Canadian Government rejects apology for torture victims
OTTAWA – The federal government has rejected a call from MPs to compensate three Canadians tortured overseas.
In a response issued late Monday, the government said it “would be inappropriate” to do so because the three men are suing federal agencies.
The House of Commons public safety committee said in June the government should do “everything necessary” to remove falseallegations about the men and their families in records held by national security agencies.
The MPs also recommended apologies and compensation for the three, who were brutalized in Syrian prison cells.
Last year a federal inquiry led by former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci found Canadian officials contributed to the torture of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin by sharing information with foreign agencies.
The Commons committee said the fact the men are suing the government should not stand in the way of an apology.
The government said Monday the civil litigation means it won’t apologize, offer compensation or take steps to fix mistakes that may exist in security records about the men.
Don Davies, the NDP public safety critic, called the refusal totally unacceptable.
“At the very least they could have agreed to correct the misinformation that may exist in records. Because those continue to haunt these men to this day.”
Almalki, El Maati and Nureddin say false information in federal files makes it dangerous for them to travel abroad.
Kerry Pither, a human rights advocate who has written extensively about the men, said Monday it was disturbing the government would not correct mistakes in records sent to foreign governments.
“There’s no reason why these agencies should be waiting on any other process to correct the inaccurate and inflammatory allegations that they shared with foreign agencies.”
The Commons committee followed up on the findings of two federal commissions of inquiry — one that probed the cases of the three men and an earlier study by Justice Dennis O’Connor that examined similar ordeal of Ottawa engineer Maher Arar, who was also beaten by Syrian captors.
In 2007, the government apologized to Arar and gave him $10.5 million in compensation.
The MPs called on the government to implement all of O’Connor’s recommendations, including an overhaul of the piecemeal system of watchdogs that keep an eye on national security agencies.
In its response the government said it had acted on almost all of O’Connor’s suggestions and reiterated its desire to wait for the findings of another commission of inquiry — exploring the 1985 Air India bombing — before making changes to the oversight bodies.
Pither noted that O’Connor recommended a detailed model for watchdog reform almost three years ago.
“How many more inquiries will we have to have before we finally implement these recommendations?” she said.
“There’s no reason that we should have to wait for another inquiry to conclude before putting this recommendation in place.”
In their June report, the MPs also urged the government to issue a clear ministerial direction against the use of information obtained through torture.
The government says it did so when Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan declared in early April that police and security agents “are not to condone the use of torture, practise torture or knowingly use any information obtained through torture.”
Short URL: http://tinyurl.com/ycvbuvw