Enough with the Afghan detainee issue...
The Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan has failed Canadians...it's time for an honest debate on our future role in Afghanistan....
The March 2008 House of Commons resolution that extended Canada’s “combat mission” in Kandahar to 2011 also delegated the work of addressing Canada’s engagements in Afghanistan to a new House of Commons committee. The Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan was established to make “frequent recommendations on the conduct and progress of our efforts in Afghanistan.” The Committee was supposed to travel to Afghanistan and the surrounding region, meet regularly with Canada’s ministers of foreign affairs, international cooperation and defence, and other senior officials. The Committee was also tasked with reviewing laws and procedures related to the thorny matter of Afghanistan-related operational and national security exceptions to the disclosure of information to Parliament, the Courts and the public.If you want a way forward for Canada, please check out the report on the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee.
Here’s the real scandal: The Committee has done none of these things.
Instead, it has rendered itself irrelevant to the central question of Canada’s current and future engagements in Afghanistan. It has become paralyzed by the very operational and national security exceptions it was originally intended to review. Opposition members’ say this is because the government has flouted laws and procedures requiring the disclosure of information by unjustifiable and arbitrary resort to national and operational security exceptions. Specifically, the Committee has become deadlocked over disclosure of memoranda related to the Canadian Forces’ handling of Afghan detainee issues going back to a time well before the Committee was established. Government members say this has occurred because of the Committee’s own overweening focus on the matter of Afghan detainees and an unreasonable demand for release of information that properly falls within national and operational security exceptions.
All very fascinating, right?
The “detainee file,” curiously, is the one Afghanistan-related policy conundrum that was already resolved by the time the Committee was established. The detainee-abuse questions the Committee persists in raising, whatever their merit, have no relevance to existing operating protocols governing the detention and transfer of Afghan detainees from Canadian Forces custody to Afghan authorities. New detainee protocols, developed in collaboration with NATO, were put in place in response to the recommendations of the same March 2008 House of Commons resolution that created the Committee in the first place. Nevertheless, it has gotten so that last month, in an unintentional parody, a headline in a Toronto daily newspaper referred to the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan as the “Afghan abuse committee.”
The Committee has failed to discharge its mandate to review the law and procedures governing operational and national security exceptions to the ordinary disclosure of information. Further, the Committee has compounded and exacerbated the problem it was tasked to address, to the point of forcing what some observers have described as a constitutional crisis.