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House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was documents.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, the member opposite referred to an incident that happened in June 2006, under the rules governing transfers of prisoners that were put into place by the former government, his own government. Once there was an indication there could be a problem, the new government, the Conservative government, set to work right away to make a more robust set of rules. Indeed, yesterday, the Chief of the Defence Staff, upon learning that the situation was different, and it took him three years to get the truth, immediately ordered an investigation so that the chain of command would be able to far more quickly get the information that is required.

My question is, now that we have the more robust rules in place, and we are looking at why it took information so long to get up the chain, what is it that the member opposite hopes to accomplish in making these documents unredacted by the justice department public, that is, aside from making information public that may jeopardize the lives of our soldiers?

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, first, I would point out that the original agreement, which was signed back in December 2005 in the middle of the federal election, was confirmed by the generals who came before the committee and by David Mulroney, that in fact we did not know exactly what we were getting into and, therefore, when it became clear that things on the ground were worse than we expected, the government decided to enhance the agreement. Obviously there was a problem. If there was not a problem, why would it have to enhance the agreement? Clearly, there must have been issues on the ground that led the government to decide we had to have a more robust transfer agreement. That is the first thing.

The second thing is the issue of security on the ground, or national security. They say that we are going to put our troops in jeopardy. Again, as Mr. Walsh and others have pointed out, there are ways to deal with that so that the information does not necessarily have to be out in the public domain. Nobody is suggesting it has to be out in the public domain. What we are suggesting is that as a committee, we need to have information. That information needs to be here.

I am sure the member would know that if there was a public inquiry, that information would be available. There are reporters who have it. The member does not seem to be too worried about that. There are generals and others who have reviewed it. Apparently, that is not a problem. Apparently it is a problem for elected members of Parliament to have it, who are supposed to be conducting an investigation, based on the resolution which the government supported in March 2008.

There was an enhanced agreement because obviously there are issues on the ground. The example that we saw yesterday and the comments from General Natynczyk underline that and why we need to get to the bottom of it.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, it is absolutely outrageous that duly elected members of Parliament on the committee cannot get access to these documents when reporters are getting access to them. It is unbelievable that would happen in a democracy such as this.

As the member said, there was no credible case until yesterday. I think the government was simply hoping and praying that the days would go by and it would get through Christmas without having yesterday's development. The Conservatives have been trying to hold on. They are involving themselves in crisis control. They are trying to hold on for two more days so they can get through the Christmas period and into January.

Earlier I asked a government member why members of Parliament were being denied documents and why the government leaked Colvin's memos to the media and why the government continued to obstruct the committee's request for documents. The member answered everything but; it was basically a filibuster to the question. He nibbled around the edges but never dealt with any part of those two questions that I asked him.

Would the member like to suggest why that would be?

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, the fact that the government member did not answer the questions, I think, speaks volumes. The reality is that we know the information is out there in the public domain and that certain individuals have that information. The fact is that when a reporter gets information and writes a story which is favourable, that obviously, in this case, is helping the government.

Again, we are not asking that this information be given to select members of the committee. It is for all members of the committee on the government side and our side. If we are going to do the job, we need to have that information.

I would point out to my colleague that the reason it is out there is that obviously certain people can be trusted, but apparently we cannot. That means we are not able to do the job we have been entrusted to do by Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Madam Speaker, I have listened to my colleagues across the floor both in the House and in committee rail on and on about documents which they believe they should have had, or could have had, or might have had, and are concerned that they have not gotten them.

They have been so outspoken about this issue that I wonder if the other side is prepared to release all of the documents from the former government, from 2002 until it left office in 2006, to the committee, so that we can understand. Many of the issues that the Liberals have been bringing forward are in reports going back to the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, issues that they should have known about.

I would like to know how the Liberals made their decision to do very little for our troops.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, we did not do very little for our troops. In fact the member may recall that in the 2005 budget, there was $15 billion, the largest expenditure in Canadian history in peacetime.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Just tell the truth.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. The member for Richmond Hill has the floor. We would like to hear his answer.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you, Madam Speaker. We have not become Zimbabwe yet. When somebody asks a question, I would assume it is only respectful to ask for some silence on the other side so we can give the answer. Otherwise, if the question is of no value, do not ask it.

The reality is that in 2005 we put $15 billion into the military. At that time, General Hillier was given the responsibility of rebuilding the armed forces. As members know, we came through a very dark period of a $42.5 billion deficit in which we had to make certain choices. When we had the money, we immediately put it into the armed forces, and that was in 2005.

The issue of the documents is that on November 25, the special committee asked for documents. The committee was very clear on what it wanted. The member was there and he knows that again, the government failed to produce the unedited version of the documents which we need. Whether they are of any value or not, we will not know unless we see the documents.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, there is no question that Parliament has the constitutional right to call for persons, papers and records, and that authority is delegated to all our committees under Standing Order 108(1)(a).

Mr. Colvin had the documents. The generals also had the unredacted documents available to them when they testified. Did we ask the generals, and if not, why not?

It is a matter of when the request for the government to provide the documents was issued. The government indicated and the generals had indicated that there was no information in the redacted form that would indicate there was torture. That appears not to be the case.

Can the committee not ask the government again for the unredacted documents?

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, in fact there is a question of privilege because we have not received the documents. The reality is the information we need has been seen by others. The question of privilege is to deal with that issue in the House to get a ruling, because we cannot do our job if we do not have all the facts before us.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, I thank you for giving me the floor.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in this important debate to discuss an issue that has been widely discussed in this place, in committee and certainly throughout the country. I should indicate that I will be sharing my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

I am joining in the debate to state clearly, once again, that the disclosure of the documents that are sought, the government information and legal proceedings and what Canadians would receive, is done through a process that falls under the responsibility of the Department of Justice. It is a process that is independent from politics.

Earlier in the day we heard from the Minister of Justice. He stated in a very articulate and straightforward way the process by which redactions are done. He clearly indicated that it is non-partisan, independent public service in his department who make these determinations.

I also want to put on the record and restate that Canadians should understand that the reputation of the military is completely intact. There has been nothing done that would indicate they have acted other than honourably in conducting themselves on this mission, as they have consistently throughout our country's history.

Canadian men and women, civilian and military, have done an outstanding job. They have been working selflessly. As we speak they continue to do so in bringing security and peace efforts to improve Afghanistan, a country that has been under siege for decades. They do so at great risk to themselves and their families. Certainly at this time of year our thoughts and prayers are with them in that regard.

While they are putting their lives on the line along with colleagues from 60 other nations, including our NATO partners, they are doing so to help people build Afghanistan to a stable society and democratic country. This is a Herculean task. It is a country where we want to see Afghans one day have a semblance of normal life; that is, to enjoy some of the same rights and privileges we are so lucky and fortunate to enjoy in Canada: stability, education, basic health care, employment and the prospect of a better future.

Through our whole of government mission, the least the government can do is to make sure our dedicated men and women in uniform and the many civilians who are there building that country can do their difficult work as safely as possible. That means providing the right protective equipment. That is something our government had prided itself on. We have provided that equipment: tanks, helicopters; UAVs; and road clearance materials to detect the deadly improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which have taken so many lives.

I met a young captain on the elevator at the Department of National Defence this morning. He told me that he and his crew had defused or disabled over 800 of these devices in the past month. There is incredible heroic work being done, and it has surely saved and preserved life inside Afghanistan.

The Government of Canada has a fundamental obligation to ensure that the lives of civilians and Canadian Forces personnel in Afghanistan are not put in further jeopardy or given additional risk by releasing information that may be part of operational security or affect relations with our allies, international organizations, or confidential sources who often provide us with information to help prevent enemy attacks. The government's primary obligation is to protect and promote the lives of its citizens, including our men and women who are deployed.

Special care is also being taken to avoid a situation by a careful review of thousands of documents, pages of which might contain information that could be helpful to the enemy. Governments should do this with the greatest care and responsibility. It is done by officials who are specially trained with an eye to that detail, and it is done independent of the political branch of government.

As I have stated before, section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act applies to all proceedings before bodies with the power to compel the production of information where international relations, national defence or national security interests would be at risk. We will continue to provide all legally available information when issues come forward and when documents are requested. We have produced documents, and we will do so, in accordance with the law.

Provisions of legislation such as the Canada Evidence Act, the Access to Information Act, the Personal Information Protection Act and the Security of Information Act, which Parliament passed in order to prevent public disclosure of information that is sensitive or would affect national security, are justified.

In fact, these laws protect the security of our country, and the security of Canadian citizens and our representatives as well as members of the Canadian Forces who work in dangerous places in order to put our values into practice. All members will certainly agree on the importance of the protections afforded. That is why certain parliamentary conventions acknowledge that they are necessary.

When one looks at the legal aspects of this, certainly our courts understand the importance of such protections.

To place this argument in a better context, to take it out of the parliamentary and sometimes partisan atmosphere we work in, let me share a quote from the Federal Court case of Singh v. Attorney General. In this case, Mr. Justice Andrew MacKay, no relation, stated:

Canada's international relations, in particular relations with our allies, rely on the exchange of information for common benefit. There is a public interest in maintaining the confidence of foreign governments so that Canada's agencies, particularly those concerned with security, will continue to receive timely information from others that may be relevant to Canada's interests. Confidential information, by definition, is information that is passed along in confidence that it will not be disclosed without the permission of the provider or the source. If Canada does not enjoy the confidence of its allies, our international relations and security may well suffer. The public has a very high level interest in maintaining that confidence.

Mr. Justice MacKay went on to say with respect to national security:

To effectively provide a defence against terrorism and to participate in a global effort to constrain it, it is imperative for Canada to maintain as highly confidential the investigational interests of our security services, the sources of their information, the technologies and techniques they employ, the identities of their employees and particularly their informants. Canada's security agencies must maintain the confidences and the cooperation of foreign agencies that have shared confidential information with our services in the expectation that it would not be divulged. The public interest served by maintaining secrecy in the national security context is weighty. In the balancing of public interests here at play, that interest would only be outweighed in a clear and compelling case for disclosure.

Every clear-thinking member of the House, certainly those who have served in cabinet and even now in opposition, must surely agree with those sentiments.

Another clear example is the case as recent as October of this year, when Chief Justice Allan Lutfy of the Federal Court ruled on an access to information request. The applicant sought specific information related to persons detained by Canadian Forces in Afghanistan: their names, identification numbers, operational detail, circumstances of capture and the like. The Chief Justice stated:

I find that the information in issue...including the nature of the operations and the location, date, time and other circumstances surrounding the capture of the detainees. On the record before me, I am satisfied that the disclosure of this information in 2007 could have been of assistance to the enemy of the CF in Afghanistan, could have caused harm to members of the CF and others in that country and could reasonably have been expected to be injurious to the defence of Canada or its allies within the meaning of s. 15 of the Act. The determination made in 2007 by National Defence not to disclose this information was made on reasonable grounds.

This is partial advice from our courts, and it is additional information that should be recognized and taken into consideration in this debate. As parliamentarians, we must recognize our responsibilities and the necessity of safeguarding sensitive information.

The process under section 38 of the Evidence Act serves as a useful surrogate to identify information that should not be disclosed. Simply put, there is no mechanism to ensure the protection of information that is injurious to our national security, national defence, international relations, and information disclosed in the committee context.

This is why we will continue to follow the process. The law is in place to ensure first and foremost the security of our men and women in uniform and civilians serving so valiantly in Afghanistan and other places around the world. I would hope that members would take this matter seriously and not pass this motion, in the interest of their lives and the lives of their families.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Madam Speaker, I do not believe the minister was referring to Parliament seeking information in that last case; it must have been an institutional organization other than Parliament.

Parliament is in a class by itself. Parliament is not an ordinary entity. It is not an entity like any other organization. The same concerns cannot be expressed about parliamentary committees or Parliament itself. Parliament is absolutely supreme. It is the body that ultimately oversees the work of the government.

I have a question for the minister. It is with respect to the redacted field notes that were given to the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, or other organizations, in the specific case that General Natynczyk referred to yesterday. I understand that from those field notes there is information with respect to the detainee being abused and other detainees being abused. The now released documents indicate that the field notes refer to abuse having happened many times before.

Can the minister tell us whether General Natynczyk could say yesterday that the release of that information would not have harmed Canadian soldiers or troops? Can the minister now say that the redaction was appropriate when it was done?

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, I do not know whether the hon. member was in the chamber, but I know that even having served in cabinet he refuses to accept the reality that it is arm's-length, independent persons within the Attorney General's department who make these redactions. To suggest that it is politicized is simply incorrect.

However, to come back to the fundamental issue as to Parliament's supremacy, clearly the government is going to follow the law, and the law as we all know is passed by Parliament. That is political science 101.

Clearly we are complying with the law, in fact we are complying with the law that was enhanced around issues of security by the government of the member opposite. In the wake of 9/11, there were improvements made to the Canada Evidence Act, including section 38. They were specifically designed to protect the things that have been the subject of this discussion: protecting confidential information, ensuring operational security, ensuring we are enabled to protect that information.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

An hon. member

That is nonsense.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

As far as the hon. member who is now tweeting orally in the chamber, we know he has a record of having tweeted in committee. It is quite shameful that the member would suggest that information is impeccably protected in committees when he is guilty of having leaked information that could have been injurious.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, if we accept what the defence minister says, that these redactions are being carried out by independent arm's-length people in various departments, are we to suggest that they have supremacy over Parliament? Is that the minister's suggestion, that independent people have supremacy over Parliament?

In fact the same people are doing redactions for the documents that go to the MPCC, and its counsel, who are also independent and arm's-length, are questioning the redactions and saying they are unnecessary. Even a cursory examination would suggest that the redactions are unnecessarily broad. They spent 14 pages detailing why they were going too far in taking things out. Are they the kind of people the minister is suggesting are supreme over Parliament?

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, even the tone of the hon. member's question is quite offensive. The member is now suggesting that those people, those non-partisan public servants who are doing this important work, are somehow unworthy or unable to do this important task. This is exactly what they are trained to do.

I know the hon. member and his party do not support the mission. They have a very questionable record of having supported attempts that this government has made to improve the security of our men and women in uniform. He and his party have consistently voted against giving them the protective equipment they need to do the job. The member shows such courage 12,000 miles from the mission, in the comforts of this place. He should take off his comfortable shoes and walk a mile in the soldiers' boots, outside the wire.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, it will come as no surprise that I cannot support the motion before House today.

There is a good reason why the government has taken the measures it has with regard to documents, and that is safety, the safety of our men and women in uniform, their civilian colleagues, other government agencies and departments as well as the protection of our partners and allies. Unfortunately, it may be too easy to demand the provision of written documents as if their disclosure had no impact beyond these chambers.

The Canadian Forces, working alongside over 60 other nations and international organizations as part of the UN mandated NATO-led mission, are playing a leadership role in delivering real results as an integral part of Canada's whole-of-government team in Afghanistan.

Several years ago, when our troops first deployed to Afghanistan, we knew there would be many challenges. After all, Afghanistan had suffered decades of war and misrule. The government lacked the capacity to deliver the most basic service. Still today the insurgency remains ruthless. The Taliban attacks with roadside bombs, vehicle bombs, suicide bombs. They threaten, they intimidate, and the results can be devastating. Sadly, we have paid a heavy price for progress in Afghanistan.

To date, Canada has lost 133 selfless men and women in uniform, one diplomat and two aid workers. Our injured and fallen came from places like Mill Cove, Montreal, Fredericton, Conception Bay, Thunder Bay, Victoria, Iqaluit and Edmonton. They made a substantial differences in places like Panjwaii, Daman, Spin Boldak, Ghorak, Khakrez and Kandahar City.

They left behind a legacy of hope and confidence for the Afghan people, a legacy held high by our more than 2,800 men and women still serving in theatre. It is their valour, their dedication and their selflessness that really make a difference. That has established and reinforced the reputation of our Canadian Forces as one of the best militaries in the world.

We hold them to the highest standards of professional conduct and, through their blood, sweat and tears, they never let us down. In Afghanistan they are defending the basic values we all believe in and stand for day in and day out in this very chamber, things like freedom, democracy, rule of law, values that generations of Canadians who have proudly worn the maple leaf have fought and died for.

Despite the dangers, the devotion of our men and women in uniform has allowed us to deliver on our pledge to the international community, on our promise to the Afghan people. We are offering them dignity, security and justice and a better future.

The Canadian Forces are providing the essential protection that is fundamental to creating the secure environment necessary for governance, humanitarian development and the training of a military and police force to occur. We are partnering with Afghans to do so because it is their country.

It has been clear from the start that a well-trained, well-equipped Afghan National Security Force is essential if the Afghan government is to assume increasing responsibility for its own security and development. Thanks to the Canadian Forces, the Afghan National Security Forces are growing. They are growing in confidence, in capacity and in capability.

We have seen some of our greatest success through our operational mentoring and liaison team. Currently Canadian men and women in uniform in our OMLT are mentoring five Afghan army battalions and their headquarters. We also have civilian and military police trainers and mentors supporting the Afghan National Police reform.

From a fledgling force a few years ago, ill-equipped and lacking proper training, the Afghan National Army has, with the support of the Canadian Forces, matured into a credible force. The progress it has made is impressive. Afghan forces are now conducting more than two-thirds of the combat operations in and around Kandahar City.

Progress is empowering Afghans. It is allowing them to move beyond ongoing security concerns to rebuild their schools, their roads and their sense of pride in their country. While progress may appear slow, it is taking hold and touching the lives of Afghans every day.

The ultimate goal is to help create a better governed, more peaceful and more secure Afghanistan for Afghans, a goal that the Canadian Forces, indeed the entire whole-of government effort, is helping to make a reality.

That leads me to our responsibility back here at home.

First, contrary to a couple of comments across the floor earlier today, this government did not leak any documents to any media. The Government of Canada has an obligation and a moral duty to see that the lives of Canadians Forces personnel in Afghanistan are not put at additional risk by the release of information that may be of an operational security nature. We are required by law to protect sensitive information relating to international relations, national defence or national security, whether in written or oral form.

I am sure you can agree, Madam Speaker, that this is not about politics. It is about protecting Canadian lives. It is about protecting the lives of our partners and allies. It is about protecting the relationships with our partners in Afghanistan, which are so crucial in helping us conduct our mission.

The responsibility of protecting or disclosing sensitive information lies with independent, non-partisan public servants. It is these public servants who review suggested redactions provided by the respective departments. It is their duty to balance the public interest in disclosure against the public interest in non-disclosure, and there is no political interference in this process.

In the end, we are working to preserve hard won trust and respect of our allies and we are ensuring that good people's lives are not put at additional risk by the potential release of information that may be of a sensitive nature.

What if irresponsible actions of the House make us fail in that duty? We need to think about that. Canadian soldiers, civilians, Afghans working for us, some of them in the most perilous situations, and translators. Afghans who translate for us are the most endangered people in the entire country.

We can be sure that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are listening in to what is going on in Canada every day. They are probably listening in today. They may be murderers and terrorists, but they are not stupid and they do know how to conduct operations. They are paying attention.

If we violate the trust of our own men and women in uniform and our allies and the people who count on us, who will ever trust us again? If our Canadian soldiers or the people who trust us die because we have divulged information or because we cannot get information from organizations like the Red Cross or others to protect them, then I hope the folks across the way would stand up and take credit for that.

I know Canadians understand the great sacrifice and commitment of our forces in Afghanistan, the noble work they do to solidify our vision of Canada that holds its own on the international stage and the fact that our armed forces are one of the best and most respected in the world.

We have every reason to be proud of the role our troops are playing in routing the insurgency and planting the seeds of development and good governance, the seeds for a positive Afghan future.

After all they have sacrificed and achieved for Canada, our brave men and women deserve our continued vigilance so they can continue to accomplish the goals that we have set for them.

We are embarking on a very dangerous process today. I spent 31 years in regular force uniform and another 5 years as an honourary colonel. I can tell the House that the men and women of the Canadian Forces do know who their friends are in this Parliament. It is the people on this side of the floor because I speak to them every day. I do not expect—

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Find another way to say it. You're not the only game in this town. You never were. Your're not going to be.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

An hon. member

That's using the troops as a prop.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would like to call the House to order. The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River will have to leave the House if he cannot maintain decorum.

In the interest of Canadians and the public interest I think all members of the House would like to debate facts honourably and respectfully. I would ask all members to remember that as they speak and as they listen.

The hon. parliamentary secretary has two minutes left.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, all I can do is repeat what people tell me.

We are embarking on a dangerous process here today, one that if we are not careful will endanger the lives of Canadian men and women and the lives of the people who depend on us, who depend on us for their freedom, people like the people of Afghanistan, people like the Afghans who have worked with us with great courage to make their country better.

We cannot afford to let them down by playing politics in this place. I do not frankly expect all that much from the two parties further to my right. I have no doubt they have great affection and care for soldiers as individuals, but they have not shown any regard for the institution of the Canadian Forces.

I do expect better from the Liberal Party of Canada. Liberals and Conservatives over the years throughout history, when it comes to the big ticket items of national unity and doing the right thing on the international stage, have always spoken with the same voice. That is the voice of freedom, it is the voice of courage, it is the voice of doing the right thing for Canadian men and women here and abroad, people like the people of Holland in 1944-45, whom I spent time with this summer, and certainly the people of Afghanistan in that region who count on us.

I urge members to take our responsibility to those people and our people seriously. Do not pass this motion. It is very dangerous. It will harm Canadians and harm our allies.

Opposition Motion—Documents regarding Afghan detaineesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Madam Speaker, the member across has talked a lot about the brave men and women who are in Afghanistan, and I agree with what he has said. However, they are there for certain purposes, to protect the values that are near and dear to us, values such as democracy, our Constitution and the rule of law.

One of the linchpins that is in our Constitution is the right of Parliament, the right of this institution, to send for persons, papers and records. That is as old as Parliament itself.

The Speaker gave a very clear ruling this morning that this cannot be lessened or affected by statute law. That is exactly what that member and the Minister of National Defence have been arguing for the last six months.

We have a legal opinion from the parliamentary law counsel. We have a second legal opinion. Also disclosed this morning was that the Department of Justice has the very same view.

Why, in light of the advice from the Minister of Justice, the Speaker and the parliamentary legal counsel, is he continuing to argue that—