Friday, May 14, 2010

Agreement reached on release of detainee documents.

I am surprised that all the parties were able to work this out. However no doubt none wanted to provoke a constitutional crisis or even an election so it should not be too surprising. The Conservatives were holding out for veto power but did not get that. However, they must be satisfied with the checks that are provided against release of sensitive documents. This is from the CBC.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he's satisfied with the agreement on the release of Afghan detainee documents.

In St-FĂ©licien, Que., for a funding announcement, Harper called the deal "reasonable.

"I believe it meets both our objectives: obviously to abide by the Speaker's ruling but also — and this is extremely important — for the government to protect our legal obligation to keep confidential certain documents," he said.

"I do hope that it will work and that everyone will be satisfied with the arrangement."

The Conservative government and the opposition parties reached a compromise earlier Friday. A committee of MPs, who would be required to take an oath of confidentiality, will be able to review uncensored documents to determine their relevance.

Documents deemed relevant would then be passed on to a panel of experts who would determine how to release the information to all MPs and the public "without compromising national security."

The documents are at the centre of accusations that prisoners were tortured by Afghan authorities after being handed over by Canadian troops. The government maintained that releasing the documents posed a threat to national security and the security of Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announces the agreement on Afghan detaineee documents in the House of Commons on Friday.Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announces the agreement on Afghan detaineee documents in the House of Commons on Friday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson tabled the deal in the Commons on Friday afternoon.

"In your ruling on April 27, you were confident that members of Parliament of all parties could come to an agreement," Nicholson told Speaker Peter Milliken. "I just want you to know that confidence was not misplaced.

"It's an agreement that complies with Canadian laws, it does not compromise national security and it does not jeopardize the lives of Canadian men and women who serve in uniform."

Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale told the Commons that "the participants in the talks over the last 2½ weeks have all tried, I believe, to get it right."

The agreement came hours before the extended deadline agreed to by the Speaker. He had ruled that MPs had the right to see the documents, and he gave all parties two weeks to reach a compromise that would protect national security.

The all-party committee asked for an extension until Friday at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Had an agreement not been reached, the government could have faced a contempt of Parliament motion, which could have triggered an election.

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