The federal NDP always has an uphill battle in getting media attention, and this is an issue all Canadians should be very concerned about: namely, the highest ranking military officer in the country deciding who gets to see what information.
Matt Hartley, writing in the today’s online edition of the Globe and Mail, says that “[i]n a formal letter addressed to Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor, NDP defence critic Dawn Black said she will move to recall the standing committee on national defence and call Gen. Hillier, the deputy minister and “all relevant officials” to testify – unless the department provides “an explanation of the rationale, legal or otherwise, for the department to deny the release of information related to detainees.”” While Mr. Harper is off bragging about the virtues of the very social democratic traditions of Canada that he is trying to dismantle, there is a rogue general suppressing information – and we are OK with this?
Hartley also reported that “[l]ast week, Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre sent a letter to Information Commissioner Robert Marleau urging him to launch a formal investigation into the Defence Department’s handling of the detainee documents. He said he doesn’t believe the assertion that releasing the information would be a threat to national security.
“I’m happy to see that the NDP is following my act, but we already sent a letter. I’m calling again for [Mr. O’Connor’s] resignation today,” he said.”
There appears to be two different issues though. The Defence minister himself seems to be subordinate to General Hillier and needs to answer for the stonewalling of information, which the Liberals seem most concerned about. However, it is a separate issue altogether, in getting Gen. Hillier to explain – in a public committee hearing – what he thinks he is doing in organizing the Strategic Joint Staff – “… a newly- created group that advises Gen. Hillier and carries out his role in the access-to-information processes …”
Black’s “… letter also calls for an explanation of Gen. Hillier’s involvement in the decision not to release the documents. Ms. Black said in an interview that she is most concerned with the lack of civilian oversight concerning how to apply the access-to-information process at National Defence.” Black goes on to say that from her “… reading of the Access to Information Act, the only position for the Chief of Defence Staff is that he’s subject to the act. He’s not meant to administer the act,” …”
Hartley writes that “[w]hen asked whether he would support Ms. Black’s motion to recall the committee, Mr. Coderre said: “It’s not an issue of saying we need to bring back the standing committee. We need a formal inquiry. We’re asking Mr. Marleau to take a look at that.””
All parties ought to do everything they can to clean house in the Defence department, before Canadians stumble into war-crimes territory. That is why there is civilian oversight – sorry general.