NDP urges release of Afghan detainee files

The NDP is calling for the government to release secret documents about the possible torture of Canada's Afghan detainees.

Retiring House Speaker expects they'll be made public

An Afghan detainee is seen through steel mesh inside the Parwan detention facility near Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan in March 2011. The NDP on Friday demanded the government release the long-awaited documents on Canadian-transferred Afghan detainees. (Dar Yasin/Associated Press)

The NDP is calling for the government to release secret documents about the possible torture of Canada's Afghan detainees.

The Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc Québécois formed a committee last year to decide which documents to release about Canadian-transferred Afghan detainees and their possible torture at the hands of Afghan authorities, complete with retired judges to advise on national security implications.

The NDP opted out of the committee, arguing the memorandum of understanding that set out the rules was too limiting.

NDP defence critic Jack Harris says all the parties agreed during the campaign that they wanted the documents released.

"So now what's changed? What's changed since then? We're supposed to wait for the House [of Commons] and then maybe wait for a committee and maybe wait for something else? This is all part of the same process to hide the facts from the Canadian public," Harris said.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Conservatives still want the documents released.

"The MOU provides that the process can be reinstated when Parliament reconvenes," Andrew MacDougall wrote in an email. "Given the changes to the composition of the House, discussions surrounding the process are best held after the House resumes sitting."

The committee was set up after House Speaker Peter Milliken ruled that Parliament had a right to see the full documents, even if they were classified secret. The government had released thousands of pages from the files with large portions blacked out.

Milliken, the longest-serving Speaker in Canadian history, retired when Parliament dissolved for the May 2 election.

Milliken expects documents release

In an interview with CBC Radio's The House, Milliken said he expects the documents will be made public.

"I wouldn't be surprised if there's a release of them at some point. I understand they're getting close to finished, but I haven't been given or received details," Milliken told host Kathleen Petty.

"I'm optimistic there will be a completion to the thing."

Milliken said he has no problem with how long the process has taken — more than a year since his historic ruling said MPs had a right to see the unredacted documents, they still don't have access.

"I think the process is fine. Yes, it's taken a very long time. I don't know why. I don't know whether it's volume, I don't know whether there was a lot of disagreement. I just don't know the details of what transpired.

"I don't know how much was out before and how many of the documents that came out before that were redacted were the main part of this package, whether there was a huge bundle of other stuff that was thrown in as well that had not even been partially released before. I do not know the answer to that," he said.

The full interview will air on CBC Radio May 14.

Parliament is expected to return sometime after May 30.