Canada

PM denies getting angry call from Hillier on detainee issue

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he never received an angry call from Gen. Rick Hillier last week over the government's handling of the Afghan detainee issue.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday he never received an angry call from Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of Canada's defence staff, last week over the government's handling of the Afghan detainee issue.

"I haven't had any telephone conversations in the last several weeks with Gen. Hillier," Harper said during question period in the House of Commons.

"I did talk to Gen. Hillier last week. Not about prisoners — about the Manley report and also to wish him well on a well-deserved vacation with his wife in the Caribbean. He deserves it."

Harper was responding to a Globe and Mail report quoting anonymous sources that Canadian Forces are holding detainees at their Kandahar Air Force.

The same story also said that Hillier was "tired of being used" in the controversy over the detainee issue and called Harper on Friday.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, Canada's top military commander also said he never had any such conversation with the prime minister.

Hillier, who is currently on vacation, said he and Harper have not exchanged angry words about the detainee issue.

Last week, it was publicly disclosed that the military decided months ago to stop transferring prisoners to Afghan authorities because of evidence of torture.

Harper's communications director, Sandra Buckler, said last Thursday that the government had not been informed of the military's decision — then retracted her comment a day later.

Opposition MPs have accused the Harper government of misleading Canadians and the House on the Afghan detainee issue.

On Monday, during a news conference, Harper said he wouldn't discuss how many Afghan prisoners the Canadian military has or where they are, saying these are operational matters for the military.

During question period, NDP Leader Jack Layton rejected that answer, saying that the American, British and Dutch officials all make public the number of detainees they have.

"I guess what it means is that Canada makes its own policies," Harper responded.

He added that if the military chooses to release information about its detainee policy, it's their decision.

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