Detainees deserve inquiry

Opposition MPs are urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government to call a formal inquiry into the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan, the Globe and Mail reported Dec. 1.

Demand for an inquiry evolved as a result of diplomat Richard Colvin’s testimony two weeks ago that detainees taken by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan are being tortured in Afghan prisons, and that the Harper government has been ignoring warnings on the issue.

The Opposition’s motion in the House of Commons passed 146 to 129. However, the final decision of whether or not the inquiry should be launched rests with the government’s executive branch.

Harper’s government views the request as a politically-motivated move on the part of the Opposition. But the government’s censoring of documents related to the detainee issue in Afghanistan is also driving further investigation.

While the request for an inquiry may be mainly motivated by political strategy, this doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

The Harper government should recognize that agreeing to an inquiry is a small cost to pay, compared to the jeopardy their political career may face if they oppose the will of Parliament.

Continuing to ignore warnings and resist inquiry requests only serves to make the issue more prominent, bringing it closer to the forefront of the public’s consciousness.

A government that has nothing to hide should have no qualms about being subjected to an inquiry.

Harper has asserted that opposition MPs are overstepping their bounds by questioning the integrity of Canadian troops. But this statement falls flat when considering the Opposition is more interested in investigating federal treatment of the issue, including the concealment of related documents. We shouldn’t let party politics obscure the importance of getting to the bottom of the truth. It’s disappointing questions of power are taking the front line and deflecting public attention from the significant issue of detainee treatment at hand.

Harper’s government would do well to conduct an inquiry, and to conduct themselves with transparency and accountability.

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