Weekly Commentary  

'Detaining' terrorists

Usually I like to update you on the things I'm hearing around the constituency. How about something I'm not hearing?

As we who live in the gorgeous Okanagan-Coquihalla riding well know, people out here aren't shy about speaking up on issues. This weekend, I spent time meeting constituents from one end of the riding to the other.

I did not hear from anyone who thinks our soldiers in Afghanistan are mistreating the Taliban or other assorted murderers and thugs when they capture them. I also am not hearing concerns from people who think there's some kind of 'detainee-gate' going on, either in the military or the government.

The previous federal government did not have a clearly articulated protocol on prisoner transfers in Afghanistan. We put one in place. Basically it says that our troops shouldn't hand over prisoners to the Afghans if they think there's any chance of torture or abuse. We abide by international obligations on the handling of captured or surrendered combatants. Our policy also says that a prisoner must be retrieved from incarceration if there is suspected abuse.

If you have been watching the last few weeks of Question Period (you have my sympathy) you would think there have been mass violations of this policy along with a 'vast' conspiracy to cover it up.

Last week General Walter Natynczyk declared that he had just received a report that there was a case a couple of years ago where a transferred prisoner was seen to have blood on his face. The prisoner was immediately removed from the facility so that the situation could be investigated. A report was filled out and filed but it seems it didn't make its way up the food chain the way it should have. The General has called for an inquiry to fix that problem.

Bottom line is this. There has been no substantiated evidence of Canadian soldiers abusing or deliberately handing over for abuse, any detainee.

It's important to recall who these so-called 'detainees' are. In most cases they have been captured either on the field of battle (usually fleeing) or while engaged in some terrorist activity such as making or placing a road side bomb. Since they are either Taliban or Al-Qaeda related they are trained and required to lie if captured. Our system of human rights (which extends to all people, good or bad) is mocked by them as a sign of weakness. If captured, they are trained to exploit it and abuse it as much as they possibly can.

Sadly, this makes genuine cases of torture harder to detect. That is why all accusations need to be looked into. Even though most will be false we have to do all we can to protect prisoners who may be abused.

Consider something else which speaks to the restraint shown by our soldiers. When they apprehend a Taliban or Al-Qaeda or local insurgent they now have under their care somebody who may well have killed or plotted to kill a brave fellow Canadian comrade in arms.

Remember who these so-called 'detainees' are. Taliban and their ilk think nothing of slaughtering innocent civilians, including children and the elderly. Throwing acid on young girl’s faces is a trademark they are proud of. And yet, when our soldiers capture them they are diligent to protect their human rights and to do all they can to make sure they will not be poorly treated in jail.

The accusers here in Canada of our soldiers and officials should accord them at least as much respect and presumption of innocence as our soldiers show the ‘detained’ terrorists.

On local items this week, Chief Clarence Louie continues to keep the Osoyoos Band on the road to earned prosperity with the opening Saturday of an enviro- friendly industrial park. The Okanagan School of the Arts launched a project that will create a training and entrepreneurial employment centre and the South Okanagan Boundary Labour Council (think Brigid Kemp) have asked me to bring forward their interesting recommendations for pension reform.

Stay tuned.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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