Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Institutional wreckage

Quite the week thus far in political gamesmanship. No need to rehash the events thus far (see previous blog entry), but it's fair to say such sideshows cloud some important stories going on in the background.

So what else might be brewing? Oh, just another attack on an independent federal body, the Military Police Complaints Commission, which most of the Canadian public probably has never heard of before. And that's likely the cynical calculation for the Harper crew. The obscure institutions that perform crucial administrative oversight within the government over such bodies as military police are ripe for undermining because there will be little public outcry.

The incredible steps being taken by the Harper government to prevent hearings on "...whether military police officers had a duty to investigate the transfer of detainees when there were allegations of torture in Afghan prisons by Afghans" are being widely reported. It's something to behold, the actions being taken to shut these hearings down or alternatively, render them useless. Muzzling a former diplomat who seeks to testify before the hearings. Telling the chair of the commission who has fought to hold these hearings that he won't be re-appointed even though these hearings won't be finished when his term expires in December. Instructing witnesses to refrain from answering questions at the commission hearings. Seeking delay upon delay and questioning the very jurisdiction of the commission.

Yet the federal Minister of Defence nevertheless sunnily protests that all is well:
"The commission is proceeding with its important work. We have provided thousands of documents, we have co-operated with witnesses, within the mandate of the commission," MacKay told the House of Commons.
That is the regular Harper government distortion these days. State one thing publicly, do the opposite in private.

Here this is serious business. This is a military watchdog body that is being stymied. Civilian oversight is being prevented and the government is assisting that.

This commission is trying to determine what our military police did in Afghanistan at a time of allegations of torture of detainees. What Canada did in those circumstances is important to determine. Did we know about it and do nothing? Did we live up to our international obligations?

This government would clearly love to sweep such questions aside and move on, judging from their actions in respect of the commission. They just might be successful.