Daniel Leblanc, The Globe and Mail
March 31, 2009
OTTAWA – If lives are at stake, Canadian spies will act on information obtained abroad with the use of torture, a senior official said today.
Speaking before a parliamentary committee, Canadian Security Intelligence Service adviser Geoffrey O’Brian said Canada deals with spy agencies in 147 countries, many of which “have human-rights records that are not as glowing as ours.”
He added that CSIS simply cannot rule out the use of information obtained with the use of torture in specific circumstances.
“We only do so if lives are at stake,” Mr. O’Brian told the standing committee of the House on public safety.
“The premise to that is that it happens rarely in the exchanges of information that we have. Second of all, information that may have extracted by methods which are less than the kinds of methods we would like applied to people … the recipient of that information doesn’t know how that information was obtained,” he said.
The comment drew the outrage of Opposition MPs, who said that Canada has obviously failed to learn lessons from the case of Maher Arar, an engineer who was tortured in Syria after Canadian officials exchanged information with Syria.
“How do we know this will not happen again?” Liberal MP Mark Holland asked during committee.
Speaking to reporters, Mr. Holland added that CSIS has to change its policy.
“We cannot say to jurisdictions that engage in torture, ‘We will share information with you because, who knows, we might get something worthwhile,’ ” Mr. Holland said. “We can’t say, ‘We condemn torture, but if you get some good information, let us know.’ ”
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