R12: The Afghan Detainee Issue

I’m posting on the reasons I won’t vote for Stephen Harper and his party:

Directly related to yesterday’s proroguing of parliament (and indeed, probably the very reason for that proroguing) (Bowles, 2015) is the “Afghan Detainee Issue”; which we, as Canadians, have shamefully let simply slip into history books and disappear from our collective consciousness: even though those who executed both activities and cover-up are still in power. Now almost a decade ago, in the midst of the Afghan “war”, the central issue was whether or not Canadian officials knew that the men whom they detained and turned over to Afghan authorities were being tortured. It’s more than merely academic: “a country that hands over to a prisoner to certain torture is liable for war crimes prosecution.” (CBC, 2014). Over a thousand people were detained by Canada’s patrols: and the accusation is that all of them were probably tortured, and that we, Canada, had been aware of the practice for several years (CBC, 2009). In spite of the public outcry, the only conclusions that were ever reached had to do with the direct military involvement: and the men who turned over the detainees “could not be held responsible” because they were not informed of the situation by their superiors (Globe and Mail, 2012). But the commission was much more critical of the “stonewalling of its investigation by the Harper government” (Ibid, 2012). One example was that it took 21 months for the government to produce some of the records that were requested: and even then, what was produced was heavily censored. To this day, there are details about the transfer program that have never been released.

What I think most ironic about this is that Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister who would be ultimately responsible for both the treatment of the prisoners and the stonewalling of the investigation, so adamantly refused to provide unredacted documentation (CBC, 2010; see image above). And yet he is the one who has been a primary supporter of Bill C-51, Canada’s Anti-Terror Bill which was rammed through Parliament with minimal debate. In spite of becoming law this bill remains as nebulous as ever (Globe and Mail, 2015): except that (among a wide array of other things) it gives Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, more power to explore citizen’s personal information… though in a less than fully documented manner. The general response by oh-so-trusting Canadians (encouraged by Conservatives) was something akin to: “If people have nothing to hide, they shouldn’t fear scrutiny.” (Globe and Mail, 2015).

So my question is: if Harper and his government weren’t complicit in the Detainee Issue, why did they try so hard (and so successfully) to provide any information about it? Even today, why won’t they disclose what was asked for? If Harper has nothing to hide, he shouldn’t “fear scrutiny”. Doesn’t it go both ways? 

No, it probably doesn’t. In Mr. Harper’s mind, he sees himself and his government as above the law, above scrutiny, above any common morality. For the sake of the country, for the sake of our protection, he knows what needs to be done: and the rest of us wouldn’t understand. And that’s the kind of power that scares me most.

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One Response to R12: The Afghan Detainee Issue

  1. Pingback: R13: Harper Government Found in Contempt | The Geographer's Corner

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