Defence Minister Peter MacKay, upon exiting from the weekly Conservative caucus meeting, responds to new documents that diplomat Richard Colvin filed with the House of Commons Special Committee on the Mission in Afghanistan. Colvin said that memos he sent up the chain of the command alerting officials to possible torture of Afghan detainees in 2006/07 were also cc'd or copied to the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. MacKay served as Foreign Affairs from February 6, 2006 until August 13, 2007 when he became Minister of National Defence.
Mackay: “I received briefings from the deputy minister and there were attachments to which Mr. Colvin was a contributor but I have not received direct reports from Mr. Colvin.
This is the subject of the parliamentary committee. We’re going to hear from a number of witnesses today including General Gauthier, General Fraser and General Hillier. We’ll now see other evidence with respect to what took place in Afghanistan. That’s critical that we hear from other individuals who were there on the ground. That’s what we’re going to hear over the course of the next number of appearances by witnesses. We’ve heard from two groups of witnesses in three days of testimony.
Q: Are you still saying that, before 2007 and the change of that deal, you did not see any reports from Mr. Colvin?
Mackay: That’s correct.
Q: And why do you suggest he’s not credible?
Mackay: I’m not getting into the personality, the professionalism. I’m saying evidence that has been presented thus far does not substantiate the claim. It does not prove that any detainees – Taliban prisoners – transferred by Canadian Forces were tortured. I want to be clear: I’m not talking about the individual. I’m talking about evidence. And, quite frankly, now that this is subject of a Parliamentary Committee, I think we should let that committee hear from other individuals which is what’s going to happen.
When we’ve had credible allegations, we’ve acted and we’ve acted in substantial ways. We’ve invested in the prison system. We’ve trained individuals. We have gone out of our way to elevate how Afghans treat Afghans and that’s the crux: This is about what Afghans did to Taliban prisoners. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of the Canadian Forces or individuals in Afghanistan working very hard to improve the human rights situation. Canada can be very proud of the contributions that have been made by Canadian officials, soldiers, sailers, airmen and women who have done so at great sacrifice to themselves to ensure that Canada continues to enjoy a stellar reputation for human rights.