Detainee documents censored
Government dumps boxes in Commons
Opposition parties expressed outrage Thursday after the government dumped in the House of Commons two cardboard boxes containing 2,500 disorganized, censored pages of documents related to the Afghan detainees affair.
The Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Québécois had been seeking uncensored documents since last fall.
Many of the documents were blacked out and many appeared to be documents that were released during investigations by the military police complaints commission. One document regarding a survey of soldiers revealed cases in which Canadian Forces personnel had allegedly struck detainees and mistreated the bodies of three Afghans.
“I have to say it’s a sad day when members of Parliament request information and they are treated in such a contemptuous fashion by the government,” New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton told the Commons.
Holding up a page that was entirely blacked out, Bloc MP Claude Bachand mocked the government’s request for unanimous consent for tabling the documents because they were not translated into both off icial languages. How long, Bachand said, would it take to translate a blank page?
The affair stems from allegations that the government allowed the Canadian Armed Forces to transfer Afghan detainees to Afghan custody despite a known risk of torture, contrary to international human rights and war codes.
The release of the documents came on the same day that Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Canadian troops would withdraw from Afghanistan as scheduled in 2011, even if the United States and NATO asked for some to stay behind to train Afghan soldiers. That would comply with a troop-withdrawal motion passed by the majority of MPs in 2008.
“In 2011, we’re out,” Cannon said during the daily question period. Later, during a Commons committee hearing, he added that the military mission would end in 2011, “and we will continue to have a development and diplomatic relationship with Afghanistan through the Canadian Embassy in Kabul.”
Also Thursday, the Pentagon denied a report that the United States was quietly asking that 600 of the more than 2,000 Canadian troops based in Kandahar stay behind in Kabul to train Afghan army recruits after 2011.
Geoff Morrell, a spokesman for U. S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said there was no discussion of Canada’s long-term commitment when Defence Minister Peter MacKay was in Washington on Monday.
“ To the extent that ( the meeting) did deal with Afghanistan, the focus was on how we can work together this year to change the dynamic on the ground,” Morrell said. “We did not get into a discussion about what will happen beyond 2010.”
Asked whether Canada was being quietly told to expect a U.S. request for troops to stay, Morrell said: “ If it is being quietly communicated, it is being so quietly communicated that I haven’t heard it.”