Ralph Goodale to tell Trump administration: Canada doesn't support torture

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says he intends to send a clear message when he talks to U.S. President Donald Trump's team: Canada doesn't condone torture.

'It's inconsistent with virtually every international treaty Canada has ever signed,' says Goodale

Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale says Canadians would never support the use of torture. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says he intends to send a clear message when he talks to U.S. President Donald Trump's team: Canada doesn't condone torture.

"We need to be very clear on this point. Torture is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it's contrary to the Canadian Constitution, it's a violation of the Criminal Code, it's inconsistent with virtually every international treaty Canada has ever signed, including the Geneva Convention(s), and most importantly, Canadians find it abhorrent and will never condone it. Period," he told CBC Radio's The House.

In one of his first interviews after assuming office, Trump told ABC News he was willing to embrace torture as a way to "fight fire with fire." 

"I have spoken...with people at the highest level of intelligence. And I asked them the question, 'Does it work? Does torture work?' And the answer was, 'Yes, absolutely,'" Trump said.

Later in the week he eased off, saying he will let his defense secretary James Mattis, who has come out against such interrogation tactics, override him.

"I don't necessarily agree, but I would tell you that he will override because I am giving him that power," Trump said during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday.

"I happen to feel it does work. I have been open for a long period of time. We are going to win with or without, but I do disagree."

Any use of torture would put pressure on the intelligence community. Canada shares information with the U.S. as members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance that also includes the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. 

Conversation with Gen. John Kelly on the horizon 

"I will certainly do so when the occasion arises," said Goodale when asked if he will raise the issue of torture with the new administration. 

"​There is no change here. This has been the clear cut position of the government of Canada for a very long time."

The Saskatchewan MP said his officials are in the process of setting up a first conversation with his U.S. counterpart, Gen. John Kelly, the new secretary of homeland security.

President Donald Trump, left, listens as Defense Secretary James Mattis, right, speaks at the Pentagon in Washington, Friday. Mattis is not in favour torture. Trump said he will leave the military's decision to use torture up to his defence secretary (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Goodale says that going forward, improving efficiency at the the Canada, U.S. border will be a priority.

The so-called pre-clearance bill passed the U.S. Congress in December.  It will help kick off a number of projects aimed at speeding up travel across the border.

One project will establish U.S. customs offices on the Canadian side of the border, at Montreal's train station and on Western Canada's Rocky Mountaineer train line, allowing travellers, in theory, to get screened more quickly, easing the logjams that slow travel and commerce.

"One of the logical extensions now is can we find a way to make this apply to cargo so that you speed up that critical crossing of the border," Goodale said.

"I have raised it in a brief way with some of the representatives of the Trump organization...and they seem to be very interested."

Busy spring agenda 

Goodale will be one of the ministers to watch when Parliament resumes on Monday.

Besides establishing a relationship with Trump's team, Goodale will help steer a number of security bills through the House of Commons including Bill C-21, which, among several provisions, would allow for the collection of information from people leaving Canada, and Bill C-22, which would establish a parliamentary committee to oversee Canada's security agencies.

"We also have a very major amount of work to do on cybersecurity and that's important to both our country and the United States," he said, adding other priorities include helping first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder, facilitating cannabis reform and examining indigenous people in the criminal justice system.

"It's a big agenda and all of it is urgent."