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House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was troops.

Topics

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Helena Guergis ConservativeSecretary of State (Foreign Affairs and International Trade) (Sport)

Mr. Speaker, the simple fact of the matter is that the opposition members have been making false accusations all week. Rather than continue to repeat these false accusations, they should simply apologize.

We confirmed for the opposition that there was no blockage to access to the detainees. We also had conversations with the Afghan authorities who have offered to proceed with a formal agreement. We will have the Department of Foreign Affairs proceed with drafting that formal agreement.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, the original Canada-Afghanistan agreement included a prohibition against the transfer of detainees into situations of inhumane treatment and torture. There is evidence including from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission that detainees have in fact been tortured in a culture of impunity.

Is the government continuing to transfer prisoners in violation of international law? Is the government seeking to have the return of detainees transferred in conformity with international law? Why should we trust any unseen agreement with those implicated in the torture itself?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, we are asking why they put so much trust in false allegations.

We want to be sure that whatever act the prisoners may have committed, they are extended their human rights. In all the visits our Correctional Service officers have done, they have not actually seen the evidence.

There is something the opposition should be aware of. The Taliban are like the al-Qaeda. Taliban members train with them and use the same manual procedures. Members of the Taliban have been told, trained and instructed to lie if asked about being tortured. As a matter of fact, they are told directly to say they were tortured even if they were not. That makes it difficult, but we want all prisoners' rights protected.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government has said that it takes its responsibilities under international law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms seriously.

Why then has the government in Federal Court moved to dismiss an action by Amnesty International to determine Canada's obligations under international law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Why has the government sought to claim that the plaintiffs do not have standing before the court?

The government should not say that it cannot answer the question because the matter is before the courts. Why is the government trying to remove the matter from being judged by the courts?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, now that they have been exposed as believing false allegations, they are trying to backtrack.

We are concerned about prisoners' rights everywhere. When British soldiers were captured by a regime that tortured and killed Zahra Kazemi, we heard nothing from the opposition about those prisoners. We hear nothing about the prisoners in Cuba and concern about what happens to them in prisons there.

The Taliban are the most serious killers in the 21st century. All we hear on the Taliban question is the suggestion a little while ago from the Leader of the Opposition to build a Guantanamo north here in Canada and to bring them here. Why? Why do they get that kind of attention?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, even the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the government representative responsible for signing treaties, was surprised yesterday to hear that there was a new verbal agreement on the treatment of prisoners. This same minister said yesterday that he had not read the report from his senior officials on the torture carried out in Afghan prisons.

Does the minister think this is a normal state of affairs? Does he plan on finally assuming his responsibilities?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, last February, I was very proud when I said goodbye to two of our federal prison system officials who are now in Afghanistan. The official I spoke to two days ago said that he had been to the prison at least 15 times. This is not an easy job, but the officials are present.

We take the rights of prisoners and the human rights of all people very seriously, and we will continue to use this prison system.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, the problem is that none of Canada's agreements contain the right to access at any time throughout a prisoner's detention. That is what is missing, and that is what I was asking the Minister of National Defence yesterday.

Did he read the agreements? Why did he not ensure access at any time? The 15 times the minister is talking about took place after a request was made for access at any time.

Does the Minister of Foreign Affairs plan on assuming his responsibilities and ensuring that there is a real agreement that upholds the rights of soldiers and prisoners?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I wonder why opposition members did not read the information that I and others were putting out about corrections officers going to Afghanistan. We put that out a long time ago. They were never interested in that. They never wanted to talk to our corrections officers. They never wanted to heed the very laudable reports that even prisoners gave about how they were treated by Canadian soldiers. But when somebody makes a false allegation with nothing to back it up, those members are so quick to believe it.

We have been putting the information out there about our corrections officers visiting those prisons. Opposition members have never asked one question about that.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Bloc Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs cannot guarantee that this verbal agreement his colleague is talking about will turn into a written agreement that he can table here in this House.

Can the minister assure us that this agreement will lead to compliance with the Geneva convention, which Canada has signed, and that he will make sure it applies throughout Afghanistan?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Helena Guergis ConservativeSecretary of State (Foreign Affairs and International Trade) (Sport)

Mr. Speaker, yes. In fact, to assure there are no such reckless, false accusations going forward, foreign affairs officials will proceed in drafting a formal agreement.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Bloc Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence claims to have reached an agreement recently with the authorities in Kandahar to allow Canadian emissaries to visit Afghan detainees and make sure they are being well treated.

How does the Minister of Foreign Affairs intend to make sure that all the prisons, even the ones outside Kandahar, can be visited, so that Canada does not violate the Geneva convention?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, our intent is clear. We are going to continue doing what we have been doing for a long time. Yesterday, federal corrections officials and Foreign Affairs officials were in the Kandahar detention facility, not in the prison itself, and again received an open invitation to visit anytime to make sure no one is being tortured, we hope, in these places.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, the chief of the defence Staff and the Minister of Foreign Affairs were unaware of a new agreement that would give access to prisoners transferred by the Canadian Forces. Now we know why: there was no agreement.

Now, we are being told that there will be an agreement, but when? When will we have details about this new agreement? What will the government do to make sure these prisoners are being well treated?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, it is too bad that the millions of viewers who are glued to their television sets right now cannot see the panic on the opposition side as those members are backpedalling, changing notes and changing questionnaires because they realize that they have been caught.

They have been caught for leaking false allegations and for not coming to us and asking what the real situation is. Time and again we have confirmed what we have been saying. They have been caught red-handed in believing false allegations about our brave and dedicated troops.

We will continue the process of respecting prisoners' rights and ensuring their rights are respected, regardless of false allegations from the opposition.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, we want to talk about panic. First it was the Red Cross, then it was the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, then it was some other body and then last night we heard we would have a new agreement. I have heard that Correctional Service Canada will be involved.

Will Correctional Service Canada be the body charged with monitoring full time the conditions of detainees? When will we see this agreement?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, it is common in debate, when someone raises his or her voice in panic and just fires out a bunch of questions, that the person has lost the issue. That is what we are seeing across the way.

As I have already indicated, Correctional Service Canada has been involved for some period of time. We have let people know that but they have never been interested in asking what our Correctional Service officers are observing there.

A supposed or purported Taliban prisoner, they will believe right away, but dedicated Correctional Service officers who actually are putting their lives on the line even going to Afghanistan and some of those areas, they will not listen to and will not believe. We believe in our dedicated people.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, prison officials in Kandahar, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, distinguished Canadian, Louise Arbour, and the government's own highly censored foreign affairs report have all warned that detainees in Afghan prisons are routinely tortured and abused, contrary to the Geneva convention.

In the so-called inspections by Correctional Service Canada, have all the detainees under Canada's responsibility been accounted for per date, yes or no?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, only yesterday our Correctional Service people and the foreign affairs individuals who went into the National Directorate of Security facility, which is where detainees are usually held for a month to two months, asked that question and the registry was shown to them. We do not know for how many years or whether it was always intact but there is a registry of all the names and our officials were allowed to inspect those names.

Medical officers visit that facility once a week. Family members are notified when their relatives are in there.

In terms of that particular facility, yes, they saw the registry yesterday.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the registry is one thing, the people are something else.

The minister cannot say how many detainees Canada is responsible for nor can he say who they are, where they are or what condition they are in.

He has repeatedly given false information, as has the Minister of National Defence who, yesterday, claimed to have some new agreement that we know today is not true.

Will the Prime Minister support our courageous forces in Afghanistan by picking, from any number of his more talented backbenchers, a new defence minister to be a leader that our troops can finally respect?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, these are serious matters so it is hard not to find it a bit humourous when the member gets up with his first question thinking he has us on the registry and then, when I say that the individuals saw the registry yesterday, he says that the registry is not important.

The individuals also saw the people who were detained. Now he is saying that we are lying and I hope he apologizes for that.

We saw those people. We are concerned about those people. Two of the individuals talked to our officials about their treatment and our officers raised the issue of their being in leg irons. We do not think they should be in leg irons.

Member for Okanagan--CoquihallaOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, accusations were made by the Liberals that the Minister of Public Safety was involved in the Jim Hart issue. They were calling for an RCMP investigation and the member for Ajax—Pickering even called for the minister to step aside.

Has the minister heard back from the RCMP and, if so, would he report to the House what the answer was?

Member for Okanagan--CoquihallaOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I received a letter from the RCMP today informing me that it has reviewed the information that it was given by the member for Ajax—Pickering and all the documents. The RCMP's investigation on this matter remains concluded and therefore there is nothing further on this matter.

When we come into this place we hope to leave it with at least our reputation intact. I hope the member for Ajax—Pickering will follow the time honoured tradition now, since we know this will not be a big headline item in the news as the accusations were, and at least stand and apologize.

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

April 26th, 2007 / 2:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the new sponsorship boondoggle goes right to the minister. Yesterday, when she was scrambling to justify herself, she tried to implicate the member for Windsor West because he was quite rightly doing his job when he wrote to her as minister to ask for ideas about festival funding.

What she did not tell the House is that this past week she personally wrote him and said that she had no idea about any funding sources. At the same time, she was personally trolling Conservative backbenchers for ways to spend $30 million.

I am asking the minister to do the right thing, to apologize to the House and correct the public record.

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, we receive a number of requests for festival funding. We recognize that there is a community need there, which is why we announced our intent in our budget to create a program. The criteria has yet to be established, which is why we are asking all MPs for their input.

We want to ensure we are a government that meets community needs, as has been outlined by all members, but we will do it through a transparent and accountable process.