Friday, August 10, 2007

Historical context on the Harper Conservatives and Maher Arar

Stephen Harper is ignoring his own record (again). Responding to the release yesterday of previously classified portions of the Arar report, sections ordered classified that his government fought in court to keep secret, Harper said this:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper brushed off questions asking whether he would raise the matter with the United States. He said it happened when the Liberals were in office - and told reporters they should ask St├ęphane Dion, then the minister for federal-provincial relations.

"Let's be clear: We're talking about events that occurred under the previous government. So I would suggest to you that in terms of asking what actually happened, those questions would be best directed to Mr. Dion," he said.

Perhaps reporters might also want to check the record too. Because while the Liberal government was trying to get to the bottom of what happened to Arar back in November 2002, who at this time had been deported by the U.S. to Syria, Harper and his caucus were mugging for the QP cameras and the media. Indeed, Harper chastised Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley for defending “a suspected terrorist”:
While the minister participated in high level consultations to defend a suspected terrorist, it apparently took a trip by the U.S. Secretary of State for the minister to admit what he really knew.

And Diane Ablonczy went even further:
Mr. Speaker, it is time the Liberals told the truth: that their system of screening and security checks is pathetic. Arar was given dual Syrian and Canadian citizenship by the government. It did not pick up on his terrorist links and the U.S. had to clue it in.

How is it that the U.S. could uncover this man's background so quickly when the government's screening system failed to find his al-Qaeda links?

Mr. Speaker, the government needs to take responsibility for what it is doing to protect Canadian security. The fact is that these Liberals were asleep at the switch. Arar was not properly checked. Instead, the government ran around chastising the U.S. for sending Arar back to Syria, where he is also a citizen. Why is it that the Liberal security system is so weak here that they overlook vital information that the U.S. picked up on a routine check?

Imagine what Harper would have done if he were Prime Minister at that time? It’s also worth remembering that if he was, we’d be fighting in Iraq right now.

Now, I’m not happy about the fact the Arar deportation took place under a Liberal government. It’s unclear just how in the loop Liberal ministers were. If they sanctioned what happened they need to answer; if they weren’t aware they weren’t performing their oversight duties, and those security officials need to explain why they kept elected officials in the dark.

Harper, however, cannot run from the record of his party here. Nor can he escape the record of his government now. I agree with Steve, the assertion that Harper wasn’t involved in the classification decision is laughable. If he wants to throw Stockwell Day over the side here that’s fine, but he still needs to explain his government’s decision here too.

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Bailey said...

I saw that quote by Harper yesterday during the news but the report on TV never brought up his past and those questions. I can't believe he's being left off the hook given such a history of comments. Same with the Iraq war comments.

The Mound of Sound said...

Good post. Be sure to bring it back to life when the next election is called.