House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was report.

Topics

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. The hon. member for Toronto Centre has the floor and I believe he is going to speak, so we need to be able to hear.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

It is coming a little late in my case, Mr. Speaker, but I would like to ask a question of the Minister of National Defence.

We were told yesterday at the Afghanistan committee that a braided electrical cable, which is undoubtedly an instrument of torture, was found in the office of the director of investigations at the National Directorate of Security.

I would like to ask the Minister of National Defence, would he not agree with us that a discovery like that points to a systemic problem rather than simply a single instance with respect to a discovery of that kind?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, with any allegations, we have to base our actions on facts and substantiated truth.

The committee on Afghanistan did hear from a number of officials. On the site visits from the Correctional Service of Canada's Linda Garwood-Filbert, who is a 28-year veteran, said:

In other words, in 2007 alone, we visited Sarpoza Prison on 33 occasions, the National Directorate of Security on 12 occasions, and the Afghan National Police Detention Centre on two occasions, for a total of 47 visits. These were usually unannounced.

And there was nothing discovered.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, the woman in question said that they discovered an instrument of torture. That is what they discovered.

I will ask the same minister the same question. If an instrument of torture was found in the office of the director of investigations, would he not agree, considering such testimony—and I am directing my question to the government—there is a good chance this is a systemic problem rather than simply a single instance?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, let us look at other testimony we heard yesterday at the parliamentary committee. Colleen Swords, the former senior DFAIT official on the Afghan file, said:

I believe we did take all the measures that were reasonable at the time to ensure that we were doing everything we could to minimize that there would be a substantial risk.

Furthermore, Scott Proudfoot from Foreign Affairs, said:

The reports in question did not indicate that Canadian transferred detainees had been subject to mistreatment.

These are the facts.

Human Rights
Oral Questions

December 3rd, 2009 / 2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government speaks loudly of its commitment to human rights, but we heard yesterday of a decision by the government that is truly shocking. That is the decision by CIDA to cut all funding, not part funding but all funding, for the organization known as KAIROS, which is an organization that includes the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Anglican Synod and a number of other Christian denominations that fight for human rights around the world.

How is this government's alleged commitment to human rights possibly compatible with such a reactionary and retrograde decision?

Human Rights
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this government has taken a strong position on human rights, and the Prime Minister has shown great leadership.

When Durban I was going on, it was this party and the Prime Minister who called on Canada to abstain and not to go. The United States and Israel walked out on that anti-Semitic hatefest. Israel begged Canada to leave and Canada refused.

Thank goodness we have a Prime Minister and a government that put human rights at the top of the agenda and are proud to do it and express Canadian values each and every single day.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the spring of 2006, the Red Cross was sufficiently alarmed about Canada's transfer of detainees to meet with our officials at least four times to warn us of the danger of detainee torture in Afghan jails.

The government took no action for at least one year after these warnings. The Red Cross, of course, must not have been credible enough in the eyes of the government.

The government is covering up the fact that it continued to transfer detainees to a real risk of torture for at least one year after those warnings. Why the cover-up?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I have answered the question, but what I would point out is that when the Red Cross first started raising concerns, it was under the previous government, going back to 2005.

When our military or diplomats have come across credible, substantial evidence, they have acted. They have acted responsibly. We have heard that from both military and senior members of the public service. It is important to note that the case with respect to notifications to the Red Cross was not about prisoner abuse, it was about prisoner transfers and the Red Cross has now clarified that, not to warn them about prison conditions but the routine matter of discussing Canada's responsibilities. That is what it is about.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, in mid-2006, the Red Cross met with Canadian officials in Kandahar, in Geneva and in Ottawa. In Ottawa, the head of the Red Cross for the U.S. and Canada attended that meeting. Red Cross officials made a point of raising the issue of treatment of Afghan detainees and told our officials of a lack of judicial safeguards and that all kinds of things were going on.

Why is the government covering up the fact that it did absolutely nothing? For at least one year it continued transferring detainees to torture in Afghan jails. Why do Conservatives not stand up and answer honestly? Why is a cover-up going on?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the original concerns expressed by the Red Cross were expressed to the previous government, of which that member who is just now chuckling but was expressing righteous indignation a moment ago is a member.

However, I want to come back to the question from the member for Toronto Centre when he talked about a revelation at committee yesterday. This important issue was in fact addressed by the witness yesterday who told us that she did not in fact see this particular piece of evidence, nor has she ever indicated that she had any first-hand knowledge of torture in prisons. So that evidence is clear. It speaks for itself.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the memos that were made public confirm that the Red Cross met with members of the government as early as spring 2006, to inform them that the detainees transferred to Afghan authorities were at risk of being tortured. The national defence minister's office says it was not informed of the substance of that meeting.

The current Minister of National Defence did not hold that position when this meeting was held. Accordingly, can the Chief Government Whip, who was then Minister of National Defence, tell us whether he received the memos on this meeting with the Red Cross?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, obviously there was concern in this regard. That is the very reason the government instituted a prisoner transfer agreement. That is exactly why the government embarked on a process of enhanced monitoring. When this government gets credible, substantiated evidence, we have proven that we act.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it would have been nice if the Chief Government Whip, who was the minister at the time, reacted and answered the question.

The government thought it was a good idea to review the detainee transfer protocol in 2007 because there were problems with how the detainees were being treated before 2007. Otherwise they would obviously not have changed the protocol. If there were problems, there was a risk of torture. Yet, detainees continued to be transferred.

That being said, will the government admit that from 2006 to May 2007, it was in violation of the Geneva convention?