The federal government has revealed that Canadian troops have already captured prisoners in Afghanistan - and turned them over to U.S. forces.
Defence Minister Art Eggleton says members of Canada's Joint Task Force Two (JTF2) commando unit have taken prisoners. Up until now, the government maintained Canadian troops had not captured any Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters.
When Prime Minister Jean Chrtien was asked Monday about how Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan would treat any prisoners they captured, he brushed aside the question. "You are asking me a purely hypothetical question at this time," he said.
But Eggleton revealed Tuesday, the question is anything but hypothetical. "We have been involved in the capturing of prisoners, yes," he said.
Eggleton says members of Canada's JTF2 commando unit have taken prisoners. In fact, he says a photo of Canadian troops with their captives appeared on the front page of the Globe & Mail last week.
"There was this picture. And underneath the picture it said: U.S. soldiers. But did you notice the fact they had forest green uniforms those three soldiers that were in that picture? Well, they were Canadian, JTF2."
The picture appeared in the paper last Tuesday. But Eggleton says he didn't find out the soldiers in the photo were Canadian until last Friday and didn't tell cabinet until Tuesday.
In question period Tory Leader Joe Clark accused Eggleton of misleading the public and Parliament by sitting on vital information for four days.
"Why in the world did he not tell? Why in the world did he not tell his prime minister? Who's in charge of this bunch of keystone cops?" asked Clark.
The New Democrats say the government has betrayed Canadian values by turning prisoners over to U.S. forces and leaving them to face a military tribunal and possible death sentence.
Eggleton says the U.S. wants to bring terrorists to justice and Canada supports that.
Eggleton says he's confident any prisoner held by the U.S. will receive a fair trial.