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The government must issue a clear directive against torture that prohibits CSIS and other security agencies from exchanging information with countries when there is a credible risk it could lead to mistreatment, says a Commons committee.

"Since human rights are the foundation of freedom and justice, a directive on torture must be clear and specific," says the majority report of the public safety committee tabled Thursday.

"Canada must never contribute to the incidence of torture."

The committee also recommended apologies and compensation for three Canadians brutalized in Syrian prison cells.

Last fall, an inquiry found that Canadian officials contributed to the overseas torture of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin by sharing information with foreign agencies.

The men are suing the government, but the committee says that should not stand in the way of an apology.

The MPs also say the government should do "everything necessary" to remove false allegations about the men and their families in records held by national security agencies

Mr. El Maati is a constituent of Liberal MP and committee member Rob Oliphant, who has spent time with the torture victim, calling him "a very gentle person" deserving of redress.

The committee followed up on the findings of two commissions of inquiry that probed the cases of the three men and the very similar ordeal of Maher Arar, who was also beaten by Syrian captors.

In 2007, the government apologized to Mr. Arar and gave him $10.5-million in compensation.

The report says Canada should "apologize officially" to Mr. Almalki, Mr. El Maati and Mr. Nureddin and allow for compensation "as reparation for the suffering they endured and the difficulties they encountered."

Conservative members of the committee issued a dissenting opinion rejecting the recommendation, in part because the men are suing the federal government. A majority of the committee disagreed with that reasoning.

The Tory MPs also took issue with the committee's call for more clarity on the question of coercion, saying it has already unequivocally told security agencies they are not to condone or practise torture, nor use information obtained through mistreatment.

"The committee notes the government's efforts in this regard but is still not satisfied," the report says.

Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland said the government's directive "is highly qualified, it's unclear, it's ambiguous and not good enough."

Don Davies, the NDP public safety critic, said if the committee's recommendation was unnecessary, Canadians would never have been abused in foreign jails.

The Arar inquiry led by Justice Dennis O'Connor made 23 recommendations urging the RCMP, Canadian Security Intelligence Service and others to bring in policy changes on information sharing, training and monitoring of security probes.

It also called for a new family of watchdogs to monitor intelligence agencies.

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan says the government is waiting for an inquiry report on the 1985 Air India bombing that killed scores of Canadians before reforming intelligence oversight.

The committee criticized that approach.

"Like a number of witnesses, the committee considers it pointless to wait, since the government could make any necessary changes after reviewing the recommendations of this important commission of inquiry. The majority of the committee sees an urgent need for action," the report says.

"Without an integrated structure for the full review of national security issues, the government cannot effectively and efficiently protect Canadians from violations of their civil rights and freedoms."

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