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Rick Hillier, former chief of Canada's defence staff, fields a question at the Halifax International security Forum on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009.

Andrew Vaughan

The long-simmering detainee issue, ignited again by diplomat Richard Colvin's explosive testimony November 18, looks set to dominate the agenda this week when top military commanders are hauled before MPs on Wednesday to answer questions.

Those testifying November 25 will include: retired general Rick Hillier, who led Canada's 2006 military foray into southern Afghanistan; Major-General David Fraser, who was a Canadian commander on the ground in Kandahar, and Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, who oversaw foreign troop deployments at the time.

Mr. Colvin has testified that all Afghans captured by Canadian Forces in 2006 and part of 2007, who were handed over to Afghan authorities, were tortured by those authorities, even though many of them had little or no links to the Taliban. He maintains that he repeatedly and strenuously warned senior Canadian officials of the situation, but those warnings were ignored.

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Defence Minister Peter MacKay has assailed Mr. Colvin's testimony before the Parliamentary Committee as unsubstantiated. The government insists that protections for prisoners were implemented as soon as news of abuse made its way to higher levels of command and political office.

A government source says, however, that approximately 130 detainees were handed over before the transfer policy was changed.

We shall see what the generals have to say. One of them, Mr. Hillier, is promoting his memoirs, which suggest this is a story manufactured by the media and opportunistic politicians.

There are, we are assured, no opportunistic generals.

(Photo: Mr. Hillier fields a question at the Halifax International security Forum on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009. Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

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