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Government has confidence in RCMP chief: Day

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said Wednesday that the government has full confidence in RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli despite heavy criticism levelled at the federal police force by the Arar commission.

Appearing on CTV's Canada AM, Mr. Day responded to a Globe and Mail story in which Mr. Zaccardelli - in a leaked internal memo - played down the criticisms and told officers that he is "proud" of the way they conducted themselves through the inquiry.

"We have confidence in the commissioner, not just the commissioner but all the men and women of the RCMP across the country," Mr. Day said.

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Asked if the government would be requesting Mr. Zaccardelli's resignation in the wake of the report, Mr. Day said: "The commissioner has agreed to appear before the parliamentary committee this week - I'll be appearing before that committee too - to talk about how this whole affair under a previous government ever could have gone so badly."

In a damning report released last week, Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor said Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was arrested in 2002 by U.S. authorities in New York under suspicion of being a terrorist, was an innocent victim of inaccurate RCMP intelligence reports and deliberate smears by Canadian officials.

The report also recommended that Ottawa pay Mr. Arar compensation.

Mr. Arar was detained in the United States and then transported to Syria, where he says he was tortured.

Mr. Zaccardelli is to appear Thursday before the parliamentary committee on public safety.

Committee members have already made arrangements to move the session to a larger hearing room equipped with television cameras in anticipation of public interest in the proceeding. Mr. Day is also scheduled to appear before the committee this week.

In response to questions Wednesday about whether Ottawa will offer Mr. Arar compensation for his suffering, Mr. Day said the government has agreed to accept all 23 of Justice O'Connor's recommendations.

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"In the final paragraphs of his report, Justice O'Connor said government officials should sit down with Mr. Arar's lawyers - because he has filed a $400-million lawsuit - … and discuss compensation, and Justice O'Connor said, within that, there should be the question of an apology looked into," Mr. Day said, noting that Mr. Arar has "suffered terribly."

"We want to do what's right," Mr. Day said.

Earlier this week, MPs unanimously approved on a voice vote a Bloc Québécois motion that said: "It is the opinion of this House that apologies should be extended to Maher Arar for the treatment he received."

That motion is not legally binding in the same way as a bill to pay compensation, but the Conservatives have also said the government is in talks with Mr. Arar's lawyers to reach a settlement.

According to the Globe story, Mr. Zaccardelli said the RCMP could expect some criticism, but also noted that the Arar report also made positive findings including one that said the force "did not participate or acquiesce" in the U.S. decision to deport Mr. Arar to Syria.

The Sept. 18 memo does not address the report's more critical findings, including those that said the RCMP sent "unfair" and "inaccurate" intelligence reports about Mr. Arar to U.S. authorities.

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Mr. Zaccardelli also offers no apology to Mr. Arar in the document.

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