Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan speaks at an announcement on fighter jets at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday. New directives issued to the Canadian military and Canada’s super-secret electronic surveillance agency limit — but don’t completely ban — the use of information likely acquired by foreign governments through torture.

Liberals expand directives on using torture-tainted info to military, diplomats

OTTAWA — The Liberal government has expanded its directions covering the use of foreign intelligence likely obtained through torture to include the Canada’s military, diplomatic service and electronic spy agency.

The move means the Canadian Forces, Communications Security Establishment and Global Affairs Canada are being prohibited from using information gleaned from torture, unless it means saving lives.

That includes preventing a terrorist attack or protecting Canadian soldiers on overseas missions.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland say the directives are designed to ensure Canadian officials have clear guidelines and are not complicit in any abuse.

The directives “clarify and strengthen the measures on the disclosure or requesting of information that would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment,” Sajjan said in a statement issued Thursday.

“They also prohibit certain use of information likely obtained through mistreatment, except when it is absolutely necessary to prevent loss of life or significant personal injury.”

The measure has sparked mixed reactions, with NDP defence critic Randall Garrison describing it as a “public-relations exercise” that will have little real effect because of the exception allowing torture-tainted intelligence.

“In the end, the Canadian government remains complicit with torture,” he said. “The prohibition on the use of torture. It’s not: sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t.”

Amnesty International Canada called the new directives a welcome change from those issued by the previous Conservative government, although the group expressed concern with the fact that some torture-tainted info would still be allowed.

That concern was particularly acute when it came to the military, said Alex Neve, Amnesty Canada’s secretary-general, given its recent history in Afghanistan and Iraq of partnering with groups that have questionable records.

Canada soldiers “may therefore be faced with decisions about what to do with information that bears the taint of torture on a regular basis,” Neve said, so “the need for extra vigilance to ensure that the Canadian military is not implicated in torture is all the greater.

“That is why there should simply be an absolute ban on using any such information.”

Both Amnesty and the NDP have repeatedly called for an inquiry into the Canadian military’s role in the handling of detainees who were later tortured by Afghan security forces during the last decade.

The Liberal government, and the Conservatives before them, have refused.

The directives issued by Sajjan and Freeland and published Thursday are similar to those issued to the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canadian Border Services Agency in September.

They partially reverse instructions from the previous Conservative government that allowed international exchanges even when there was a real risk of torture.

Human rights groups and the federal NDP had called on the Liberals to repeal the Conservative government’s instructions, saying they effectively condoned torture and flouted Canada’s international obligations.

Torture victims will say anything to stop the pain, making their information unreliable, they argue.

The new versions forbid officials from disclosing or requesting information when doing so would result in a “substantial risk” of torture that could not be managed through assurances from a foreign government.

They also prohibit use of information likely obtained through abuse in any way that creates a risk of further mistreatment, as evidence in a court proceeding, or to prevent risks to property such as a building.

However, the directives allow the use of information gleaned through torture “to prevent loss of life or significant personal injury.”

The directions cite an impending terrorist attack as one scenario in which such information could be used, but officials indicated in a background briefing that a pending attack on Canadian soldiers in the field could also qualify.

Torture

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal study details workers hit hardest by tax, benefit system for extra earnings

OTTAWA — Newly released documents show Finance Department officials calculated that workers… Continue reading

Cenovus. (The Canadian Press)
Cenovus to buy Husky Energy in deal valued at $23.6B, company will remain in Alberta

CALGARY — Cenovus Energy Inc. is buying Husky Energy Inc. in an… Continue reading

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 10:49… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
New Democrats turn minority into majority in British Columbia election

The New Democrats won a majority government in the British Columbia election… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

CALGARY — An inquiry into who is funding environmental opposition to the… Continue reading

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

The Cogeco logo is seen in Montreal on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

TORONTO — Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world… Continue reading

President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially facing higher taxes as the possibility of a contested U.S. presidential election appears to be fading, say investment experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Patrick Semansky
Markets concerns about contested U.S. election fading with Biden lead in polls

TORONTO — Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially… Continue reading

(File photo)
Ontario records more than 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for first time

Ontario is reporting more than 1,000 mew daily cases of COVID-19 for… Continue reading

Pope Francis delivers his message during the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope names 13 new cardinals, includes US Archbishop Gregory

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday named 13 new cardinals, including… Continue reading

Dave Mercer, President of Unifor Local 2121, overlooks Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Terra Nova floating production vessel that is anchored there on Friday, October 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
As N.L.’s oil industry sputters, the emotional toll of the cod moratorium looms large

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Dave Mercer spent the early 1990s roaming around… Continue reading

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada's top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Canada’s top physician painted a bleak picture Saturday of the toll the… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is naming his shadow cabinet, including his predecessor Andrew Scheer as the party's infrastructure critic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were “late and confused” on COVID response

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says Alberta has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Most Read