The torture prorogation?


in Bombs and rockets, Canada, Law, Politics, Rants, Security

It was bad enough to prorogue Parliament to avoid an election, but doing the same to try to silence questions about Canada’s role in torturing detainees is far more dubious. As an article in the Ottawa Citizen explains:

When Harper prorogued last fall it was to avoid a vote of non-confidence. This time, it will be to avoid something possibly far more serious — Parliamentary censure of the government, the banishment or imprisonment of Harper and some of his ministers, or the RCMP being asked to execute a Speaker’s warrant.

While the torture allegations are being treated as a partisan issue, I don’t think that is the appropriate frame of view. This is an issue of international law, human rights, and how Canada is going to conduct itself in international military operations. The precise manner in which Canada should deal with detainees and other governments is one that should be scrutinized by Parliament (and, if necessary, the courts) and that scrutiny should occur where Canadians have the opportunity to observe it.

Our procedures for military oversight also need to be examined, to evaluate the question of whether key information is being properly routed up through military and civilian command structures.

[Update: 25 January 2010] This whole situation generated a considerable amount of protest: 200,000 or so coast to coast.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

. December 30, 2009 at 8:08 pm

Parliament suspended until March 3
Last Updated: 30th December 2009, 5:16pm

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s suspension of Parliament until March won’t stop a public investigation into Canada’s treatment of Afghan detainees, opposition MPs vowed Wednesday.

Both the NDP and the Liberals said they may well hold informal public hearings in the new year on Afghanistan, whether or not the government is in session.

“It’s a real option,” said New Democrat foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar.

Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas told reporters Wednesday the prime minister will delay the return of Parliament until March 3 and unveil a budget the following day. Parliament was supposed to return Jan. 25.

. December 30, 2009 at 8:10 pm

“But the deferral robs opposition MPs of a chance to hammer the Conservative government in Question Period every day over the Afghan detainees. It also means documents on Afghanistan requested by the House can’t be turned over until Parliament sits again. And it disbands the committee that was studying the issue.

Suspending Parliament — prorogation, as it’s formally called — also means government bills amended by the Liberal-dominated Senate, such as crime legislation and a consumer product safety bill, will be reintroduced in the House of Commons in their original form.

In fact, Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale said proroguing kills 35 government bills, which must now wind their way through the parliamentary cycle from scratch.”

Tristan December 30, 2009 at 10:27 pm

I think you are correct.

mek December 31, 2009 at 1:22 am

It’s also being used to terminate amended bills in the left-wing Senate so they can be returned to their original state and passed with a new Tory majority via additional appointments in the spring.

We may yet see mandatory minimums yet, which would be a real tragedy.

Milan December 31, 2009 at 1:49 am

Mandatory minimum sentences are very stupid.

oleh December 31, 2009 at 7:23 am

“It was bad enough to prorogue Parliament to avoid an election, but doing the same to try to silence questions about Canada’s role in torturing detainees is far more dubious.”

Proroguing Parliament to avoid an election seems much more serious to me. Elections are the core of our democracy; public inquiries, although important, are not. One of the pluses of Canadian elections is their limited length – I think about 35 days. Although Canadians accept shorter and focussed elections, we seem to allow indefinite and at times needlessly lengthy public inquiries.

. January 1, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Democracy diminished, accountability avoided

By suspending Parliament, Stephen Harper allows the governing party to elude the detainee issue, a move that undermines the democratic rights of the people

. January 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Stephen Harper’s not-so-benign dictatorship

It seems Stephen Harper, our not-so-benign dictator, can’t stand Canada’s constitutional democracy. He is fed up with Parliament’s restrictions on the almost unlimited power of his office and his executive.

Harper has, again, spoken with the Governor General and requested the prorogation of Parliament, this time until he is ready to bring down his government’s budget in early March 2010.

It seems Harper is determined to attend the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver without having to face constant criticism from those pesky and “disloyal” opposition parties and Liberal senators. Best to put Parliament on ice.

. January 1, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Something to hide?
Nov 26th 2009 | OTTAWA
From The Economist print edition

The government is accused of complicity in torture

“UN-CANADIAN, counterproductive and probably illegal.” That is how Richard Colvin, a diplomat who served in Afghanistan, describes the Canadian armed forces’ practice in 2006 and early 2007 of handing detainees over to Afghan authorities, who are known to use torture, without monitoring their welfare. Speaking to a parliamentary committee on November 18th Mr Colvin said that all the detainees whom Canadian troops had handed over in this period were probably tortured, and implied that the government knew this and tried to cover it up.

Since then the Conservative government has done its best to look as if it has something to hide. First it tried to prevent Mr Colvin from testifying and then it disparaged him, suggesting he had been duped by the Taliban. In May 2007 the procedures for handling prisoners were changed. Canadian military officers now check that those handed over (who often include innocent Afghans detained in error) are not being mistreated and temporarily halt further transfers until any complaints are dealt with satisfactorily. Instead of trying to silence or shoot the messenger, the government could have stressed that the old, flawed handover procedures have been reformed—and blamed them on the previous, Liberal administration, under which they were set up.

. January 5, 2010 at 4:20 pm

As recently as 2005, Harper remained enormously critical of parliamentary misconduct when Paul Martin’s minority Liberal government made use of every trick available to avoid or delay a confidence vote.

In a speech delivered on May 3, 2005, the Conservative leader gave a concise and persuasive defense of parliamentary democracy. “The whole principle of a democracy is that the government is supposed to be able to face the House of Commons any day on a vote,” he said. “This government now has the deliberate policy of avoiding a vote. This is a violation of the most fundamental principle of our democracy.” That speech is now particularly surprising given the events of December 2008, and those that have unfolded in recent weeks.

. January 11, 2010 at 7:38 am

Gatineau Park bill dies in proroguement

By Dave Rogers, The Ottawa Citizen
January 11, 2010 6:46 AM

OTTAWA — A long-anticipated bill designed to protect Gatineau Park from development is dead — or at least dormant — because the Conservative government prorogued Parliament.

“The parliamentary transportation committee studying the bill was just one meeting away from sending it to the House of Commons,” said Paul Dewar, NDP MP for Ottawa Centre. “Now the government would have to reintroduce the bill and we would have to start over again. It is a huge waste of time and money for not just the Gatineau Park bill, but also the other bills.”

Dewar says that when Parliament resumes March 3, he will be pushing cabinet ministers and area MPs John Baird and Lawrence Cannon to reintroduce the bill.

“I think there is the political will to drive this bill forward because of the strong support for the protection of Gatineau Park throughout the region,” Dewar said. “A local member of Parliament who is seen to be blocking that would not be looked on favourably by local people.

. January 14, 2010 at 3:03 pm

“Never mind what his spin doctors say: Mr Harper’s move looks like naked self-interest. His officials faced grilling by parliamentary committees over whether they misled the House of Commons in denying knowledge that detainees handed over to the local authorities by Canadian troops in Afghanistan were being tortured. The government would also have come under fire for its lack of policies to curb Canada’s abundant carbon emissions. Prorogation means that such committees—which carry out the essential democratic task of scrutinising government—will have to be formed anew in March. That will also allow Mr Harper to gain immediate control of committees in the appointed Senate, where his Conservatives are poised to become the biggest party. “

. January 20, 2010 at 4:02 pm

New Democrat leader Jack Layton, after slamming Prime Minister Harper for his dismissal of Parliament, today set out constructive proposals for reform, including new rules for prorogation.

“Today I am announcing that the New Democrats will bring proposals for legislation to limit the power of prorogation so the Prime Minister cannot abuse it. The government should only prorogue Parliament on a vote in the House of Commons. This will inform the Governor General of the will of the majority, so that prorogation happens when it is needed – not simply when the Prime Minister feels like it.”

. June 1, 2012 at 9:49 pm

CBC News – Canada accused of ‘complicity’ in torture in UN report

. June 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm

UN says Canada risks rights violations

NEW YORK — The United Nations is taking Canada to task for security practices it says expose Canadians and others to torture and allow war criminals to escape international justice.

A new report by the UN Committee Against Torture accuses Ottawa of being “complicit” in human rights violations committed against three Arab-Canadian men held in Syria after 9-11.

Canadian officials also played a role in the ill-treatment of Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay, the report contends, criticizing government delays in approving the child soldier’s request to serve out his sentence in Canada.

“The committee is seriously concerned at the apparent reluctance on (the) part of the (government) to protect rights of all Canadians detained in other countries,” the report reads.

It urges the federal government to issue an official apology to Canadians tortured by foreign jailers, including Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin.

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