Canada did not 'turn a blind eye' to torture: MacKay
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Wednesday, December 9, 2009 10:19PM EST
Defence Minister Peter MacKay told a parliamentary committee that Canada has never been complicit in torture, nor has it broken any international laws, in regards to the Afghan detainee controversy.
"Torture is abhorrent and can never be tolerated, it is not only contrary to international law but to our own Canadian values," he said. "Let me be clear, the government of Canada has never been complicit in torture or any violation of international law by willfully allowing detainees, Taliban prisoners taken by the Canadian forces to be exposed to abuse."
"No one ever turned a blind eye," he added.
The statement came only hours after Canada's top soldier, Gen. Walter Natynczyk, committed a major turnabout, saying that Canadian soldiers did transfer a prisoner who was later beaten. Natynczyk reversed testimony he made only a day earlier.
Former defence minister Gordon O'Connor also spoke and went after the opposition parties, saying they were practicing the "lowest form of politics" for suggesting the government has covered up torture.
Since the controversy broke, MacKay and the government had been adamant that no detainees turned over by Canadian soldiers to the Afghan authorities were tortured.
"There has never been a single, solitary, proven allegation of abuse of a detainee, a Taliban prisoner, transferred by Canadian Forces." MacKay said Dec. 2 in the House of Commons.
The issue has been at the top of the agenda in Ottawa since diplomat Richard Colvin went public with allegations about torture last month.
Colvin alleged he gave multiple warnings about possible prisoner torture in 2006 and 2007 and that nothing was done about it by his superiors.
On Tuesday, more than two dozen former diplomats decried the Conservative government's treatment of Colvin in a strongly-worded letter.
MacKay dismissed the letter, and told the parliamentary committee that the government's attacks on Colvin were not personal.
"I have not maligned or impugned anyone's character, I just pointed out what seven other witnesses have testified here as well -- there is insufficient evidence to back up claims that were made," he said.
Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh went after MacKay hard in the committee, saying "ignorance of facts is no defence and I ask you to step down and relieve yourself of responsibility."
Dosanjh said there was "lots of evidence that there has been substantial risk of torture."
MacKay called Dosanjh's attack an "outrageous, inflammatory, insulting allegation."