Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Signs the detainee scandal is getting worse

1. Sign number one, they're losing their legal legs: The Harper document delay strategy is hitting a roadblock in the form of a legal opinion by the parliamentary law clerk on the Harper team's section-38-Canada-Evidence-Act argument: "No legal block on Afghan detainee info: expert."
The government isn't legally blocked from giving documents on possible Afghan detainee abuse to a parliamentary committee, according to a legal opinion given to Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh.

While uncensored papers may present some concerns about national security for the government, "at the end of the day, the government is obliged to supply to the committee whatever information it requests in the performance of its mandate from the House [of Commons]," parliamentary law expert Robert Walsh says in a letter to defence critic Dosanjih.

As parliamentary law clerk, Walsh is Parliament's own expert on the laws that effect it.
...
However, Walsh rejected the legal opinion the government was relying upon, "which is not worth the paper it was written on," Dosanjh said Tuesday.

"The Conservatives are making this absurd argument that Parliament, in passing Section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act, barred itself from seeing uncensored documents in violation of its own constitutional rights," he said.
Not having read the letter (unable to open it - blasted computing issues), it certainly sounds as if the legal basis for the Harper government's effort to stifle is meeting its match. One would like to think they would obey such a legal opinion from the parliamentary law clerk. If they don't, it'll make for more perception problems for them. How far are they willing to go in disavowing any accountability whatsoever?

2. Sign number two, the growing list of former ambassadors lining up in protest of the government's treatment of one of their own: That list of former ambassadors sticking up for Richard Colvin is growing, from 23 yesterday to 35 today, said to be headed for 50. Bolstering the gravity of the letter, this:
One of the diplomats who signed the letter was Robert Fowler, who recently spent five months in captivity in Niger when he was working as a special envoy for the United Nations.
This unprecedented public act of solidarity among former diplomats for one of their own who has been defamed by the Harper government is a very powerful statement. Peter MacKay and Mr. Harper surely must be recognizing, as a result of this spontaneous show from a very distinguished diplomatic corps, that they have crossed a highly inappropriate line. 

3. Sign number three, Peter MacKay begins to be isolated: General Natynczyk distanced himself yesterday.  
Mr. MacKay has based his denials on information he said was handed to him by the advice of generals and senior officials within the Department of Defence.

Yesterday, General Walter Natynczyk said that he wasn't among the military officers who advised Mr. MacKay there was no evidence of detainee torture.

"I know that I didn't, so you would have to ask the minister's office in terms of who advised him," Canada's chief of defence staff said.

According to one senior military source, Mr. MacKay has never broached the subject with Gen. Natynczyk since he replaced now-retired general Rick Hillier more than a year ago.
Do tell, senior military source, making it crystal clear that MacKay is on his own on this one, don't be looking to General Natynczyk for help. Maybe Dan Dugas might be regretting his statement of the other night where he put blame for MacKay's knowledge (or lack thereof) on unnamed military personnel.

4. Sign number four, letters like this to the editor of national newspapers:
According to a group of 23 former ambassadors, Richard Colvin was “unfairly subjected to personal attacks” (Former Ambassadors Condemn Ottawa’s Attack On Diplomat – Dec. 8). The Harper government should be tarred and feathered – with oil sands’ tar and chicken feathers, that is – for waging a personal campaign against a diplomat who under difficult circumstances tried to provide the government with accurate intelligence. Their attack, motivated by fear of public opinion, serves to thwart the open interchange of information between members of the foreign service and that government.

Diana McCarthy, Ottawa

............

When are the media going to start calling this the detainee scandal (The Record And The Falsehoods – editorial, Dec. 8)? This is so much more offensive to me than the sponsorship scandal and deserves at least an equally condemning title.

Art Brewer, Toronto
5. Sign number five, the Defence Minister's parliamentary secretary resorts to vulgarities in the House of Commons.

6. Sign number six, in the midst of all this, Defence Minister MacKay has to testify today before the Afghan Commons Committee. Should be interesting to say the least.