This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #127 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was table.

Topics

AfghanistanOral Questions

December 9th, 2009 / 2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, every time a courageous official stands up and reveals a truth, the government goes on the attack. A growing list of former ambassadors are outraged at the smears the government has launched against respected public servant Richard Colvin. That list may hit 50 diplomats by day's end. Today, the Chief of the Defence Staff himself corroborated Mr. Colvin's testimony.

Enough is enough. When is this charade going to end? When will we get a shred of truth from that dishonourable government?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, as I have said a number of times in the House, when we have received credible information, we have acted upon the advice of senior military officials and senior members of the public service. We have not discredited anyone. We have disputed evidence that was presented at a parliamentary committee. It has not been personal. It has been very much about the facts as presented at a parliamentary committee.

It is time to look at this thing in a dispassionate way. If the member wants to be political and partisan, she has the right to do so in this place. However, we will be at the parliamentary committee this afternoon. I will be glad to answer questions there in a factual way.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, ask Mr. Colvin who is being political. Our public servants do not just deserve the respect of their political masters. They need it to do their jobs effectively. If they do not have that respect and trust, they cannot serve Canadians to the best of their abilities.

Why do the Conservatives not follow the honourable example of General Natynczyk and tell Canadians the truth?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, again, I rely on the professional advice of individuals like General Natynczyk and David Mulroney, who on this matter said:

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.

A similar former diplomat, Paul Chapin, said, “I think that what set me back is how serious the allegations are and how flimsy the evidence is”.

These are senior, professional, dispassionate members of the public service who have commented on the same matter on which I commented. I have not smeared anyone's personal integrity.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, with the Chief of the Defence Staff's revelations this morning, the Conservative story on detainees has now been totally discredited. Every time the Conservatives come up with a new story, the truth comes out and they are forced to create a new falsehood to cover up the untruth of their last falsehood.

Story after story from the government is untrue. Answer after answer is total fiction. Why does the minister not finally come clean, stand up in the House and tell Canadians the truth?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, saying it louder with more feigned indignation does not make his question true. What happened here is obvious. The Chief of the Defence Staff received information this morning that reflected on his previous testimony he gave yesterday and a statement that he gave over two years ago. He then brought it to my attention.

The decision was made to issue a clarification. He has done that. We accept that. I would hope the House would accept that. That was the honourable thing. The soldiers have done the honourable thing. They acted responsibly in this instance as they have on any occasion where credible allegations or evidence have come forward.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, with the chief of the defence staff's revelations this morning, the Conservatives' story does not hold up. Every time the Conservatives try to cover up the story about torture in Afghanistan, the truth comes out and they are forced to create a new falsehood to cover up their last falsehood.

When will the minister stop fabricating stories on the fly, stand up in this House and tell Canadians the truth?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, as I have said a number of times, we act on information that we receive from senior members of the public service and senior military members. In this case, we have heard from a number of them who have testified before the committee.

We heard from those who were in charge of the mission and those who were on the ground, people like General Hillier, General Gauthier and General Fraser. We have heard from David Mulroney, a senior experienced member of the public service. All of them have given their testimony. The hon. member and members who have been in cabinet previously would know that all of them provide the information up through the chain of command and up through the public service. We act upon that information and evidence.

That is what has happened in this case. There has been a clarification. We accept that clarification.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the government has waged a smear campaign against diplomat Richard Colvin, who sounded the alarm about Afghan detainees. The government's attitude has been unworthy, or rather it has been worthy of McCarthy, the American senator who systematically lied and defamed his adversaries.

Will the government at least have the decency to apologize to Richard Colvin?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, more inflammatory and partisan rhetoric is not going to add anything to the examination of facts.

The fact is that we have questioned the credibility of evidence or testimony that was given on this matter. It has not been personal. It has been dispassionate. It has been about the facts.

We have heard from a number of witnesses, all of whom Mr. Colvin would have had access to, would have been in contact with. Those individuals have been consistent. They have been clear.

We acted on their information. We will continue to do so. That is the way it works. We are acting on credible information. We do the right thing.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the credible information we heard in committee confirmed that a great many witnesses, if not all of them, knew that there were problems with the Afghan prisons.

Every day, new information is coming to light about the torture of Afghan detainees. All this information tends to confirm that Canada failed to meet its obligations under the Geneva convention.

Before the House rises for the holidays, will the government announce that it is setting up an independent public commission of inquiry on the torture of Afghan detainees?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, there are so many inaccuracies and untruths in what the hon. member just put forward.

We have always maintained there were concerns about the state of detention facilities in Afghanistan. We have always received general allegations.

When there were specific allegations that pertained to transferred detainees that Canada had been responsible for, we acted. We suspended. We acted on information we received from senior diplomats, senior military people.

I repeat again, we are not disputing the credibility of the individual, but the credibility of the evidence that was heard. We have heard from a number of witnesses. We can check that record.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, despite the Conservatives' many attempts at a cover-up, we now know that there was at least one proven case of torture of a detainee transferred by Canada to the Afghan authorities.

How many other cases are there? Ten? Twenty? We on this side of the House want the truth. Will the Prime Minister stop hiding behind everyone? Will he shoulder his responsibilities by setting up an independent commission of inquiry and providing all the information needed to shed light on this sordid business?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, more wild speculation.

What we are dealing with today is new information that General Natynczyk disclosed to me this morning. I note, by the way, that I was actually minister of foreign affairs at the time of this particular incident, but I take responsibility for information that came to me through senior diplomats, just as other ministers receive information through their departments. That is how it works.

We act on that information and advice. We make decisions based on the information received. That information has been explored at a parliamentary committee. Far from hiding from it, I have been asked questions here every day. I will appear before the committee this afternoon. The member can continue with his line of questions.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I get the feeling that the Minister of National Defence will soon be joining the former ministers' club.

The Conservative government has hidden behind everyone, especially the military.

Will the Prime Minister and the Conservative government have the decency to apologize to the soldiers and their families, particularly the families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan, for using them for cheap political purposes?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I will never apologize for standing beside the brave men and women of our professional civil service and the brave men and women in the Canadian Forces. I stand beside them. I support them, as do members of this government. They perform their duties marvellously. Without exception they have been ethical in the conduct of their duties. We support them in each and every way, and we will continue to do so.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the assertion that there is no credible evidence that any detainee transferred by Canadians had ever been tortured is the whole basis for the government's position and we now know that that basis is untrue. There is such credible evidence.

Will the minister tell us exactly what is that new evidence upon which General Natynczyk has changed his story and where has that evidence been for the last three years?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I would answer this way. As the Chief of the Defence Chief has said, there will now be a military board of inquiry to look into this particular incident. When did that information come to my attention? This morning when I received a call from the Chief of the Defence Staff. That is factual. That is the way it works when we have senior officials; the Chief of the Defence Staff contacts me, shares advice, shares information. The hon. member would know that as a former member of cabinet, but he is engaged in a partisan political exercise.

We will deal with facts and evidence and do the right thing.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, will the minister, when he appears before the committee this afternoon, bring with him that new evidence so that the committee can be informed of exactly the basis upon which General Natynczyk has changed his story and undermined the entire position taken by the government for the last three years? Will he bring the evidence this afternoon?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I have said time and time again, and I repeat, I act on the advice, the information that came through two departments, in this instance first the Department of Foreign Affairs and now the Department of National Defence. We act on that information. We assume it to be accurate. There has now been a correction issued by the Chief of the Defence Staff. He made me aware of that this morning. I accept this correction.

There will be ample opportunity to examine this incident. There will be ample opportunity to discuss this. There will be a military board of inquiry. We will deal with facts, not the political ranting and raving of the member opposite.

International Co-OperationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, KAIROS is comprised of religious groups such as the Anglican Church, the United Church, the Catholic Church, just to name a few. Yet the government has cut $7 million in funding to KAIROS while it continues to waste taxpayers' money on self-promotion, such as the $1.7 million for a video for the Prime Minister. This is on top of the $100 million in shameless Conservative advertising.

How can propaganda for the Prime Minister and billboards for doorknobs be more important than groups that fight for human rights?

International Co-OperationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, Canadians want to know that when Canada steps up to help people who are vulnerable living in poverty that their money is going to be used to actually make a difference in people's lives. That is why we want to ensure that all of our CIDA programs are effective and that the Canadian taxpayer can be proud of what Canada is doing around the world.

International Co-OperationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, KAIROS does make a difference. The government has wasted millions of dollars of Canadians' money in producing political propaganda. The cuts to KAIROS will have a devastating impact on Canada's international partners and will leave thousands of marginalized people with nowhere to turn. Why are members of the Conservative government spending so lavishly on themselves while cutting funding to KAIROS, to silence it on international issues, such as climate change and human rights?

International Co-OperationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I will tell this House and all Canadians they can be proud of what Canada and this government is doing to help the most vulnerable around the world. We are one of the countries that has not decreased its international assistance. We are the third largest single country helping to feed people. In fact, our $30 million just announced will help feed 17 million people in developing countries.

Human Resources and Skills DevelopmentOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government is focused on what matters to Canadians, namely creating and protecting jobs. The work-sharing program is an example of how our economic action plan is making a positive difference in the lives of Canadian families. In fact, in the Toronto area, Global Upholstery is participating in the work-sharing program. As a result, close to 1,000 workers are able to continue to provide for their families.

Could the Minister for Human Resources and Skills Development please update the House on how the work-sharing program is continuing to protect Canadian jobs right across this country?