Sunday, March 14, 2010

Parliament Is "Supreme"

A pretty weaselly worded "terms of reference" for Judge Frank Iacobucci, that looks more stalling tactic, than any genuine desire to accommodate Parliament's demands. The opposition was wise to wait and see what the government would formally offer, now that they have, I expect some serious resistance. Judging by the initial comments from the Liberals and NDP, it would appear "parliament is supreme" is back on the table.

I agree with the Amnesty International reaction, in that Iacobucci will just rehash ground already covered, nothing more than a "second opinion" under the same constraints previously argued for redaction. This paragraph outlines the murky mandate, which leaves a very subjective determination:
Mr. Iacobucci will provide recommendations to the Minister of Justice as to whether information would be injurious to Canada’s international relations, national defence or national security and whether any such information should nevertheless be released because the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in non-disclosure.

One must remember, the Red Cross is already on record rejecting public disclosure, not because allegations are unfounded, but because international protocol demands "confidentiality". This framework provides Iacobucci an easy out on the "international relations" front. Nicholson categorizes the opposition demands as "potentially injurious" and he's basically asking Iacobucci to uphold this decision. Given that arguments can be made either way, the government has already stifled concurrent attempts by other bodies, namely the MPCC, it's hard to see how Iacobucci contradicts.

Iacobucci is left with a vague interpretation, because any allegations of torture are potentially damaging to our international relations and national security. We've already heard the defence, that any release of documents could harm our troops in the field, reprisals and such, so Iacobucci is left with a flawed balancing act. Additionally, Iacobucci already has the initial resistance arguments provided by DOD and the JD, so he would have to be extraordinary in rebuking those original stances. Iacobucci is not acting in isolation, he's determining if he should override what's already been put forth, and that makes any bold re-examination unlikely. I'd add, Iacobucci has already spoke to these issues of national security and "injurious" releases in the past, showing a tendency to defer.

People will note, Nicholson referenced verbatim to the language used during Iacobucci's previous posting. From his official report, you can see that Iacobucci has already established a precedent, which is INCREDIBLY similar to this investigation:
However, the responsible Minister is of the opinion that disclosure of this information would be injurious to national security, national defence, and/or international relations. If it is ultimately determined that further information can be publicly disclosed, I intend to take the necessary steps to supplement the public version of my report...

There remains certain information that bears directly on my mandate that I believe can and should be included in the public version of my report. However, the responsible Minister is of the opinion that disclosure of this information would be injurious to national security, national defence, and/or international relations.

Exact wording, and Iacobucci deferred to the government's desire, using the same justifications. I believe the above- and Nicholson's choice of VERBATIM wording confirms- Iacobucci was chosen because the government believes he is predisposed to uphold redaction, using the above rationales. There is no way Iacobucci is chosen, if the government believed he would reject their arguments to date, they don't work that way and Nicholson's lifting of past language suggests they are BANKING on similar adherence.

On the question of timing, adding in the 2001-2005 period is agreeable on an intellectual level, but clearly designed to delay any eventual release. The contempt allegations demand release of certain documents, by expanding the review, this may amount to the government's first formal attempt to cloud responsibility and/or ensure release doesn't occur until after this spring session. If I'm a betting man, Iacobucci's review will be released at the end of July, early August, when all is quiet, nobody paying attention. In this way, no matter his conclusions, the government can use Iacobucci in the fall, and hope everyone tires of this story(I note some in the media are already questioning the continual "opposition", disappointing given the stakes, but attention span has never been a modern day strength).

If I'm the NDP, I continue on with their contempt charge. If I'm the Liberals, I dust off Lee and reject this "inquiry" outright. Now that we know have some clarity on Iacobucci, it's imperative that the opposition doesn't allow a probable pre-determined exercise to distract, delay and ultimately relegate. The opposition isn't obligated to play this game.

18 comments:

Omar said...

Mr. Iacobucci will provide recommendations to the Minister of Justice as to whether information would be injurious to Canada’s international relations, national defence or national security and..

..perhaps the Conservative Party of Canada? What exactly will Iacobucci do with any information that shines light on a government that may have been involved in illegal activity? Sorry, but this Canadian doesn't trust a former Mulroney appointee to do the right thing given the circumstances of this man's past. Iacobucci should have taken a large pass on this rather greasy assignment. Perhaps not unlike John Turner, he didn't have an option.

Nero Wolfe said...

It is high time for the opposition to put an end to this utter farce.

The CPC, has become a menace and an affront to Canadian democracy.

This madness must come to an end ASAP!!

Time to call Stephen Harper's bluff.

Let him seek dissolution over this, and let him explain that to the Canadian public.

Gayle said...

Why can't they just ask him if they can legally withhold the documents.

Why isn't anyone asking why a retired judge can see the documents, but the leaders of the opposition parties, duly elected by the citizens of Canada, can not.

If there was nothing to hide Harper could strike a deal with the opposition leaders to show them the documents.

Northern PoV said...

Time for a poll:

"The govt has appointed a highly respected former SCoC judge to review material that may be harmful to the troops. Do you agree that he should be allowed to do his job? Follow-up Q: If the Liberals force an election and accuse our troops of torture, how would you vote?"

Of course the folks that like to manufacture consent will be much more subtle - but it will amount to the same thing and the Igster will run away in horror.

Nero Wolfe said...

"The government has appointed a highly respected former SCOC judge to review material that may be harmful to our troops"

STRAW MAN ARGUMENT!!!!!

That is FICTION

The best way to honour our troops and their sacrifices, is to hold the higher ups responsible for their actions.

We should be showing the Afghan people that we do not cover up our mistakes, and deal with them in an open and accountable manner.

What the hell are we supposed to be fighting for in Afgahnistan?

Who gives a flying fig what the judge or any one else has to say.

Who cares?

PARLIAMENT IS SUPREME!!!!!

Nero Wolfe said...

Northern Pov,

No one is accusing our troops of torture.

No is accusing our troops of committing war crimes.

It is our government, that should be held responsible for their actions.

The Afghan people very well know that they have a corrupt government.

They very well know what goes on in their prisons.

So this argument about danger to our troops, is bullshit.

I guess this is all the CPC has left in their arsenal.

If we are fighting for democracy and human rights in Afghanistan, we should be showing them how a real democracy deals with these issues.

We do NOT cover up, we admit our mistakes, and we hold those who committed those mistakes responsible.

That is the best way to honour our troops.

That is the best way to honour the long suffering Afgahni people.

thwap said...

Where are we as a country that the government thinks it's a good idea to cover-up torture and the opposition doesn't think the electorate cares enough to force an election on the subject?

Omar said...

Apparently we are all more conservative these days. Apparently we don't much care about brown-skinned, funny tongued people who live in far away lands. And apparently we particularly don't care for these odd, faraway folks when they kill our purer than pure military personnel. All is fair in love and war. Apparently.

RuralSandi said...

Perhaps doesn't mean much, but Iacobucci is the "lead" director of Tim Hortons.

Hmmm.... is Iacobucci expert in internations issues?

JimmE said...

N PoV:

& how 'bout the poll that asks:
"some international human rights organizations may have suggested that the Afghan detainee scandal may be considered a War Crime on the part of the present Government of Canada.
Would you vote for such a government?

cls said...

Doesn't Icobucci's reputation get rather tattered if he provides cover to a government that many see as engaging in a cover up, as well as attempting to undermine the supremacy of Parliament? I'm no expert but wouldn't his reputation in the legal community be diminished by such partisanship?

marie said...

Northern POV, the only poll I will believe is on election day.

BTW, the only ones accusing the troops are the Con Party and his parrot supporters. who for what ever reason are clueless and have no common sense what so ever.Have you ever asked yourself why Harper is stalling if he has nothing to hide? He has to wear the fact that the 140 lost soldiers are on his soldiers. Looks more like a cover up because the Pm knows what is released in the report would most likely be the end of his political carrier and his job.

Canadian politics are looking more like Germany in the the second world war and the dictator leader in Germany so many years ago.

Scary isn't it Northern and especially all because of his Parrot supporters who keep spreading his spin and lies because they are told too.

Pathetic!!!

Northern PoV said...

To all those fine souls who provided me with admonishment today ...

my post was sort of a "private joke" of sorts.

I abhor polling and believe it is a major cause of the democratic deficit in modern society

Northern PoV said...

Of course it is a straw argument
... polling is morphing into push-polling

JimmE's idea just slants it the other way

Marie has the right idea

lets cancel all polls except for election day!

Steve V said...

Pov

Your one trick pony routine is such a bore. Honestly, you're like a turkey dinner.

RuralSandi said...

Hmmm....can Parliament override the judge?

The judge is now a private citizen - should he be privy to those documents?

Steve V said...

The Liberals should invoke Privy Council privilege and demand to have select members of the opposition view the documents.

Tof KW said...

Doesn't Icobucci's reputation get rather tattered if he provides cover to a government that many see as engaging in a cover up, as well as attempting to undermine the supremacy of Parliament? I'm no expert but wouldn't his reputation in the legal community be diminished by such partisanship?

You may not be a law expert, and for that matter neither am I, however you are correct in that this would tarnish his reputation and future legacy. For this reason many are speculating that this is why Professor Attaran came out when he did (and to the media, not the opposition parties) to state that he has read some of the unredacted documents (without saying how exactly, or what they say specifically – for obvious legal reasons), and they suggest that the Canadian government has broken the Geneva conventions in Afghanistan, and officials could very well be implicated in war crimes. Basically, Attaran was telling Iacobucci not to be a stooge.