Canadians were appalled when the U.S. Senate report on torture saw the light of day. We like to think, as John Baird said, that "Canada doesn't torture anyone. Period. Period." But, like everything that comes out of the mouths of this government, that's a half truth. Linda McQuaig writes:
The Harper government has opened the door to Canadian complicity in torture. It issued a directive allowing Canadian officials to share intelligence with foreign governments in some situations, even when this could lead to torture or to the receipt of information extracted under torture.
But like so many other disgraceful things that this government has done, the Harper crew issued this directive secretly; it only came to light through the access to information law.
Rather than simply prohibiting Canadian government agencies from sharing torture-tainted information, the Harper government’s directive simply requires approval from higher-ups, specifying that the matter should be referred to the appropriate deputy minister or agency head.
And, given the fact that "higher ups" either fall into line with this government or are fired, that protection means nothing. The goal is to get the information and let others do the torturing -- which is precisely what happened with Maher Arar. Justice Dennis O'Connor rejection of that policy was scathing:
In his powerful report, Justice O’Connor found that the RCMP’s false information likely had contributed to Arar’s year-long ordeal in Syria, and recommended Canadian agencies never send foreign authorities information that could lead to torture.
That recommendation led the RCMP to revamp their information-sharing procedures.
O’Connor’s report went further and condemned torture under any circumstances, noting that the prohibition against torture in international law is so fundamental it has acquired the status of jus cogens — a body of “higher law” that overrides all other laws or government practices.
But the Harperites' secret directive, in effect, eviscerated O'Connor's specific recommendations. Should we be surprised?