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Where there’s a will…

Today the MPCC  heard again from Nicholas Gosselin, who last appeared before the Commission this April. As readers will recall, Gosselin was the DFAIT officer who discovered implements of torture during a site visit and interview conducted in November 2007. Perhaps the most surprising part of Gosselin’s April testimony was the fact he heard eight previously undisclosed (or undisclosed to the MPCC, at any rate) allegations of torture between November 2007 and May 2008.  The nature of these allegations were reviewed today, and ranged from threats of sexual abuse and death to physical abuse with cables and sticks.

Shockingly, transfers were resumed in February 2008 despite these allegations.  This fact might be less alarming if protective measures increased following the resumption of transfers. It appears, however, that the opposite occurred—the number of interviews with detainees declined markedly after transfers were resumed.

This fact was taken up by the Interim Chair, Glenn Stannard, who stated that he was having a “hard time” understanding why DFAIT would not have done the “same diligence” after the resumption of transfers to ensure the prevention of abuse. He asked Mr. Gosselin if he had received instruction from his superiors not to conduct interviews. Mr. Gosselin responded in the negative, but also stated that were it “his choice”, he would have maintained regular individual interviews. He stated repeatedly that there was a “will” to conduct interviews, but that other efforts, including reconstruction, took precedence.

Perhaps the most tense moment in today’s hearing arose when the Commission suggested that the Canadian public had been misled into believing that site visits, together with individual interviews, were being conducted diligently to ensure that acts of abuse were not ongoing following the resumption of transfers. Commission member Berlinquette stated: “If we were led to believe there were interviews being conducted, and you’re telling us that interviews weren’t, it’s hard for us to understand that.”

Indeed it is.

After the close of Mr. Gosselin’s testimony, the MPCC adjourned.  The Commission is not expected to reconvene until the fall, though with the latest squabble over document production, we may see some happenings in the MPCC front over the summer, so stay tuned.