Canadians have historically held human rights as one of our most important and cherished values. The recent downplaying of basic human rights for excuses of justice, trade and security is cause for alarm. The latest and most disturbing is the decision to look the other way at torture.
Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada (MP for SGI) stated, “Canadians do not want to legitimize torture under any circumstance. The Conservative government is out of step with the values of Canadians.”
This latest barrage on Human Rights reverses a previous Conservative policy, which once insisted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) would discard information if there was any inkling it might be tainted. They are now encouraged to use this information, even if it is obtained via torture. Equally alarming is the admission that such information would not only be shared with Canadian police, but that CSIS would pass it to relevant foreign agencies as well. Amnesty International Canada decried the action saying, “Information obtained under torture has no place in the justice system, full stop.”
A federal inquiry by Justice Dennis O’Connor into the Maher Arar torture affair recommended in 2006 that policies include specific directions “aimed at eliminating any possible Canadian complicity in torture, avoiding the risk of other human rights abuses and ensuring accountability.”
According to the December 2010 directive, the government expects the spy service to “make the protection of life and property its overriding priority.” It also states that in “exceptional circumstances,” where there is a threat to human life or public safety, urgency may require CSIS to “share the most complete information available at the time with relevant authorities, including information based on intelligence provided by foreign agencies that may have been derived from the use of torture or mistreatment.”
Green Human Rights Critic Joe Foster commented, “If property is an overriding priority, that would explain overlooking abuses of Canadian mining companies and the push for trade, regardless of human rights concerns.” He continued, “What about those being tortured, whether they be innocent or not? What about the threat to their human life? Our values towards basic human rights are being eroded. One can only surmise that the Prime Minister now condones torture if it provides the information he wants.”
“Canadian law enforcement and security agencies should focus on getting rid of information that bears the taint of torture, not on carving out exceptions for when it can be used,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.
“If we are to remain a civilized nation, then there is never justification for torture,” said Foster.