Silence on torture indicates acceptance

Cameron Kennedy’s editorial of Aug. 30, concerning the federal public safety minister’s directives allowing CSIS, the RCMP and Canada Border Services to use information obtained (in other countries) by torture, was in my view well-written and timely.

Cameron Kennedy’s editorial of Aug. 30, concerning the federal public safety minister’s directives allowing CSIS, the RCMP and Canada Border Services to use information obtained (in other countries) by torture, was in my view well-written and timely.

It encouraged thought about possible future ramifications of decisions made in the interests of “keeping Canada safe.” I also note that the “get tough on crime” supporters are being heard from, including the very political and vehement response from Minister Toews himself.

Several decades ago Canada joined most democratic nations in signing and ratifying the International Covenant on Human Rights. Our governments since have upheld its articles reasonably well — until now.

Article 5 is brief and very explicit: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Our enforcement agencies have used isolation, sleep deprivation and psychological intimidation on suspects, but apparently that is now acceptable because “the end justifies the means.” We even look the other way on methods like waterboarding, when employed by our democratic neighbours.

However, condoning the use of any form of torture as long as it is done third-hand and not by Canadian hands is now apparently an acceptable way for Canada to obtain information. Never mind that under such torture, human beings will reach the point of confessing almost anything just to get the torture to cease.

In all my years of letter-writing in support of Amnesty International, I have learned that undemocratic countries use incommunicado detention, threats to families, and various levels of torture to obtain confessions from human rights defenders and political dissidents who express opinions contrary to the current powers. Such treatment can, of course, cause permanent health damage or even death.

The confessions obtained are usually recanted by the victims; and obviously have no legal credibility in legitimate courts of law. So how useful is that to Canada’s safety?

It seems to me that our agencies, and government, could be manipulated by undemocratic countries into making really bad judgements based on such evidence.

As well, Canada could now be perceived as hypocritical and untrustworthy by our international partners. After all, Canada received awards for our humanitarian handling of refugees — and then we clamped down and hardened our system to almost stop such claimants. Canada signed on to the Kyoto Accord on the global environment — and then blandly walked away from our international commitment.

And now, we have become complicit in condoning the use of torture, using our own safety as an excuse, to renege on our commitment to upholding basic human rights.

Silence on this contagious double standard indicates acceptance. Such a politically cynical stance is not part of my Canada.

Bonnie Denhaan

Red Deer