Wednesday, July 18, 2007

NDP joins Liberal opposition to Hillier/O'Connor detainee cover-up

I was glad to see today that the NDP has joined the Liberals in speaking out against the Hillier detainee document clamp-down, and is calling for swift and immediate action. Following two releases from Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre over the past week, the NDP weighed-in with a release of their own on the topic yesterday.

The issue, of course, is the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Rick Hillier, issuing orders to not disclose previously available information on the number of Afghan detainees by Canadian soldiers, hiding behind national security, with the minister, Gordon O’Connor, hiding behind Hillier and refusing (or not being allowed to) defend the decision in public.

The first Liberal release was issued a week ago, and rightly called on the Information Commissioner to investigate the matter, filing a formal request with the commissioner and O’Connor:

“There is no doubt that it is in the public interest for the Information Commissioner to conduct this investigation. Canadians are asking questions about our mission in Afghanistan, and the only way to have an informed debate on the issue, is for all the facts to be laid out,” said Mr. Coderre.

“I have written to the Information Commissioner to request a formal investigation, and I have written to Minister O’Connor, asking him to take responsibility for what is happening in his department, and to reverse this politically motivated decision,” said Mr. Coderre.

The Liberals issued a second release on the matter yesterday, with O’Connor not having yet had the fortitude to address the mater publicly. The second release renewed the request for an investigation by the Information Commissioner, and called for O’Connor’s resignation:
"Enough is enough. The Minister has been the source of misinformation and confusion for too long. To avoid further exposure of his complete incompetence, he has been choking off access to legitimate requests about Canada's role in Afghanistan. He knows this is unacceptable and its time for him to go," said Mr. Coderre.

"Whether it's the cover up of the Department of Foreign Affairs report on torture in Afghanistan, or it's a blanket order to ignore the Access to Information Act, this runs against every accountability and transparency promise made by the Prime Minister in the last election campaign. Minister O'Connor can no longer hide behind his generals and his civil servants to keep Canadians in the dark about Canada's involvement in Afghanistan."

Following Coderre’s work on the issue over the past week, NDP defence critic Dawn Black released her own statement yesterday threatening to attempt to reconvene the HoC Defence committee and summon Hillier and O’Connor if O’Connor doesn’t explain himself:
“…these reports [of interference by the CDS] are concerning and I request that you advise me and relevant Parliamentarians as soon as possible as to the role the Chief of Defence Staff played in these decisions. If the reports are accurate, this would represent a major step backwards in accountability on the part of the Conservative Government, as well as a possible violation of the Access to Information Act and will have undermined the concept of civilian control over the military.”

I’m glad to see the NDP joining the Liberals in recognizing the importance of this issue and calling for action. Hopefully the BQ will come on board too and the opposition can be united here. This flagrant subjacation of Canada’s information and access laws for political ends cannot be allowed to stand, and whatever happens O’Connor has got to go.

Still hiding

And speaking of O’Connor, he still hasn’t summoned the courage to face the public on this, even through a spokesperson:
A spokeswoman for Mr. O'Connor could not confirm whether the minister had received the letter as of yesterday afternoon, but said all such requests are answered in a timely manner.
Conservative accountability: hiding behind unelected buracrats.

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knb said...

This is not getting enough play in the media, especially the lib stance.

The criticism always is we don't know where the Lib's stand. BS!

Why? Honestly, I cannot fathom why the MSM doesn't clearly report the lib view.

I'm tired of this stuff. Dion has been clear on Afghanistan from the start, yet all we get is, the Lib's are all over the board. It's nonsense and we have to do something.

A BCer in Toronto said...

I don't disagree with you knb. Whatever the reason though, I think we need to get better at media relations and getting our message out.