Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Milliken: Parliament is supreme; Gagnon: No, not really

Speaker of the House Milliken ruled today that Parliament is supreme and Steve is not the President of Canada.
Milliken ruled that government was in breach of parliamentary privilege by refusing to comply with the House’s order in December to produce documents related to the transfer of Afghan detainees to risk of torture and Steve now has two weeks to figure out the details of a face-saving compromise with the opposition parties that would safeguard national security while still obeying the House's order to produce.
A victory for democracy then.

However ...

Over at the Military Police Complaints Commission today, Major Denis Gagnon testified that those very same Afghan transfer orders that Milliken has just ordered be produced are :
"all thrown together in a storage bin, a sea container" and an assessment of how long it would take to catalogue documents and identify the records requested by the commission may take years."
So. Milliken says Parliament is supreme and has the right to them but some major says sadly it just isn't going to happen.
"Earlier a senior military official testified that some Afghan detainee documents requested by the commission have been delayed to ensure no information gets out that could jeopardize the security of troops in Afghanistan."
Really. How much info from transfer orders made in say 2007 is going to jeopardize troop security today? You've been using this same excuse for years now.
"The commission was also told that Defence officials are screening out documents that military police would not have seen in the course of their duties."
... because last year Steve curtailed the authority of the MPCC to ask for docs that do not directly pertain to the military police.
"Gagnon said he makes the decision on what military police would have seen based on his personal experience in theatre and his knowledge of communications channels within the military chain of command and communications links with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade."
So it's the Dept. of Defence that decides what is relevant then, not the MPCC.

"Commission counsel Ron Lunau asked if the commission could look at the documents that have been screened out since it should be up to the commission, not Defence officials, to determine what military police should have seen.

The answer from government counsel Alain Prefontaine and from Gagnon was a firm no."

Ok. Parliament may be supreme but Defence is supremer. Got it.


Anonymous said...

So today's decision on the docs makes no difference?

Alison said...

Anon : Milliken's decision today was important for putting Steve in his place and asserting the authority of Parliament over the Executive.
A very necessary call from Milliken.
But although Milliken ruled today that :
"No exceptions are made for any category of Government documents, even those related to national security. Therefore, the Chair must conclude that it is perfectly within the existing privileges of the House to order production of the documents in question."

Gagnon and Prefontaine are saying it isn't going to happen.

Holly Stick said...

Makes me think of a large case in the US, Cobell vs various BIA officials, a class-action lawsuit over the government's handling of Indian trust funds. One judge kept getting furious at BIA for not producing documents in a timely way, and one of the excuses given was that the staff were afraid of getting hantavirus from the dusty old documents.

Apparently that judge was removed later, but they did reach a settlement last December, about 13 years after the case started. I don't know if BIA ever produced all the documents.

I think with the army that if we hold the Harper government's feet to the fire, they can darned well get the army to ship those documents to Canada soon enough.

Morning said...

There is an important difference that is glossed over here: The MPCC is not parliament. Milliken's ruling relates to the powers of parliament and of MPs, not to the powers of quasi-judicial bodies.

While what's going on at the MPCC is still outrageous, it is important to not compare apples and oranges. I am sure if anyone stood up and told the House of Commons that they would not get any records at this point, they'd be hit with contempt charges as quickly as possible.

Chrystal Ocean said...

Off-topic, but... I despite the term 'in theatre' as used by the military. It's like they're putting on a show, with various bit players and the odd star or two, for fans of guns 'n cannons 'n explosives.

Anonymous said...

But it won't need to come to contempt charges, Morning, will it? because the little apple is free to tender a qualified Yes as long as the big orange backs it up with a studiedly incompetent No.

Anonymous said...

"Documents will be turned over to the counsel when they're good and ready" said government lawyer Alain Prefontaine to the commission created to ensure there would be no more Somalia affairs.

Congratulations, Bananada.

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