Saturday, March 13, 2010
Terms of Reference or Terms of Endearment?
The federal Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson, released the Terms of Reference today for former justice, Frank Iacobucci.
What? Perfectly normal to release this information on a Saturday isn't it? I mean, just because the opposition has been asking for it all week and the government refused to answer any questions on it....
No matter, the issue will still be around on Monday.
In the meantime though, as you go through the ToR, it is pretty clear that the government has gone to great lengths to employ yet another stall tactic and not much more. Granted, this investigation by Iacobucci may yield more than the government is prepared for, the narrow mandate he is being given doesn't really address the core issue as raised by Derek Lee, and that is the supremacy of Parliament.
In the Terms of Reference (Backgrounder), the government acknowledges the motion adopted by the House, but dismisses it right off the bat:
Whereas the House of Commons has adopted a motion, on December 10, 2009, ordering the production of Government documents related to the transfer of Afghan detainees from the Canadian Forces to Afghan authorities, which contain information the disclosure of which would be injurious to national defence, international relations or national security if publicly released;
So, they are ignoring the will of the House and suggesting that a third party make the determination instead. While I understand that former justice Iacobucci has an impressive record, this is not how our system works.
Frankly, it would be interesting to get Iacobucci's opinion on that particular matter, but he is not allowed to speak according to the ToR.
Additionally, the government is completely ignoring the premise on which the opposition parties and Derek Lee in particular, has made their claims. No, the government adopt their own criteria in the matter. Specifically:
“As I stated in the House of Commons, the government acknowledges that it is appropriate that decisions on the disclosure of information in these circumstances be reviewed in an independent manner,” stated Minister Nicholson. “This will ensure that parliamentarians will have access to the relevant government information on the arrangements for the transfer of detainees in Afghanistan while ensuring there is no injury to Canada's national defence, international relations or national security.”
I'm fairly certain that the opposition parties will not be satisfied with this, nor in my view, should they be. The government is blatantly flouting the will of Parliament and that is not only a serious matter, it is one that could conceivably push us into a constitutional crisis.
The government's flagrant disregard of our system must be called out and I firmly hope that Lib MP, Derek Lee will do just that when the House sits next week.