March 21 to May 7, 2007 – Opposition parties attack the government over allegations of prisoner abuse by Afghan authorities as reported in a Globe & Mail article and audio slideshow on April 23. They accuse the government of violating the Geneva Conventions by knowingly handing detainees over to Afghans for torture, and demand the resignation of Defense Minister Gordon O’Connor.
The Opposition also cites an internal government report released by the Department of Foreign Affairs under access to information, claiming government cabinet ministers illegally influenced the civil service first to deny the existence of the report, and then to black out portions of the report as part of a “massive systematic cover-up”.
The Opposition further claims that the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Red Cross do not have access to detainees as specified under the 2005 Afghan Detainee Agreement, and they accuse the government of lying to Canadians.
The Government says they are unable to confirm the Globe & Mail allegations, and they promised to investigate the issue further. The government also says that the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Red Cross do in fact have access to detainees, and that they have been unable to confirm the Globe & Mail reports of abuse. They criticize the Opposition parties for taking the allegations at face value and implying the Canadian military and Minister of Defense are guilty of lying, misconduct and cover-up.
On May 3, the government signed a new detainee agreement that formally spells-out existing arrangements allowing Canadians unrestricted access to detainees.
The accusations seem to have damaged the government’s approval ratings according to a recent SES poll showing divided support for the government’s handling of the issue.