Hébert: only minority government let Colvin testify

Hebert-csChantal Hébert makes a good point. Canadians only got to hear Richard Colvin’s testimony because we have a minority Parliament. The Conservatives had previously used a national security clause in the Canada Evidence Act to prevent Colvin from testifying to a Military Police Complaints Tribunal hearing. But not having a Parliamentary majority, they were powerless to prevent him from testifying to the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan.

Hébert is skeptical of claims the government was out of the loop:

[T]the government could not have been in the dark about the potential prevalence of torture unless the country’s top civil servants conspired to keep their political masters out of the loop, and that is highly unlikely.”

As of 2006, Colvin – who was serving in a senior official position in Afghanistan – was sending scores of reports warning of systematic detainee abuse. At first they seemed to fall on deaf ears. In time, he was asked to deliver them only verbally…

According to Colvin, the clampdown order came from the very top, from officials who reported directly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper or his ministers, often on a daily basis.

In 2006 and 2007, the Afghan file was not only Canada’s most important military engagement in decades; it was also the Prime Minister’s self-chosen defining foreign policy file…

At the time the Conservatives took power, the public service was still reeling from the fallout of the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal. By and large, federal mandarins were determined to take all available steps to avoid getting tangled up in a partisan chain of command again.

It would have been an astounding decision on the part of the senior civil service to keep its Conservative masters out of any critical loop on the Afghan file.

In the House Thursday, Defence Minister Peter MacKay did not say the government had not been apprised of Colvin’s reports. Instead, he dismissed them as lacking in hard evidence and implied that they were based on Taliban propaganda.