Bains 'baffled' by Harper's comments in House
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Sunday, February 25, 2007 1:01PM EST
Liberal MP Navdeep Bains says he still can't figure out the alleged link between his father-in-law and his party's position on anti-terrorism legislation that was raised this week in the House of Commons.
A story in the Vancouver Sun claimed the Mississauga-Brampton South MP's father-in-law is on an RCMP list of potential witnesses in their investigation into the 1985 Air India bombings.
Meanwhile, the Liberals recently came out against a Conservative plan to extend anti-terror legislation that their government brought into law after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- a move Prime Minister Stephen Harper seemed to suggest was a tactic to protect Bains' father-in-law, Darshan Singh Saini, from having to appear before the RCMP.
Infuriated Opposition MPs raucously shouted Harper down as he started to read from the article during the daily question period on Wednesday.
"I was baffled and obviously my colleagues reacted accordingly. I was definitely very much shocked at what the prime minister did," Bains said on CTV's Question Period on Sunday.
The provisions that the Liberals are against extending beyond their March 1 sunset date would allow preventive arrests and special investigative hearings for terror suspects. The Mounties had hoped to use the investigative-hearing provision of the act to compel testimony in their Air India probe.
Bains said the allegations have been hard on his family particularly because there is no way of verifying whether Singh Saini is actually on the witness list, which has not been made public.
"Fortunately, I had an opportunity to spend some time with the family, but the article itself and the allegations that are made that he's on a potential witness list, that he might be on this list and that somehow it's part of the debate that is taking place in the House of Commons, I can't make the connection," Bains said.
The author of the Vancouver Sun report, journalist Kim Bolan who has covered the Air India affair for years, said this week the information was not leaked to her by government sources, contrary to some allegations that the government had leaked the information purposely.
Bains asked for an apology in the House after Harper referenced the article, but did not receive one. The prime minister instead said that if Bains refuted any part of the article, he would be happy to accept his word on any inaccuracies.
Bains said he is now pursuing the issue with the Speaker of the House.
"I've asked the prime minister to apologize. I've asked for a point of privilege in the House of Commons and I'll wait to hear what the Speaker has to say," Bains said.
"I made my point. I wanted to clearly articulate my thoughts and I found what the prime minister did deeply regrettable. And I put those comments in the House of Commons, and now the onus is on the prime minister."
Bains said he has never once discussed the issue of the anti-terrorism measures with Liberal Leader Stephane Dion. However, he said he supports Dion's position on the issue -- a stance some Liberals don't agree with.
"My view has been consistent with my views with civil liberties from day one. I've supported the Charter and I feel that these two particular sunset provisions were simply that -- they were automatic expiry dates to these preventative hearings and investigative hearings and I feel that they haven't been used, and there is no particular need for them."
He said his position has nothing to do with his father-in-law's possible place on a witness list, and called the allegations a "smear campaign."
Meanwhile, a group representing families of victims of the Air India bombing is urging federal politicians to support renewal of Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act.
The Air India Victims' Families Association spokesman Bal Gupta says fighting over the provisions is an insult to the people killed in the 1985 Air India bombing.