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Defence Minister Peter MacKay stands in the House of Commons during Question on Tuesday, December 8, 2009. (FRED CHARTRAND)
Defence Minister Peter MacKay stands in the House of Commons during Question on Tuesday, December 8, 2009. (FRED CHARTRAND)

Question Period

MacKay faces resignation call <br/>amid foul-mouthed detainee debate Add to ...

There was a call for Defence Minister Peter MacKay's head in Question Period today - the first demand for his resignation from the opposition since allegations of torture and abuse of Afghan detainees blew up on the Conservative government.

There were more calls for a public inquiry and one profanity was uttered - "bullshit" mouthed Laurie Hawn, the parliamentary secretary to the Defence Minister - as the Bloc asked more questions about the alleged torture of prisoners transferred by Canadian soldiers.

It is clear this story is not going away.

"The minister has on nine separate occasions told the House there is not a scintilla of evidence of mistreatment event as the entire country was shown evidence that torture did take place," NDP defence critic Jack Harris charged. "Canadians no longer have confidence in this minister. … will he resign?"

Mr. MacKay ignored the call. Rather, he defended himself saying, "I have been clear, I have been consistent."

The minister noted that several senior officials as well as three senior military officers, including former chief of defence staff Rick Hillier, have all testified before the special parliamentary committee examining the allegations.

Their evidence has been consistent with that of the government.

"The honourable member cannot accept the evidence of those who have testified before the committee who have rejected the one lone witness," Mr. MacKay said, referring to senior Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin whose explosive testimony has reignited this story.

Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh was equally tough on Mr. MacKay, saying he has "confidence in the military but I have no confidence in that minister right now."

"The Conservatives refuse to tell the truth on detainees," he said. "They censor documents. They intimidate public servants."

Mr. Dosanjh demanded a public inquiry.

Mr. MacKay again repeated that he and the government have been consistent in taking the advice of military officials, who are on the ground in Afghanistan.

"If we are acting on the evidence of a number of witnesses, from senior diplomats, senior military, acting on their advice, acting responsibly he cannot condemn what the government has done," Mr. MacKay said.

Meanwhile, for the second consecutive day a front-page story in the Globe and Mail inspired more questions about the detainee issue.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff led off Question Period framing his question around the newspaper's report that 23 former Canadian ambassadors have criticized the government's attacks on Mr. Colvin.

He charged the government is not listening to its diplomats nor is it listening to Canadian soldiers who report "credible accounts of detainee abuse … and for a year, the government does nothing about [it]"

"Why will the government not account for that year in which it did nothing?'' Mr. Ignatieff demanded.

He was also referring to a report in yesterday's Globe and Mail in which reporter Paul Koring wrote that sworn testimony by senior Canadian officers and uncensored documents contradict Mr. MacKay's assertions that no Canadian-transferred detainee was abused.

Transport Minister John Baird answered that Canadian military take action when they are presented with "credible information."

"In the circumstances which the leader of the opposition described, it was not even a Canadian detainee, but they still did the right thing, they still acted," he said.

As for Laurie Hawn and his profanity - he apologized, sort of:

"Mr. Speaker, the words were not spoken. The words were mouthed. I applaud the leader of the Bloc's ability to lip-read in English. That is very commendable. I do apologize for mouthing inappropriate comments. The next time I will mouth something more appropriate like bovine scatology. Since the honourable member is so good at lip-reading, I assume he can read minds, so I would like to apologize for what I am thinking right now."

(Photos: Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

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