For some reason, the Harper Government™’s policy is to take down websites of royal commissions a while after they’ve reported their findings. It’s not all bad news — the final reports then get stored on a server at Library and Archives Canada. But it’s bad news if you’re trying to find a report. Try and find the Iacobucci Report, the secretive counterpart to the Arar Commission (and looking at several other innocent Canadians caught up in the American counterterrorist fishing net to be tortured by Middle Eastern dictatorships). I’ll wait while you do. Or the complete reports of the Arar Commission, for that matter.
I’m going to make some links available here as a public service. There are several reasons for this, which is why I will have to preface this with some remarks. First, I have to wonder whether the government is being entirely up-front about which commissions get “archived” and which don’t. The Air India Commission (2006) website is gone. The Oliphant Commission is still up, but will disappear in June. So is the Gomery Commission (2005), whose website has expired but redirects to its LAC archive. That’s the commission that embarrassed the Liberals, you recall. But the Iacobucci Commission (2006) and the Arar Commission, which investigated the government’s attack on Canadians’ human rights, are long gone. The former website of the Arar Commission is now a website for a loans company.
The problems don’t stop there, though. Library and Archives Canada dutifully archives the websites and, most importantly, the final reports of commissions as the government shuts down their websites. But you can’t search the reports on LAC’s website using Google or other standard search tools. The robots.txt file on LAC’s website specifically excludes archived websites (and a couple of other sections of its site) from search engines. Now, as to why they would do this, I can only speculate. But the consequence is that if you wanted to find, say, the transcripts of the Arar hearings, or the report of the Iacobucci commission, you can’t. The fact that these commissions went first makes me highly suspicious, but in the end it’s irrelevant: all the commissions are going down the same memory hole. You will only be able to find them if you know where to go in the first place.
I want to make it clear that these are not minor, trivial government adventures that don’t particularly matter to Canadians. These are modern-day McDonald Commissions, uncovering serious abuses by Canadian government security forces. They are explorations of corruption, like the Gomery and Oliphant commissions. They identify crimes which, in most cases, nobody has ever been charged with. They are a part of our history which we cannot afford to forget, not when the power to commit similar crimes still rests with the government.
I am going to correct the attempt at erasing this past from the searchable Internet by providing links that search engines will recognize — namely, here, where there isn’t a robots.txt file to get in the way. As other commissions go offline, I will continue to provide this service.
- Oliphant Commission (2010) — The Commission of Inquiry into Certain Allegations Respecting Business and Financial Dealings Between Karlheinz Schreiber and the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney was created by the Harper Government in 2008 to investigate aspects of the Airbus affair, involving alleged corruption by former prime minister Brian Mulroney. It found that Mulroney was paid $225,000 in cash to conduct improper lobbying on behalf of Schreiber’s arms company, but never performed the actions he was paid for.
- Major Commission (Air India Inquiry) (2010) — The Air India Commission investigated flaws in CSIS and RCMP practice which may have contributed both to the Air India bombing by Sikh-Canadian terrorists in 1985, which killed more than 300 people, as well as which may have impeded prosecution of members of Babbar Khalsa afterwards. Major found that a series of mistakes made by both organizations, and other federal departments, contributed to the disaster, without which the attack might have been avoided and/or successful prosecutions could have been made.
- Iacobucci Inquiry (2008) — Frank Iacobucci’s inquiry found that the RCMP improperly shared information on numerous innocent Canadian citizens in addition to Maher Arar, at least three of which were then arrested and jailed in Middle Eastern dictatorships, where they were tortured and interrogated, in certain cases with the knowledge and indirect assistance of CSIS. The inquiry was a closed one which generated much less attention than the similarly focused Arar Commission.
- Gomery Commission (2006) — John Gomery’s investigation of Liberal patronage and corruption in the Quebec advertising sponsorship fund paved the way for the downfall of the Martin government. It found that only $2 million in improper contracts had been awarded to Liberal insiders through the actions of program head Chuck Guité and public works minister Alfonso Gagliano, although Jean Chretien and Paul Martin were personally not implicated in the dealings. (Chrétien was faulted only for not setting up appropriate safeguards to prevent corruption.)
- Arar Commission (2006) — Dennis O’Connor’s inquiry was ordered by the Liberal government to investigate intelligence officials’ treatment of Syrian-Canadian dual citizen Maher Arar. It found that Arar had been abducted by the FBI in early 2002 on the basis of information supplied to them by the RCMP after 9/11; they then deported him to Syria, where he was jailed and tortured as a suspected terrorist until his release in 2003. O’Connor dismissed self-serving claims by diplomats that there had been no reason to believe Syrian military intelligence abused Arar during his detention.
This first group of reports will be followed in subsequent weeks by other, older commissions of mostly unrecognized national significance.Tweet