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Canadians believe Colvin, reject torture – poll (PS: Join the Facebook group demanding a public inquiry)

It appears the furious attacks on Richard Colvin’s testimony – and the man’s reputation – has backfired on the Conservatives:

Canadians aren’t buying the Harper government’s assertion that there’s no credible evidence Afghan detainees were tortured, a new poll suggests…Fifty-one per cent of respondents said they believe Colvin’s testimony to the committee last week. In stark contrast, only 25 per cent said they believe the government’s contention that the diplomat’s claims are flimsy and not credible.

Even more strongly noted in this poll, Canadians are totally against turning over prisoners if it’s known they’ll be tortured:

Moreover, fully 70 per cent said it’s unacceptable that Canadian forces would hand over prisoners if it’s likely they’ll be tortured. No less than 60 per cent in any region and even a majority of Conservative supporters subscribed to this view. Harris-Decima chairman Allan Gregg said the results suggest the government’s initial strategy of attacking Colvin’s credibility has backfired badly. “You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or a pollster to know that there’s something unseemly about taking an allegation that appears to be heartfelt and twisting it around and throwing it back in someone else’s face,” Gregg said in an interview. Gregg said Canadians’ deep misgivings about the mission in Afghanistan, combined with their underlying belief that Canada is a peaceful country that should never condone torture, likely predisposes them to believe Colvin.

These poll results are probably why Harper finally decided to re-appear in Question Period yesterday to finally take some heat over this, rather then dumping it on MacKay and other ministers to try and defend. His internal polling was probably telling him the very same thing this poll did. Heck, when 34% of Conservative voters believe Colvin’s testimony (as opposed to 40% believing the government’s view) you know Harper and his Conservatives have a public relations problem and some political damage happening. Personally, I am very glad to see the majority of Canadians rejects this government’s behaviour and reject torture on detainees – regardless if they’re Taliban or not.

By the way, there is a new Facebook group that has been created by one of the members of Amnesty International Canada. Its called Public Inquiry on Afghan Detainees. Its mission statement reads:

This non-partisan group calls on the Government of Canada to convene a public Commission of Inquiry into all aspects of the laws, policy and practice that has governed Canada’s approach to handling detainees in Afghanistan.

If you support the calls by Amnesty International (not to mention all opposition parties, a series of newspaper columnists, as well as other civil liberties groups), I not only encourage you to join this group, but to invite your friends and acquaintances to join it as well.


22 comments to Canadians believe Colvin, reject torture – poll (PS: Join the Facebook group demanding a public inquiry)

  • Rat-tat-tat

    Maybe they were? Maybe they were not? Don’t usually care about that stuff under my shoe.

  • Gayle

    Maybe bill – but then that is what a lot of your colleagues were saying before the testified.

  • billg

    Its the Optics, that’s all I’m saying.
    And the Optics are one of the most respected Generals in Canadian history is repeating the Governments side of the story, and, the Optics are, if the Liberals are not going after the military why did the General have to get up and repeat what the Government had said. This is theatre, like it or not its what it is, there is no moral high road for either the Cons or the Libs and of all party’s the Libs should know that. Canadian’s dont care about reports, they will hear Hillier say what the Government said and wonder who’s making all that fuss about our soldiers torturing prisoners, then, someone will say its not our soldiers its the people we hand the soldiers over to and then they really wont care, or, they’ll wonder whose side your on. That’s why this level of accusations is so confusing.

  • Gayle

    Except the liberals are not going after the military.

    In any event, I somehow doubt anyone expected Hillier to say anything other than what he said today, especially since he has already said it to the media. I really did not think he was going to get up and admit he turned a blind eye to torture.

    If I recall correctly, he was adopting the government’s line about “credible” reports. Since the government refuses to release those reports it is hard to tell what they deem (o be “credible”.

  • billg

    That didnt take long. A Rock station here in Ottawa has one of its DJs that does a Rick Mercer..the DJ’s been doing it for 10 years now. The 5 pm rant was about how stupid the Conservatives look for going after whistle blower and how pathetic the Liberals look by trying to gain votes by going after our military who are in a war zone. Like the DJ said..”dont they know our troops our in a war?”..”maybe they should care more about our troops then about a few roughed up Taliban”.

    • @billg The DJ is obviously stupid. It has nothing to do with the troops.. but whether or not Canadian officials were allowing prisoners – whether they were Taliban or not – to be handed over even if we knew torture was likely (note “likely”, not “proven” but “likely”, as spilled out by the Geneva Conventions)

      Remember.. 70% of Canadians in the poll today say they reject handing prisoners (all prisoners) over if we knew they were going to be tortured… so I doubt Conservatives are going to get very far with trying to belittle the fact these were Taliban (and there’s question of that as well, whether Hillier dismisses it or not)

      Also.. we now hear the Justice Department is going to try and block Richard Colvin from providing additional documentary evidence on his torture files.. looks awfully suspicious to me that the government is continuing to try and do a cover-up.

      • kmartin

        @Scott Tribe, Scott. So what is the solution to handling these prisoners? Lets bring them to Canada where they can integrate into society?
        I AM NOW SCARED.

        • @kmartin,

          Well, we could always, oh, I dunno, do what other NATO partners like the UK and the Netherlands have done during their tenure in Afghanistan and directly monitor how Afghan security forces treat detainees we turn over to them. If that means sometimes coming up with alternative detention arrangements (eg, transferring suspected insurgent detainees over to US troops) if abuse by Afghan security forces is uncovered, so be it.

          Of course, you can always continue to float ridiculous strawman assertions and feigned concern about ZOMG SCARY TERRORISTS COMING TO CANADA — TEH EEK!!1

          Whatever turns yr crank.

        • @kmartin, So what others do: Maintain our own prison in Afghanistan and treat prisoners according to our own standards. if we can’t do this, we shouldn’t be there.

          This would be ideal as our troops are also potentially needed to help ascertain what to do with those captured. Remember, many of those taken are taken on the basis of guilt by association, swabs showing gunshot residue (in Afghanistan, hardly condemning) and other circumstantial evidence. Imagine then being imprisoned for an indefinite period based upon that and tortured! Anyway, assessing who should be held and who who be let go would be much easier, I suspect.

          It’s not as if The Harper Government doesn’t like building prisons.

          Of course, this won’t be done, esp. with us leaving in 2011.

        • @kmartin,

          Gosh kmartin, is that the only solution you can come up with? I really then have to question your intelligence.

          Do you even know what the Military Police does?

          Mark and Matt have pretty much exposed your stupidity, I really can’t add more.

          Well except maybe for utter disgust at a stay-at-home chicken hawk spouting and raging to let OTHERS do the dirty work he would never have the balls to do himself.

          Why don’t you stop apologizing for torture and STFU, mkay?

  • billg

    Well..Hillier has given his testimony so now what do the Liberals do? This was dumb dumb dumb! Donolo better make sure he has the right people on PP tonight!
    The Liberals now have to claim that Hillier wasnt doing his job or he’s lying.
    Dumb Dumb Dumb.

    • @billg, It’s not just the Liberals, BIllg pressing for the public inquiry.

      Also, as the BQ MP said in questions to these guys, he’s not surprised that the military would close ranks on this… but there are many other organizations and diplomats that have either alleged there was torture or even presuming it was commonplace; yet the Canadian military officials at the Commission either denied hearing about torture or denied even that any was taking place…and how could they explain that?

      It took some pointed silence before one of the generals lamely said A) he wasnt there at the time and b) anyhow.. no one told us about this.

      I think there’s a lot more going on.

  • Gayle

    Who knows what will happen. Colvin put his entire career at risk with his evidence. Hillier et al will not be risking their careers with theirs. People may judge the evidence on that basis.

  • billg

    You may be right Gayle, but, what happens when Hillier disputes Colvin which he is going to do today? Hillier was the man on the ground and the one responsible for surprise visits. I agree that attacking Colvin was stupid and childish so its going to be intereting to see how the Liberals handle Gen Hillier’s testimony.

  • Gayle

    I would tend to agree this issue, all by itself, will not affect poll numbers.

    It is just another example of why Harper cannot be trusted though. Last time the torture issue came up there was no evidence the CPC were lying to us. Now there is. Harper and his gang come across as childish and irresponsible when they decide to attack the messenger rather than take responsibilty for the message.

    These things add up. Now that the media is focusing on the government rather than the LPC soap opera, people are going to start taking notice.

  • KC

    I have to wonder on what basis do Canadians (80% of whom rarely watch the news, and when they do prefer the fluffy human interest stories) conclude one way or another if some guy (whose testimony they didn’t even watch) is telling the truth or not. I suspect most people made up their mind based on pretty flimsy rationales (and that cuts both ways). Only an independant inquiry will produce anything resembling reliable answers. Until then all we have is uninformed public opinion and partisan posturing.

    As for ‘political damage’, I highly doubt it. I can’t see more than a point or two swing on this. We’ve been down the ‘torture’ road before and it didn’t hurt the Conservatives last time. Canadians may oppose torture but I think it will take a lot to draw a strong connection between the allegations and the Conservative government itself, particularly given common misperceptions about Ignatieff’s own views on the subject (one of the few issues on which I’m prepared to defend the man). It simply isn’t a motivating issue and those who are motivated by it never supported the Conservatives to begin with.

  • wilson

    ”Fifty-one per cent of respondents said they believe Colvin’s testimony to the committee last week.

    In stark contrast, only 25 per cent said they believe the government’s contention that the diplomat’s claims are flimsy and not credible.”

    Let’s see what Canadians think after testimony from the other side is heard.
    1/2 believe Colvin, when only he has spoken, and all the opps and msm believe him….
    that is a very worrisome number for the Libs.

    • @wilson, Nice attempt at spin, Ms “I’m not really a Conservative’ Wilson.

      I see from your IP address in leaving a comment here that your IP is based near Edmonton Alberta. That hardly surprises me at all.

      • kmartin

        @Scott Tribe, Scott. I just am new here and read this and I am trying to figure out why you would assume that anything in your response has any relevance to what wilson said and the assumption that he/she is a conservative just because they have an ip address in Edmonton? Is this what you do is attack people who oppose your view? I see it all the time and to be honest I am a bit shocked that you are so small minded and petty! You claim to be well informed and to a degree you are but when you attack another person solely on where they live and make an assumption on their political affiliation everything else your write from that point forward has a taint to it that I just cant seem to shake. You want to be taken seriously here yet comments like the above do serious harm to any good points(and you do have some) you do convey. After reading many blogs here and others it would seem to me that if you are wanting only partisan comments then you should be asking for liberal registration cards to be copied to you so you can screen your views to what you and your partisan friends want to read.

        • @kmartin, Scott was making the point that Wilson was making a partisan comment. Since we don’t know who Wilson is, between the comment and the IP information, the odds are high Wilson is a Con.

          It’s a silly comment for Wilson to make. The poll really says that a lot of Canadians believe there is an issue here. It doesn’t make the 51% right, but in a democracy it suggests that this matter should be pursued. Keep in mind that half of the remainder not explicitly believing Colvin at least don’t disbelieve him.

          Given that Harper is currently around the high 30s in the polls, having only 25% support the government on this issue suggests that there are would-be Conservative voters not supporting the government here. That is significant.

          So when Wilson spins otherwise, Wilson’s motives get suspected.

          That’s fair.

  • billg

    There is a part of this entire line of questioning that I dont get. Today, Gen Rick Hillier will dispute what Colvin is saying, and, then what? Are the Liberals going to call into question Gen Rick Hillier character? I think that this was an issue and I think the Liberals as Opposition had a duty to question the Government, but, if Hillier comes out fighting this afternoon and disputes the claims then once again the Liberals are left looking like the boy who cried scandal. I just cant help thinking that the way this has been framed will come back to bite the Libs…and, maybe a reason why Kinsella isn’t asked to help out with QP anymore.

  • Brant

    And Ignatieff’s stance on the issue, other the ones that he has already spoken both uttered and written? –

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