Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 92

Wednesday, May 2, 2007
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

National Defence

Afghanistan—Treatment of Detainees—Confidence in Minister

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

We can all say that we are very proud Canadians — I am a very proud Canadian. In the past, I have felt the same way because of the moral authority that Canada has shown abroad.

In 1972, Canadians sent planes to Uganda to rescue Ugandans from camps that Idi Amin had set up. Canadians saved us from being tortured. My own husband suffered great harm at the hands of Idi Amin, so I speak from firsthand experience.

My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is the following: Why have we given up the standard of not accepting torture anywhere? Why are we now not being careful as to what is happening to Afghans under our responsibility?

Senator LeBreton: The government is not giving up the standard to which the honourable senator has referred. I think the only person that ever talked about torture was a member of the honourable senator’s own party, and that person is now the deputy leader, Michael Ignatieff.

I was reading a telling article, the lead editorial, in Macleans magazine on this issue. The article is entitled “Protect the Taliban?” I quote:

The relentless search for failure in Canada’s mission to Afghanistan continues.

The article goes on to talk about the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association court proceedings.

Honourable senators, the fact is that that is what appears to be happening — “the relentless search for failure in Canada’s mission to Afghanistan” — when, in fact, we all know it is a difficult mission.

As General Hillier pointed out today, there are genuine success stories in Afghanistan. The Canadian military, CIDA and the many people working in Afghanistan as part of the UN-sanctioned NATO mission can be very proud of Canada’s efforts there. We are making a difference in Afghanistan, and we should be celebrating successes and not looking for failures, as Macleans magazine points out.

Senator Jaffer: I am saddened. I know of the government leader’s history and her compassion. As a colleague of the honourable senator’s, I say to her that I know of torture. My family deals daily with the tragedy of what it means to be tortured, even 30 years later.

I am saddened that the government leader did not answer my initial question, but I have a further question for her.

Why are adequate agreements, as have been reached by our allies in this area, not being reached? Why are we not doing the same thing our allies are doing when detaining Afghan people?


Senator LeBreton: I did answer the honourable senator’s question. I said that the government does not condone torture. Absolutely nothing has been said or done that would lend credence to the honourable senator’s statement. However, that does not in any way undermine the legitimate concerns she has because of her own personal experience.

The fact is that Canada is part of NATO in a UN-sanctioned mission in Afghanistan. We are making a difference. These are allegations only. As the head of the NATO command in Afghanistan said the other day, they, like all NATO countries, are concerned about these allegations.