Ottawa Citizen

Detainee documents censored

Government dumps boxes in Commons

- BY JULIET O’NEILL AND SHELDON ALBERTS WITH FILES FROM DAVID AKIN AND MIKE DE SOUZA, CANWEST NEWS SERVICE

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.”

 ?? CHRIS WATTIE, REUTERS ?? Liberal MP Bob Rae displays a portion of one of the 2,500 pages of documents relating to the Afghan detainee issue that were released Thursday.
CHRIS WATTIE, REUTERS Liberal MP Bob Rae displays a portion of one of the 2,500 pages of documents relating to the Afghan detainee issue that were released Thursday.

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