Peter Desbarats was once one of Canada's leading political columnists. Later, he became Dean of journalism at the University of Western Ontario - many of whose alumni are reporters on Parliament Hill today. When he was appointed as one of three commissioners, it was taken as a good omen for the independence and thoroughness of an Inquiry looking into the beating and torture of Somalia teenagers by members of the Canadian Forces, and the shooting death of Shidane Arone.
In today's Citizen, you can read this letter to the editor:
Today's article by two British-based academics draws some interesting parallels between current events in Afghanistan and the situation in Somalia in the 1990s, but I would like to clarify something.
The authors state that the Somalia Inquiry "fundamentally was called for political reasons ... the inquiry's purpose was to distance and shield the government from allegations that it tried to cover up the killing" (of a teen-age Somali thief). Nothing could be further from the truth.
The fact is the Somalia inquiry, far from covering up what really happened in Somalia and the federal government at that time, was so successful in discovering the truth that the government of the day (Chrétien) took the unprecedented decision to close the inquiry prematurely. It was this blatant cover-up by government that I described in my book Somalia Cover-Up - A Commissioner's Journal .
The authors conclude their article by stating that "there is some use for an inquiry into the Afghanistan prison abuse case, but the way forward is fraught with hazards - we've been waylaid in the past."
Commissioner, Commission of Inquiry into the Deployment of Canadian Forces to Somalia
(Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)