A longstanding policy of the Conservative government has been reliance on information gathered from, and outright complicity with the torture of human beings. Since we’re deep into an election, and elections are one of the most clear ways that we’re supposed to be keeping our government accountable, let’s have a look back at the Conservative government’s “soft on torture” agenda.
As Man-in-Blue-Suit would say, let’s be clear. I’m not talking about metaphorical torture. I’m talking about purposely imposing literal pain, humiliation and deprivation on actual living human beings in order to elicit information, or to otherwise bring about some political gain. This is serious, and to call it “torture” is not an exaggeration in the slightest. And Stephen Harper has made sure that the Canada is a part of it. To sum up, as Harper said himself, we might not recognise Canada, now that he’s had his way with it.
To start with, this is not a one-off thing. This is a policy that the Cons have crafted over the course of years. Far from being an accident or an oversight, parts of this “soft on torture” policy were implemented in secret, which suggests that they understood the enormity of what they were doing, but they wanted to get away with it anyway.
Contrary to Harper’s patronising dismissals, this is not a conspiracy theory either. This is well-documented by internal government “watchdogs,” military memos, Parliamentary debate and even reports from foreign powers.
The following is not an exhaustive report, but just a convenience sample that I came up with. The earliest article is from the Globe and Mail in 2012, saying that Harper covered up the delivery of prisoners to be tortured more than 5 years prior, and the most recent is the response to the CIA report in December of last year.
- Harper government stonewalled detainee probe, watchdog concludes, 2012 June 27
- “More than half a decade after the Harper government was rocked by bombshell allegations that Canada knowingly transferred prisoners to torture in Afghanistan, a watchdog has concluded a probe of the matter by saying Ottawa thwarted efforts to get to the truth.”
- Spy agency OK’d to share information that could lead to torture, 2013 July 29
- “The Harper government has quietly given Canada’s electronic eavesdropping agency approval to exchange information with foreign partners even when it may put someone at risk of torture.”
- Tories secretly gave Canadian military OK to share info despite torture risk, 2014 April 13
- “The Conservative government has secretly ordered the Canadian military to share information with allies even when there’s a serious risk it could lead to torture.”
- Stephen Harper rebuffs call to rescind federal torture directives, 2014 December 9
- “The Canadian policy has drawn persistent criticism from human rights advocates and opposition MPs who say it effectively condones torture, violating international law and Canada’s United Nations commitments.”
- CIA torture report: Why Canada can’t claim innocence, 2014 December 11
- “… intelligence Canada shared with the CIA led to the torture of a number of Canadians. ‘That’s exactly what took place with Maher Arar, that’s exactly what took place with Omar Khadr, that’s exactly what took place with tons of other people,’ says Juneau-Katsuya, who calls Harper’s stance ‘a very hypocritical position.'”
Fortunately, Canada is a democracy, and one of the things that we citizens of Canada have is the right—and the responsibility—to hold the government of the day accountable for its actions at the polls.