Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Maybe the Health Minister should have planned it better

Updated (10:00 p.m.) below.
Update (6:50 p.m.) below.

Instead of professing to be "taken aback" at this report, that Afghan detainees are getting H1N1 shots when Canadians are still waiting...there's of course the obvious point that if the vaccine were ready for all Canadians, we wouldn't need to fluff ourselves up in faux outrage over such stories:
Afghan detainees in Canadian military custody will be offered H1N1 flu vaccinations beginning Wednesday, while all Canadians who want to be inoculated may not be given shots before the end of December.
As we read reports of medical officers talking about how we could have had the vaccine six weeks ago if we'd made different decisions, let's not take the outraged (and ill-informed) Minister off the hook.

I imagine that the military are getting the H1N1 vaccine on a priority basis. How many detainees in our custody are we talking about here? We should vaccinate Canadians and avoid the detainees? What kind of nation are we becoming?
Briggs said that when medical staff in Kandahar Airfield sought legal advice, they were told that under the Geneva Conventions, prisoners of war should receive the same treatment as Canadian soldiers.

"We have had a legal opinion that states yes, indeed, we should be offering — on a voluntary basis — detainees H1N1 [vaccinations] because it's being seen as a preventive measure," said Briggs.

Canada considers the war in Afghanistan a counter-insurgency operation that is not governed by the Geneva Conventions.
This is a tempest in a teapot to distract from the government's own incompetence, more finger pointing and us/them rhetoric. If there's any "outrage" to be had here, it's for Minister Aglukkaq and her performance on the H1N1 file. Canadians are waiting for vaccines due to many decisions made by this government, a distraction in Afghanistan is beside the point.

Update (6:50 p.m.): Aaron Wherry unearths a statement made by the Prime Minister on how Canada respects the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan:
First, we need to ensure security in the five southern Afghan provinces. This is where Canada has just recently transferred command of ISAF forces to the Netherlands. There is still hard work to be done there with boots on the ground. We are confident that Allies understand the importance of standing together and ensuring that ISAF has the forces, resources and flexibility for success in these provinces. It is our shared interest to always adhere to International Law. We operate in strict accordance with Geneva conventions. That will also improve NATO’s image in that part of the world.
They're so conscious of the immediate political optics, Aglukkaq's reaction is a reflection of that. They really need to get over themselves and speak to the issues.

Update (10:00 p.m.): The Department of National Defence is in damage control mode, it appears, the notion that prisoners in Canadian military custody would receive health care that we'd expect for Canadian soldiers in an enemy's hands is just a bit too much:
Vaccinations against H1N1 are being offered to members of the Canadian Forces and Canadian civilian personnel deployed in Afghanistan. The Canadian Forces are providing appropriate medical care to those in their custody. Offering vaccinations to detainees for H1N1 would be based on medical need and, at this point, there is no plan to vaccinate detainees. No vaccine has been provided to any detainee.
The Canadian Press report shows a conflict between what they were planning on the ground in Afghanistan and the above message from DND. It sounds like the military on the ground had it all in hand until Aglukkaq did her outrage thing and the politics kicked in.