Monday, September 18, 2006

Hard to be hopeful

I'd mentioned earlier my plan to write about the recommendations in the Arar Inquiry report. While there's plenty of blame to go around, the recommendations appear to support existing policies and procedures to a surprising degree, with most of the changes only involving better adherence to the current rules. And what's worse, the real changes which are suggested don't appear the least bit likely to be undertaken anytime soon.

With respect to the RCMP, the primary subject of his report, O'Connor J. identifies primarily a need for improved training to increase consciousness of human rights issues (p. 323-327), and more precise wording both in classifying subjects of investigations (p. 335-337) and in the caveats attached to information provided to foreign agencies (p. 340-342). While the ideas are certainly worth implementing, there's no indication that they could be meaningfully enforced either in the present case or in general, meaning that these recommendations can likely be swept under the rug.

From a governmental standpoint, the most significant recommendations are a suggestion to object to the misuse of Canadian information (p. 344 in general, p. 361-362 in Arar's case in particular) and to avoid disclosing information to (p. 345-347), or placing undue weight on information from (p. 348-349), human rights abusers. But with the current regime obsessed with maintaining nothing but a positive face toward the U.S. and its ever-malleable "war on terror", matters aren't likely to improve anytime soon. And short of classifying the U.S. as a "foreign government with (a) questionable human rights record" which shouldn't receive Canadian intelligence information, there's little reason to think similar cases could be prevented in light of Bushco's consistent assertions of infinite power where national security is concerned.

Similarly, I doubt many readers can honestly expect the Cons to enforce a standard of information-gathering free of racial or cultural profiling (p. 355-358), or to be willing to draw a clear line of accountability to the Foreign Affairs Minister (p. 353-354) in future cases rather than leaving responsibility just as thoroughly undefined as it was in the Arar case.

Finally, the recommendations to provide better support to Canadians detained abroad (generally at p. 349-355) seem somewhat more likely to be implemented, but only seem to be dealing with serious problems after the fact.

While it's somewhat reassuring to see Maher Arar vindicated, there should be little comfort either in the lack of any clear accountability for his torture, or in the fact that the substantive recommendations to prevent similar incidents look highly unlikely to be implemented. Indeed, it's hard to say which is more scary: that relatively minor variations of wording based on insufficient RCMP training may been enough to lead to his torture, or that we're now stuck with a government which is even more willing to ignore the consequences of actions as long as they're nominally aimed at anti-terrorism purposes. Sadly, it'll be to nobody's surprise if more Canadians are now, or will be soon, subject to exactly the kind of terror suffered by Arar - and it may well be that the only lesson learned by the Cons will be to make added efforts to bury any similar stories.

No comments:

Post a Comment