A History of Hypocrisy: Canadian Complicity Links U.S. Cold War Torture with Cases like Maher Arar's

By Boychuk, Regan | Literary Review of Canada, May 2008 | Go to article overview

A History of Hypocrisy: Canadian Complicity Links U.S. Cold War Torture with Cases like Maher Arar's


Boychuk, Regan, Literary Review of Canada


I.

To judge by the statements of government officials, Canada is--as it should be--staunchly opposed to torture. Just over two decades ago, Canada became one of the first countries to ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture, adopting an absolute ban on "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person." In 2005, foreign affairs minister Pierre Pettigrew restated our support: "The use of torture is unacceptable and must not go unchallenged. Canada is fully committed to the elimination of torture, to investigating suspected cases of torture, and to supporting torture victims." Canada recently also co-sponsored a resolution at the UN calling on Iran to address its continued use of torture, and our current minister of foreign affairs publicly demanded that Syria take firm measures to stop its use of torture, investigate allegations, prosecute perpetrators and provide remedies for torture victims.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Officials' noble words notwithstanding, there is much that suggests a darker reality shadowing the image of Canadian opposition to torture. In April 2006, for example, the UN Human Rights Committee stated it was "concerned by allegations that Canada may have cooperated with agencies known to resort to torture with the aim of extracting information from individuals detained in foreign countries." The committee mentioned Maher Afar in particular, but was also concerned about similar cases involving other Canadians tortured abroad. Indeed, at the later Iacobucci inquiry into three such cases, Justice Department lawyer Michael Peirce, speaking on behalf of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP and the Department of Foreign Affairs, argued that signing the UN Convention against Torture does not necessarily prevent Canada from sharing intelligence with countries employing torture.

In the wake of 9/11, the Supreme Court of Canada likewise unanimously decided that there were instances when Canada could deport people to face torture. This is despite perfectly clear language in the Convention against Torture that rules out sending anyone to another state "where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." As a result, the UN Human Rights Committee found Canada in violation of the prohibition of torture enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As Human Rights Watch's Jennifer Egsgard wrote to The Globe and Mail, that Supreme Court ruling, "humiliatingly, makes Canada the only Western nation whose laws have been interpreted to allow them to return an individual to torture"

More recently, details of Canadian complicity in Afghan abuse have been trickling out across the front pages of the Globe. After repeatedly dismissing credible allegations of torture, the Harper government was finally forced to concede that torture existed in Afghan prisons when Canadian diplomats were confronted with a man covered in fresh welts who pointed out the hidden electrical cable and rubber hose secret police had used to beat him. He had been captured by Canadian forces, who routinely hand detainees over to Afghan authorities. A couple of weeks later, it was revealed that the Canadian government knew of--but tried for months to keep secret--allegations that the governor of Kandahar was personally involved in the torture of at least one detainee. Despite pledging to cooperate, the federal government has likewise refused to release uncensored documents to the Military Police Complaints Commission's investigation of Afghan detainee transfers. And when the MPCC decided to hold a public interest hearing to gain access, the Tories moved to quash the inquiry.

All of this has unfolded under the banner of America's so-called war on terror. "Since 9/11," the University of Ottawa's Peter Jones reminded us in the Ottawa Citizen last October, "the Bush administration has systematically redefined torture to provide the CIA and other U. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A History of Hypocrisy: Canadian Complicity Links U.S. Cold War Torture with Cases like Maher Arar's
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.