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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

Human Rights DayStatements By Members

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, today, December 10, is Human Rights Day.

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” These famous few words established the fundamental principle of international human rights law 60 years ago.

Yet today, the fight against discrimination remains a daily struggle for millions around the globe. Every one of us can make a difference, like our leader, who introduced Bill C-471 and said that equal pay for work of equal value is a basic human right that should never be subject to negotiation.

We must be united in the fight to end discrimination.

Liberals, like our leader, are in it for all Canadians and in it to end discrimination.

Government PoliciesStatements By Members

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, in 2009, our government set out a bold economic action plan to help combat the global downturn. This spurred infrastructure projects across the country. We reduced taxes on families and businesses and implemented measures such as the home renovation tax credit and the first time home buyers' tax credit. We did all of this while the Liberal leader hoped the economy would get worse. However, we should not be surprised, as this was the trend all year long.

We worked for Canadians while the Liberal leader worked for an unnecessary election. We improved infrastructure while the Liberal leader complained about signs. We got tough on crime and the Liberal leader hid behind his senators. We stood up for the Canadian armed forces while the Liberal leader politicized their mission and fundraised off their backs.

The lesson in 2009 is clear: The Liberal leader is simply not in it for Canadians.

AfghanistanOral Questions

December 10th, 2009 / 2:20 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, for over a year, there were credible reports of torture in Afghanistan, and this government did nothing.

They were wilfully blind for a year, and the Prime Minister is responsible.

When will he take responsibility? Why is he still refusing to create an independent judicial public inquiry?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is perfectly clear that the Canadian Forces and the Department of Foreign Affairs took the necessary action four years ago and three years ago.

Two and a half years ago, the Minister of Foreign Affairs negotiated a brand new agreement with the Government of Afghanistan.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, what do they have to hide? They covered up the evidence. They intimidated witnesses. They tarnished the reputations of government officials. They censored documents. This morning, in the House, the government even tried to prevent Parliament from debating this issue.

The Prime Minister is responsible for this behaviour. What does he have to hide?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Nothing, Mr. Speaker.

The Leader of the Opposition has no proof to back up these allegations against the Canadian Forces. He should admit that.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, there are no allegations against Canadian Forces. It is the conduct of the government that is in question. The government has withheld evidence, it has intimidated witnesses, it has censored documents. This morning it even tried to prevent Parliament from debating the issue.

The Prime Minister is responsible for this conduct. He is responsible for a year of wilful blindness. What does he have to hide?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Once again, Mr. Speaker, the reason the Leader of the Opposition now tries to say he does not point the finger at the Canadian Forces and diplomats is, of course, because they have always respected their obligations. These people have been operating in extremely difficult conditions in Afghanistan. Whenever they have been faced with difficulties, they have taken the appropriate action.

Systems have been changed two, three, four years ago. This issue has long since been dealt with.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government cannot claim that it only just learned about the specific incident of detainee abuse from General Natynczyk yesterday. Colonel Noonan's affidavit of 2007 and General Deschamp's testimony under oath in 2008 were both in the public domain while the government chose to ignore them and stymied the work of the Military Police Complaints Commission.

Now that we know that detainee abuse actually took place, not just once but many times as per the field notes, will the government now provide the committee with uncensored documents and call a public inquiry forthwith?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I think it is clear to everyone, including the member opposite, that General Natynczyk acted properly by correcting a certain point yesterday, as the Canadian Forces have on each and every occasion. When there has been credible evidence, we have acted. Our diplomats and soldiers continue to perform marvellously in a theatre and a difficult operation. This government stands four-square behind them. I ask the member opposite to do the same.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, hiding behind the uniform of brave men and women is the last refuge of any--I will not use that word.

The government is not the sole protector of national security. Parliament can protect the national interest as well, if not better. The parliamentary law clerk and the Department of Justice have stated that section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act does not apply to parliamentary proceedings.

Will the government now produce the uncensored documents and do the right thing by Canadian troops and Canadians and call a public inquiry?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has not been listening to the arguments and has not been looking at the advice that has been provided.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that one of the experts we have quoted and are relying upon is Professor Joseph Maingot, who, in discussing parliamentary privilege, says:

By convention, a parliamentary committee will respect Crown privilege when invoked, at least in relation to matters of national and public security.

What is so difficult about that to understand for the hon. member?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to a report drafted by a commander who was in Afghanistan in June 2006, detainees were photographed before being transferred to Afghan authorities to provide evidence of abuse because, as the report says, "it happened in the past”.

How are we supposed to believe the Minister of National Defence, who has hidden the truth and done his utmost to cover up the fact that Canada was transferring prisoners when he had evidence that they might be subject to torture? When will the Prime Minister demand the minister's resignation?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, in that particular incident, which has been public knowledge for a long time now, the Canadian Forces acted to prevent the abuse of a detainee. In all of these cases, it is clear that the Canadian Forces have done what they were supposed to do.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government is talking about a single incident, but the report says, “it happened in the past”. The government says that this information was public for a long time, but on Tuesday, it said the opposite in the House. It takes a lot of nerve to say things like that. The Prime Minister is thumbing his nose at Canadians, our soldiers and this House. It makes no sense.

We have been asking the minister questions for months, even years, but he did not even have the sense to check his facts, to ask questions and to investigate. And he wants us to believe everything he says? He is not to be trusted. He needs to accept his responsibilities. He needs to prove that he is worthy of his position.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, in this case, the Canadian Forces neither authorized nor participated in abuse. Quite the contrary, in fact. It is clear that they intervened to prevent a detainee from being abused. That is how the Canadian Forces operate, and we are very proud of them.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, from the start, ministers and senior army officers have dismissed our questions, saying that no case of torture of a detainee handed over to the Afghan authorities by Canada has been proven. Thanks to a report that mysteriously resurfaced this week, we now know that is not true. The Chief of Defence Staff has opened an inquiry to determine what happened.

Does the Prime Minister not believe that a public inquiry would be preferable to an internal investigation conducted by the army, in which it is both judge and defendant?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows, the Chief of the Defence Staff brought forward information that clarified this issue yesterday. Members, including the member opposite, have indicated that they accept the general's word, that they accept him to be an honourable person.

I am surprised, quite frankly, and it is quite perverse to suggest that he would not support the military process to look into this issue. That again really portrays something quite obvious. We support the forces, their success and the success of our country. He cannot say the same.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence himself, who just spoke, acknowledged that the Afghan authorities used torture, but supposedly not on detainees turned over by Canada. We now know that is not true. At least one detainee who was handed over to the authorities in 2006 was tortured. The minister has lost all credibility. He is visibly trying to conceal things.

Will the Prime Minister demand his resignation and call a public inquiry immediately?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

The incident, Mr. Speaker, that the member speaks of yesterday was clarified by the Chief of the Defence Staff. He and the members of the Canadian Forces, from the highest ranks to those on the ground in Afghanistan, continue to distinguish our country. Their incredible work is something we applaud. We certainly think of them at this time of year as everyone gets prepared to spend time with their families.

This incident, of course, demonstrates again the professionalism, the hard work and accomplishments of the Canadian Forces. In each and every occasion, they act with the highest integrity.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is high time the government took action on the detainee transfer scandal. Canada's international reputation is being damaged.

There is talk of a violation of the Geneva convention. If we do not shed light on this matter, the rest of the world will.

If it has nothing to hide, why does the government not launch an immediate inquiry?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the facts are clear. The Canadian Forces and the Department of Foreign Affairs have met their international obligations. When faced with problems, they have taken corrective action. In fact, we concluded a brand new agreement with the Afghan government two and a half years ago. The facts are clear.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are tired of this nonsense. They believe Richard Colvin. The Chief of the Defence Staff vindicated him when he spoke of that 2006 report, which the government officials thought was important enough that they turned it over to Amnesty International two years ago. The minister did not care. He did not read it. He did not even want to act.

It is time for the government to take the step that is required, and that is to ask the minister to step down and start the inquiry, independently.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, first, once again by his own admission, the leader of the NDP speaks of facts that have been on the public record for a couple of years. What do those facts indicate? Those facts indicate that the Canadian Forces, when faced with a case of abuse, took immediate action to deal with that. That should hardly be used as a reason to attack the forces. It should be used as a reason to praise them.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister must know that it is Human Rights Day today, and these types of answers, denials and cover-ups do not look good on Canada.

In fact, what is worse, on this 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is the government has refused to sign. It says that it is tough on crime, but it is looking soft on torture right now because it will not ratify the United Nations optional protocol against torture.

Why will the government not stand up against torture and ratify the UN declaration against it?