Tories boycott Afghan detainee meeting

OTTAWA — A House of Commons committee looking into the Afghan detainee controversy is going ahead with a meeting today despite a boycott by Conservative MPs.

OTTAWA — A House of Commons committee looking into the Afghan detainee controversy is going ahead with a meeting today despite a boycott by Conservative MPs.

Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs on the special committee on Afghanistan decided to hold an informal meeting after they failed to achieve quorum.

They are hearing from retired diplomat Gar Pardy and Paul Champ, lawyer for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

Pardy recently organized a letter from more than 100 former ambassadors criticizing the Harper government for attacking the credibility of diplomat Richard Colvin, who says he warned the government in 2006 about torture.

The committee is looking into whether the government knew prior to 2007 that detainees being handed over by Canadian troops to Afghan authorities were being abused.

The government insists it never knew of any abuse before 2007, when it changed the prisoner transfer agreement to allow for monitoring.

Conservative MP Laurie Hawn, parliamentary secretary to the defence minister, sent a letter to the committee saying Christmas is “a time to spend with loved ones” and maintaining that “only a serious emergency” should interfere with the festivities.

“We’re here to make it clear that one person, Stephen Harper, can’t shut down the legal and political process.”

New Democrat MP Paul Dewar said the Tories would rather “slurp eggnog and eat bon bons” than get to the bottom of this issue.

The Tories have used divisive and diversionary tactics to counter the opposition, saying the allegations undermine Canada’s troops in Afghanistan. In fact, the opposition has taken pains to point out that the blame rests on the government, not the military.

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