehow arbitrarily rounding up farmers and taxi drivers and willingly sending them off to abuse.

Let me be very clear: our men in uniform would “never”, in Mr. Mulroney's words, do that. Never.