Inside Politics

Afghanistan committee update: Let the arcane legal arguments begin!

Hot off the committee newswire, here's the list of proposed witnesses for the Afghanistan committee's just-launched study on the transfer of Afghan detainees, including: 

  • Peter Tinsley, chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission, which is currently  battling government lawyers in its efforts to conduct its own hearings into allegations of torture within Afghan prisons; 

  • Richard Colvin, the former political director of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team, who was briefly blocked from appearing before the MPCC on the grounds that his testimony could breach national security laws; 

  • Recently retired General Rick Hillier, who was Chief of Defence Staff at the time that the torture allegations first surfaced; 

  • And finally, a panel comprised of past and present Liberal and Conservative defence and foreign affairs ministers, including John Manley, Bill Graham, Gordon O'Connor, Peter MacKay and Lawrence Cannon

Given the rather lively debate that arose during last week's appearance by Judge Advocate General Ken Watkin over parliamentary law and privilege, and the power of committee to subpoena witnesses and compel testimony, it will be interesting to see whether the full slate of proposed witnesses will actually show up -- and exactly what they'll be willing and/or able to say when and if they do. 

Technically, the committee can summon any witness to appear, with the exception of current ministers of the crown; once sworn in, a witness is required to answer any and all questions put to them, even if doing so could breach national security laws. Parliament is, after all, supreme. That supremacy, however, may find itself put to the test if the same government lawyers that have successfully managed to tie up the Military Police Complaints Commission for the foreseeable future decide to play hardball with an uppity Commons committee. One thing is sure, however: it's going to be a busy month for House Law Clerk Rob Walsh.   

Anyway, check out the full list, and draft schedule, after the jump: 
Panel 1 - Wed., November 4, 2009
 
BRIGADIER-GENERAL K.W. WATKIN 
Judge Advocate General 
Department of National Defence 
ROBERT R. WALSH 
Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel House of Commons 
DOUG BREITHAUPT 
Director and General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section 
Department of Justice 

Panel 2 - Wed., November 18, 2009
 
PETER TINSLEY 
Chair, Military Police Complaints Commission 
Department of National Defence 
STEVEN MOORE (RETIRED)
 
Former Canadian Forces Provost Martial 
RICHARD COLVIN 
First Secretary and Liaison Officer, Intelligence Liaison 
Canadian Embassy in Washington 

Panel 3 - Wed., November 25, 2009 
GENERAL RICHARD J. HILLIER (RETIRED) 
Former Chief of the Defence Staff 
LIEUTENANT-GENERAL MICHEL GAUTHIER (RETIRED) 
Former Commander
Canadian Expeditionary Force Command 
MAJOR-GENERAL DAVID FRASER 
Former Commander Regional Command (South) 

Panel 4 - Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009
C
OLLEEN SWORDS 
Former Assistant Deputy Minister International Security Branch 
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade 
SCOTT PROUDFOOT 
Former Director Afganistan Policy and Advocacy Division 
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade 
LINDA GARWOOD 
Former Director Corrections Component 
Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team 

Panel 5 - Wed., December 2, 2009
 
THE HON. PETER MACKAY
 
Minister of National Defence 
THE HON. LAWRENCE CANNON 
Minister of Foreign Affairs 
THE HON. GORDON O'CONNOR 
Former Minister of National Defence (2006 - 2007) 
THE HON. JOHN MANLEY 
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs(2000 - 2002) 
THE HON. BILL GRAHAM 
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs(2002 - 2004) 
Former Minister of National Defence(2004 - 2006)
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