This week, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed with the Harper regime that several Canadian citizens detained and tortured in developing countries based on advice passed to the Americans from the Canadian secret police services have very limited rights to seek restitution from the government for the abuse they suffered. Abdullah Almalki, Muayyed Nureddin, and Ahmed El-Maati suffered in circumstances roughly similar to those of the better-known Maher Arar, and were subsequently cleared of any links to terrorism by an official inquiry.
Reference to this inquiry, by retired judge Frank Iacobucci, is made in the news coverage. What is not mentioned is that it is now virtually impossible to find this report anymore. If you go to its former domain name, IacobucciInquiry.ca, you are instead bombarded by advertisements for a male sex toy product called the Fleshlight. Presumably this reflects the work of an opportunistic vulture with no ties to the Conservative Party, though of course one can never be sure about these things.
In fact, it’s increasingly difficult to find any Royal Commission reports online anymore, thanks to the government’s inexplicable practice of taking down their websites and hiding backup copies on a National Archives server which blocks Google from indexing its contents. The one exception, for reasons I’m sure you can decide for yourself, is the website for the Gomery Commission, which identified corruption in sponsorship funding in Quebec under Jean Chretien.
The other recent commission websites have not fared so well. The Arar Commission website now redirects to a dubious financial services company. It used to be worse. Someone has done us the good service of setting up summary websites at the former addresses of the Air India Commission and the Mulroney Commission (aka the Oliphant Commission), but they don’t look official. This is the result of a government policy to take down commission websites after a couple years of inactivity. Supposedly this is to save money, although given that Canadian domain names cost only a few dollars a year, one rather suspects that the government’s real intention is to get these embarrassing documents out of sight as smoothly and unobtrusively as possible.
Sixth Estate considers that the minimal cost of keeping the websites up and running is far less than the cost to Canadians of losing these important documents from the public sphere entirely. A citizen with modest Internet research skills and no prior knowledge of how government Internet policies work would probably be unable to find the original Iacobucci Report, although with a little luck she might find the brief supplement released two years ago, containing proof that CSIS officials corresponded with Egyptian intelligence about the tortured Canadians — something the government tried to block Canadians from ever knowing about.
Obviously I find this sort of thing reprehensible, and so until the Government of Canada restores the Iacobucci Report to an easily accessible and Google-indexed format, Sixth Estate will do what it can by providing links to commission content here. Iacobucci’s opening words in his 2008 final report, admittedly and rightly criticized as something of a whitewash because of its limited critique of secret police abuses as well as its acceptance of a Canadian variant of the vile Nuremberg Defence, are still an inspiration to loyal Canadians, by which I explicitly do not mean members of the present regime:
Respect for rights and freedoms is a constraint on a democracy that terrorists do not share… For the terrorist, the end justifies the means. A democracy, however, must justify the means to any end — including, in this case, its response to terrorism. Canada must choose means to deal with terrorism that are governed by the rule of law and respect for our cherished values of freedom and due process. This is a balance that is easy to describe but difficult to attain. However, difficulty of achievement cannot be an excuse for not trying to achieve that equilibrium.
Presently, the Harper regime’s Minister of Graft, the Dishon. Tony Clement, is busy looking for symbolic measures to promote the idea that Canada has “open government.” Restoring full, indexed, and easily accessible Commission reports would be a good first step towards that goal.Tweet