RCMP commissioner should break silence on Arar report: Layton
CBC News | September 22, 2006
RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli's public silence about the federal report that criticized the force for its role in the Maher Arar case is unacceptable, NDP Leader Jack Layton said Friday.
"Silence is not an appropriate response after the injustices that Maher Arar and his family have experienced. It's simply not acceptable. And now we're hearing all kinds of rumours," Layton said.
He was referring to speculation on Parliament Hill about the fate of Zaccardelli, who as of Friday had not yet made a public statement about the report that criticized the RCMP this week for its role in the deportation and torture of Arar. He has been reportedly out of the country on RCMP business.
A number of opposition MPs have called for his resignation.
The Arar report, released Monday by Justice Dennis O'Connor, said it was very likely that the United States used inaccurate information obtained from the RCMP when it detained Arar in New York City in 2002 and deported him to Syria, where he was tortured and held for nearly a year. U.S. authorities had accused Arar of having links to al-Qaeda. Arar is a Canadian citizen.
The report, which was highly critical of the RCMP, said:
* Mounties gave erroneous information to the U.S. about Arar.
* Senior officers should have monitored less experienced officers more closely.
* The force should have supported efforts by the Department of Foreign Affairs to secure Arar's release from Syria.
* RCMP failed to provide accurate information to the federal government about its national security investigation into Arar.
Rumour of resignation questioned
In the House of Commons on Thursday, Liberal MP Dan McTeague asked Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day about the possibility that Zaccardelli has already tried to step down.
"Can I ask the minister of public safety to confirm that the commissioner of the RCMP offered his resignation to the prime minister and this resignation was not accepted?" McTeague asked Day during Question Period.
Day did not answer the question directly. Instead, he said he had talked to Zaccardelli on Wednesday, two days after the report was released.
"I met with the commissioner yesterday and received assurances that a number of the recommendations of the Arar report were already being implemented. It was very clearly agreed that all of the recommendations would be followed through," Day told the House.
Day said that he sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to inform him Canada has taken Arar and his wife, Monia Mazigh, off the watch lists used at border points to identify potential terrorists and suggesting "the United States might wish to do the same."
But Layton said the federal government should take a stronger stand on the issue. "Mr. Day's reaction was nothing short of pathetic. He says he's suggested to the Americans that they may want to consider removing the family. Is that how our government is going to stand up for us when we've been wronged by another state?"
The U.S. has yet to respond to the request.
MacKay talked to Rice about Arar report
On Thursday, the federal standing committee on public safety and national security met to talk about the Arar report but committee members have not made a decision to have the RCMP commissioner appear before the committee.
Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Mackay said in New York City that he spoke to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the findings of the Arar report but he declined to release details of their conversation.
When pressed for details, MacKay said: "Well, I'm not going to tell you what we said. But we've certainly had discussions. I spoke with Secretary Rice and we, of course, want to give them the opportunity to examine from their perspective what can be done differently and hopefully prevent anything like this from happening again."
The House of Commons apologized to Arar on Wednesday for Canadian involvement in his ordeal.