By Mersiha Gadzo, CBC.ca, Sept. 4, 2016
Many celebrated Justin Trudeau's election, thinking the charismatic leader would turn a new page for Canada, especially for Canadian Muslims who overwhelmingly voted for the Liberals in 2015. Yet the Liberals who presented themselves as open and transparent while in opposition have proven to be anything but in government.
While in opposition, the Liberals advocated for three innocent Canadian Muslims tortured in the Middle East with CSIS complicity. One of them, Ahmad El Maati, spent more than two years languishing in Syrian and Egyptian prisons.
The 2008 Iacobucci report found that CSIS agents travelled secretly to Egypt, shared unfounded allegations that the men were al-Qaeda terrorists and provided questions to interrogators. The "confession" obtained through torture was used in Canadian courts to justify search warrants. The three men demanded an apology and filed a $100-million civil lawsuit, which the Liberals supported while in opposition.
But now that he's prime minister, Trudeau and his federal Liberals are continuing Stephen Harper's legal battle against compensation, filing an appeal against the lawsuit and requesting retroactive blanket anonymity for spies in order to protect government officials complicit in torture.
Trudeau is also blocking an inquiry into Canada's role in the torture of hundreds of Afghans despite the fact that he called for an inquiry himself while in opposition.
Forty-thousand pages of Afghan detainee records detailing Canada's role in torture from 2010-11 still haven't been released. In 2011, 4,000 pages were released but were heavily blacked out, making the records unreadable. The inquiry was such a big deal that it was one of the reasons why Harper prorogued Parliament in December 2009.
In June, the Montreal daily La Presse produced new evidence, publishing a letter written by dissident Canadian military officers who accused high-ranking Canadian officers of ordering the abuse of Afghan detainees, many of whom weren't Taliban fighters, but simply poor people illegally arrested during military sweeps.
"Nearly 50 per cent of those detained by the military police were people like you and me, husbands, fathers, farmers, who had done nothing wrong," the letter read.
The letter explained that most detainees were released due to lack of evidence after spending about two months in prison. A secret agreement was made with Afghan forces for the detainees to appear as if they were under their guard, while they were all held in Canadian cells, the letter said. Under orders from high-ranking officers, they conducted "exercises" to terrorize the detainees.
Despite all this, Canada's "badass" Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said an inquiry isn't necessary.
Canada ranks Number 2 in arms exports to Middle East for the first time in history, second only to the United States. The ranking came days after Canada addressed the UN Security Council, stressing the importance of protecting civilians in conflict zones.
Trudeau, a self-proclaimed feminist, gave the green light to export $15 billion worth of armed vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a country well-known for its misogyny and abysmal human rights record. Footage surfaced this year showing the Saudi government using LAVs against its own civilians to quell dissent and using Canadian-madearmoured vehicles against Yemeni rebels.
Two months before the 2015 election, Trudeau was quoted saying Canada should "stop arm sales to regimes that flout democracy such as Saudi Arabia."
He changed his mind a week before the election and has been defending the deal since, saying Canada must "stick to its word" as the contract had already been made under Harper.
But there is no guarantee that a sale has been officially approved until the export permit application has been examined. And it wasn't until this past April that Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion made the judgment call and issued export permits for the $15-billion deal; whether a contract was signed before that point is inconsequential.
Trudeau won the election promising to end Canada's bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria.
While the CF-18s are no longer in use, Canada is still waging a war by proxy. Canada's war department proudly admits that they are "fuelling the fight," having delivered 10 million pounds of fuel to the anti-ISIS coalition that has killed more than 1,500 civilians. Surveillance planes are still in use.
The Liberals are spending more money — $1.6 billion over three years — on a war that in all likelihood won't defeat the terrorists.
The battle against terrorism has become so absurd that last month, a court case revealed the RCMP had coaxed a couple who had recently converted to Islam into planning to plant bombs. The two were poor drug addicts vulnerable to manipulation, which was taken advantage of by the RCMP.
Unfortunately, it seems photo ops of our "dreamy" prime minister shirtless at the beach are what gets the public's attention. The fact that government authorities misuse their power is another matter.
Mersiha Gadzo is a freelance journalist based in Toronto and Sarajevo.
Posted Sept. 11, 2016