Mr. Speaker, I rise to raise an issue with regard to a prison in Afghanistan.
Back in March, I had asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs about the construction of a new prison, which was apparently promised by Canada, the British and the Dutch. There was a letter that was sent on February 12, 2009. The head of the national security directorate for Afghanistan, Mr. Saleh, confirmed that in fact discussions had occurred. Then we apparently indicated that in fact we were not going to be building any prison. This was, of course, to house Afghan detainees.
What is very interesting about this is that the minister said he had no knowledge of it, and he indicated that Canada is not in the business of building prisons and that we do not do those kind of things. That is all very nice.
I was surprised at the minister's response, given that the head of the national security directorate had confirmed publicly that in fact those discussions had occurred.
But even if I accept the minister's response, on April 22 at the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan, I posed the same question to the then ambassador, Mr. Hoffman, in our embassy in Kabul. I was told that in fact this letter was signed while he was in Islamabad on official business and that it was in error.
I do not know how governments can be making these kinds of errors where they in fact indicate to our allies that we are going to undertake to build a prison along with the British and the Dutch and apparently it was in error.
Now, how many other errors do we see on that side of the House?
The fact is that we had given clear intent to build a prison.
Part of the difficulty we are having with the Afghan detainees issue is of course that we turned them over to the NDS, and part of that problem means we cannot keep track of what has happened to those detainees.
I found it rather interesting that the minister indicates he did not know about it and we are not in the business of doing so. Yet we have a letter, dated February 2009, which clearly indicates we are entering into an arrangement with the Afghans, and Mr. Saleh, the head of NDS, came out said he wanted to know what had happened, how come we had not delivered, along with the British and the Dutch.
If this is a mistake officially or a misunderstanding, then I really do question this. It is obviously not a way either to conduct foreign policy or, obviously, to get our allies on side.
I want to make sure I am very clear here. I am going to quote Mr. Hoffman from the committee:
One of the realities of the Afghan prison system was one of insufficient capacity.
And Canada was approached to contribute to address this issue; I quote, “We had agreed in principle to provide equipment...” to build capacity.
I would like to know from the parliamentary secretary, through you, Mr. Speaker, if he could give me a breakdown on the amount we were to provide to deal with this deficiency. Very clearly, we cannot be making these kinds of errors to our allies, where in fact we indicate the severity of the issue dealing with detainees and yet, at the same time, we are not delivering what we promised. That obviously is not good for Canada's reputation.
The Americans, as we know, do not turn them over. They have their own facility.
Perhaps the parliamentary secretary could clarify why Canada would not have gone in with our other allies to do this, since it would have avoided much of the problem that the government finds itself in today, with regard to redacted documents and the whole issue of who is telling the truth.