Apparently, allowing elected Members of Parliament to see cabinet documents is a danger to ‘national security’.
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Juliet O’Neill, Canwest News Service
June 15, 2010
OTTAWA – The New Democratic Party pulled out of an agreement on parliamentary access to Afghan detainee documents Tuesday, saying there will still be too many secret government papers and the truth may never come out.
The NDP pulled out shortly before all-party negotiations ended with an agreement reached by the Conservative government, opposition Liberals and Bloc Quebecois on details of a process to grant MPs – aided by a panel of jurists – a chance to read thousands of documents and passages from detainee-related documents that now are censored from the public on the grounds of national security.
The final agreement bars the MPs from looking at confidential cabinet documents or papers protected for reasons of solicitor-client privilege. Those exemptions were cited by the NDP as a main reason they consider the final agreement a charade and backed out at the 11th hour.
The process “will not get at the truth,” NDP defence critic Jack Harris told reporters.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe are poised to sign a memorandum of understanding on the agreement, which is to be tabled in the House of Commons. That’s unlikely to happen until after House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken responds to an NDP request to reject the deal.
The deal was the result of a ruling by Milliken in late April, in which he said Parliament has the right to see uncensored documents to hold the government accountable – but he asked MPs to work out a way to do that without jeopardizing national security or safety of Canadian troops in Afghanistan.
“The proposal denies the rights of Parliament, allows the government to hijack the process and doesn’t live up to spirit or terms of the Speaker’s ruling,” NDP Leader Jack Layton said Tuesday. “The other parties were willing to accept compromises that we believe would prevent the truth from coming out.”
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson questioned whether the NDP had negotiated in good faith. He said the Conservative government must honour the security classification of documents from the current and two previous governments of Liberals Paul Martin and Jean Chretien, in power at the start of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.
Bloc Quebecois House leader MP Pierre Paquette told reporters he is “100 per cent” confident the MPs will see the documents they need to see “to find the truth.” Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale said the deal “properly respects the sovereignty of Parliament.”
Former Liberal leader Stephane Dion, a Montreal MP, and Liberal defence critic Bryon Wilfert, a Toronto MP, were assigned to work on the panel.
“The agreement eliminates any unilateral or arbitrary government control over information, and at the same time it protects national security,” Goodale said. “We intend to operate under the terms of this agreement in good faith in pursuit of the public interest.”
The NDP said a public inquiry should be held instead into Canada’s handling of Afghan detainees. The controversy revolves around allegations by diplomat Richard Colvin that top military and government officials turned a blind eye to the torture of detainees that Canadian armed forces had transferred to Afghan custody.
Source | Alternate Coverage 1 2 | See also under Torture: Military wanted detainee whistle-blower pulled from Afghanistan | Maher Arar loses ‘last hope’ for judicial review of rendition case in U.S. court ruling | UK: Fresh torture allegations raised over third British man held in Bangladesh | 72% of Guantanamo detainees given hearings found to be wrongfully detained | UK Torture claims investigation ordered by Foreign Secretary | Abuses at US ‘Black Jail’ in Afghanistan confirmed | MPs reach agreement to share Afghan detainee document information | Afghan torture documents release talks get extension | Afghan authorities beat citizens on ‘whim’: Military inquiry | Khadr routinely trussed up in cage, hearing told | UK Government cannot use secret evidence in GuantÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¡namo torture case, court rules | Detainee documents controlled by a few top bureaucrats | Speaker orders Harper government to cough up Afghan detainee documents | Censors threaten detainee hearings | Afghan torture allegations erupt in UK | CIA chief approved destruction of terrorist waterboarding tapes | Report: Afghans in secret jail ‘made to dance’ to use bathroom | Canada knew in 2007 Kandahar governor tortured prisoners in dungeon, bombed UN personnel | Military Police begin Afghan detainee torture investigative hearings, reporters barred | Tories table thousands more censored Afghan files | MacKay knew of Afghan detainee concerns: diplomat | Tories flood Ottawa with blacked-out documents in response to Afghan torture scandal | British military intelligence ‘ran renegade torture unit in Iraq’ | Opposition threatens contempt motion over Afghan torture documents | NDP tables torture-prevention bill | French bread spiked with LSD in CIA experiment | UK Government attempts to keep torture case secret | Ottawa anticipated Afghan torture allegations: memo | CSIS secretly interrogated Afghan prisoners | Canada wanted Afghan prisoners tortured: lawyer | Harper grilled over prorogation, Afghan detainee torture documents | MP threatens motion on Afghan documents | UK: Government fury as judges attack MI5, security services | CSIS Agents likely contributed to Toronto man’s torture: Inquiry | Poland releases details on CIA ‘black sites’ | Report: France ‘deliberately’ used soldiers as ‘nuclear guinea pigs’ | Bruce Anderson: We not only have a right to use torture. We have a duty | MI5 chief denies cover-up claims over detainees | UK Top judge: Binyam Mohamed case shows MI5 to be devious, dishonest and complicit in torture | Britain reveals details of Binyam Mohamed torture | US Interrogation Squad Doing ‘Scientific Research’ | Military probes beating of Afghan prisoner | US magazine claims GuantÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¡namo inmates were killed during questioning | Regina police probe RCMP torture claims | Tories fail to appoint military complaints chair, torture inquiry may be delayed | PM Harper downplays detainee torture scandal, prorogation | For more see The Memory Hole — Torture