As Afghan torture plot thickens, Canada snores

Canada has a history of being involved in torture well before the current Afghanistan predicament. But all Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems capable and interested in is repeating denials of Canadian involvement.

It is shameful Canada is involved in torture; it brings greater shame on our nation when our Prime Minister fails to act in a responsible manner by making an honest attempt to get to the bottom of the allegations levied at Ottawa. And yet, Mr. Harper and his government have had the time and interest to prepare on how to deal with unsavoury questions about the Afghan detainee mess as far back as March 2007.

Photo by Bouke Salverda

Why has no independent public inquiry been called to examine whether Canada’s military and CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) is involved in handing over prisoners to Afghan officials who in turn torture them? Mr. Harper must believe we, the Canadian public, are incapable of handling the truth about the government, our military, and our secret service’s actions in Afghanistan. Or perhaps he believes that we don’t care.

Meanwhile, as much as it might wish to be so, CSIS is not the CIA or the KGB. Nor should its’ actions resemble those of the Gestapo. This country needs to put a leash on these curs, curtail their actions, and take a closer look at CSIS’s mandate and what it should be in the future. To demand accountability of our nation’s secretive security service, a service we fund through our tax dollars, is only fair in a democratic society. Provided we are actually living in a democracy but let’s leave that debate for another day.

Sadly, there are other torture-related allegations of wrongdoing levelled at Ottawa (some that pre-date Mr. Harper’s time in office it should be noted).

Matthew Barrens, spokesperson for Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture, said Canada is a country that is involved in torture and that our government’s complicity in such things pre-dates the George W. Bush era.

“This is something that is historical. You speak to someone from Chile, from El Salvador, from Greece, and from many other countries and there is a Canadian connection in terms of the torture they’ve experienced,” he said.

And as Toronto-based lawyer, Nicole Chrolavicius, said last December at a public discussion about her client Benamar Benatta (Canada’s first rendition victim around the time of 9/11):

“If you would have told me 10 years ago that here in Canada we need to be concerned about torture and that it’s up for debate in our courts and amongst our politicians, I would have thought you were talking about a science fiction novel,” she said. “Canada’s reputation is incredibly tarnished . . . the positive thing is the government’s actions . . . is not our voice. (Canada) needs to reclaim our reputation as a leader in the area of human rights.”

But therein lies the challenge: the people of Canada must stand-up and demand accountability of the Harper regime and beyond. Can we do it? Will we do it en masse? I have my doubts. Ours is, by and large, a nation of well-heeled, contented individuals who don’t fancy making a fuss. If only we were capable of paying attention to this gruesome situation with the same passion and energy we would to a Gold medal hockey game.

Perhaps Mr. Harper is right to ignore it all anyway.

Are you concerned about Canada being involved in torture?

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About @LiamLahey

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2 Responses to As Afghan torture plot thickens, Canada snores

  1. Polly Jones says:

    I think the notion of Canada as peacekeeping type prevails…We need to find a way to popularize books like Engler’s Black Book of Foreign Policy so people are more attuned to our historical and current roles in imperialism.

    I appreciate this blog entry because it looks at things from a non-partisan perspective. Cheers.

  2. lahey13 says:

    Thanks for your comments Polly. Much appreciated.

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