UPDATED: The torture files: The leaders speak!

Where the party leaders stand on coercive interrogation


Okay, so this is actually something that ITQ has actually been meaning to do for a while, but for some reason, she never seems to get around to it, probably because after reading a few pages of back-and-forth bickering over what Ignatieff is or isn’t, or was or wasn’t, saying in his voluminous pre-political writings on torture, she almost always ends up so darned tired of the subject that she never wants to hear the words “lesser evil” again.

Like a bad penny, though, it keeps turning up, which is why this seemed like as good a time as any to make the effort to find out where all of the various federal party leaders stand on the use of torture and/or coercive interrogation, if only so we can finally move onto the next stage of the debate, whatever that turns out to be. And so, last night, she dispatched the following query to the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, on the theory that she may as well start with the leader at the centre of the controversy:

What is Michael Ignatieff’s current view on the use of coercive interrogation/torture by the state against suspected terrorists?

Despite the fact that she was enroute to Sudbury, OLO press secretary Jill Fairbrother responded with remarkable haste:

His current view is the same view he held as a renowned human rights expert who helped author the Responsibility to Protect: he is opposed.

ITQ then asked if it was fair to say that Ignatieff’s 2006 essay for Prospect Magazine — yes, that essay — stands, to which Fairbrother replied by repeating the last three words of her original response: “I would say he is opposed.”

Well, it’s an answer, of sorts —  although a surprisingly terse one, particularly when contrasted with the lengthy and laboriously nuanced musing that he’s done on the subject in the past, but given the context — or, rather, the continual out-of-context-yoinking of his previous statements by political opponents — an understandable change in tone, I guess.

But what about the other party leaders? Well, turns out that not all of them seem to have had a copypasteable response ready and waiting in the queue. The following question was sent out this morning to all four leaders’ offices:

“What is your position on the use of torture and/or coercive interrogation during wartime?” (For parameter-setting purposes, the ‘War on Terror’ constitutes ‘wartime’ for the purpose of this question.)

Note: I’m interested in [Leader’s Name]’s *personal view*, from a philosophical perspective, and though the answer may include the phrase ‘Unlike Mr. Ignatieff’ (or, for that matter, ‘Like Mr. Ignatieff’, although I’m betting that’s not likely to happen), but must principally relate to [Leader]’s position.*

At post time, ITQ is still awaiting a response from the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Bloc Quebecois.

The NDP, however, was only too eager to provide their leader’s position on the subject, which arrived less than an hour later, courtesy of Layton’s director of strategic communications, Rick Boychuk:

Torture is abhorrent, and Canada has a clear position against torture, both under the Charter, the Geneva Conventions and the Torture Convention

-Canada should not use information derived from torture

–Canada should not allow anyone to be transferred to authorities where the abuse and torture are likely

Dawn Black presented C-551, a definitive Private Member’s Bill on the subject, that we hope to bring forward again.

As soon as she hears back from the other two offices, ITQ will update this post to include their respective responses to the question. Won’t that be fun? Or at least more fun than bickering over whether or not the nation’s press has let everyone down by not asking the question often enough, or at all?

DIZZYINGLY FAST UPDATE: Well, look at that — by a serendipitous twist — seriously, I don’t think he even knew I was working on this — Colleague Wherry just put up a link to an interview with then-PMO spokesperson Kory Teneycke from last April that seems to shed some light, at least, on what Canada’s official position is on torture, or at least on what was being done to American detainees and prisoners in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.

ITQ is still waiting to hear what the prime minister’s personal opinion is, however, since it seems only fair to compare apples with apples. If Ignatieff is to be questioned about his opinion — in some cases from before he had even entered politics — then Stephen Harper should be willing to discuss his position, which may or may not be the same as current government policy.

LATE AFTERNOON UPDATE – Here’s the official response from the Prime Minister’s chief spokesperson, Dimitri Soudas:

The Prime Minister unequivocally condemns torture in all its forms. Canada is a signatory to both the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

All we need is a reply from the Bloc Quebecois, and we’ve got the whole set! Oh, except Elizabeth May, but really, is anyone the slightest bit uncertain about what her position is?