What's your reaction to the House Speaker's ruling on the Afghan detainee documents?

Interviewed by host Rex Murphy on the May 2, 2010 program

"What's your reaction to the House Speaker's ruling on the Afghan detainee documents?"

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  • Philippe Lagassé
    Assistant professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, and adjunct assistant professor at the Royal Military College of Canada. He also works as a contract defence analyst for both the private and public sectors. He is currently completing a study of the Crown and national defence in Canada. Author of new study published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, Accountability for National Defence: Ministerial Responsibility, Military Command and Parliamentary Oversight.

  • Mercedes Stephenson
    Commentator on Defence and Security Issues and Host and Producer of the national TV current affairs program The Royal Cmmission Investigates on i-Channel.

  • Wesley Wark
    Professor at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto. He is editor in chief of the Oxford University Press encyclopedia, The Companion to Modern Espionage and Secret Intelligence: A Reader published last year. He served for two terms on the Prime Minister's Advisory Council on National Security the most recent one ending in the summer of 2009. He has also served as a consultant to the Privy Council Office of Canada on intelligence policy.

  • Jawed Ludin
    Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada

Rex Murphy's introduction to the May 2, 2010 program:

"What's your reaction to the House of Commons Speaker's ruling on the Afghan detainee documents?"

This week in Parliament, with great ceremony, the Speaker of the House of Commons Peter Milliken delivered his decision on an issue that has been the source of much bitter debate amongst members of Parliament ...that is who should control access to the government documents related to the Afghan detainee issue.

Today we want to talk about that ruling. Some termed it historic because it goes to the heart of the ability of elected members of Parliament to scrutinize government actions.

The documents in question - thousands of pages - have been the focal point of a showdown between the government and the opposition. They constitute the whole history of communications -- going all the way back to 2002 -- between Canadian officials both civilian and military in Afghanistan with their counterparts in Ottawa. Opposition parties believe the documents contain evidence that government and military officials knew that Afghans captured by Canadian forces and turned over to Afghan officials would be likely subjected to torture in Afghan jails. That would constitute a war crime.

The government says it's not true ...that these are the kinds of accusations made by the enemy ...and there is no evidence. The government while releasing some documents also has refused to release the documents in an unredacted form saying they contain secrets essential to national security. The opposition parties say it is a coverup and that Parliament has the right to examine all the documents in an appropriately secure manner.

Well the House Speaker, Peter Milliken in his decision reaffirmed Parliament's right to see the documents and anything else necessary to properly oversee the actions of government. But he also said the requirements of national security are by no means frivolous ...they are serious and must be considered. To that end, he sent all MPs back to work out an arrangement within two weeks whereby the unedited documents could be released to MPs or their representatives in a secure and confidential manner. Meantime, the parties have been talking.

What did you think of the Speaker's decision? What do you think of the showdown in the first place? There are serious issues at stake ...are the various parties taking them seriously enough? Has the government been too secretive? Have the opposition parties been a little too eager to find wrongdoing without solid evidence? Should there be conditions or limits on how MPs should see the documents? Will the parties reach an agreement ....or are Canadians headed into another general election?

Our question today: "What's your reaction to the House Speaker's ruling on the Afghan detainee documents?"

I'm Rex Murphy ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 137 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.

 

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