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No excuses for not holding a public inquiry or releasing the unredacted Colvin memos.

Let’s presume for a minute that there are “state secrets” in Richard Colvin’s memos that would harm Canadian national security (a big presumption with this government – anxious to discredit Colvin’s testimony – but like I said, let’s do it for a minute). Is that enough reason to withhold them? James Traver says nope, that’s just an excuse:

Often the last refuge of those tossing restlessly at night, the secrecy obstacle now threatening the public right to know is best removed by appointing a judge to privately review classified documents during an otherwise open process. Justice Dennis O’Connor considered far more sensitive intelligence in probing the treatment of Maher Arar and still was able to reach conclusions while guarding national interest and informant safety.

Earlier in the piece, Travers says there is a persuasive argument for a public inquiry:

Apart from Colvin’s serial memos, NATO allies and local as well as global rights groups were waving caution flags. Even though the Red Cross didn’t apply the torture label – its mandate, understood by all governments, restricts such explosive language to reports filed to those directly involved in mistreatment – the danger was so obvious then that it changes the question Canadians need answered now. It’s no longer just what the Prime Minister, ministers, generals and bureaucrats knew; it’s why they took so long to act?

Travers was a bit on the fence after the Generals had testified after Colvin, but he’s now come down squarely on the side of those that believe the government is hiding something, and has shamed Canada’s reputation as a result:

For all its sound and fury, the counter-attack that politicians, bureaucrats and generals mounted this week was morally weak and legally flimsy. In struggling to sway public opinion, finely parsed denials skidded around the looming conclusion that Canada transferred prisoners into probable torture after being warned by the pre-eminent and most credible victims-of-violence organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Here’s a question one should ponder: Why didn’t this Afghanistan Committee call any of the Red Cross officials involved in warning Colvin and Canadian officials to testify? That “oversight” by the Committee, if it indeed was one, should be immediately rectified.


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