Gordon O’Connor has become our Donald Rumsfeld and like Rumsfeld the time he has come for him to go

Gordon O’Connor has become our Donald Rumsfeld and like Rumsfeld the time he has come for him to go

by Letlotlo Coco Lefoka

The debacle this week by the Harper government of the allegations that prisoners handed over by the Canadian military to Afghan forces were possibly subjected to torture, abuse and executions could have a detrimental effect on Canada’s noble enterprise in Afghanistan by eroding support for the mission here at home. The serious allegations raised this week have revealed to Canadians that the Harper government is shockingly prepared to ignore, deny and misrepresent the truth rather then take responsibility and take action where Canada’s international honour is at stake. The bungling this weak could be mocked as being amateurish if only it wasn’t about a matter of life and death. Gordon O’Connor bears the brunt of the blame.

The Harper government first denied the existence of a report produced by Canadian diplomats in Afghanistan where the issue of “Extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and detention without trial are all too common," is raised. We now know that the Harper government was misrepresenting those facts when it informed the Globe and Mail that "no such report on human-rights performance in other countries exists". The document does exist. Mr. O’Connor told Canadians that the Red Cross was monitoring the condition of detainees transferred to Afghan authorities. He later had to apologize to the House of Commons when the Red Cross contracted his statements. Mr. O’Connor told Canadians that Canada had an agreement where we would have access to Afghan detainees and yet the Chief of Defence Staff and the Foreign Affairs Minister were not aware of any such agreement. Mr O’Connor has still to produce the agreement.

Mr. Harper’s statements have also contradicted Mr. O’Connor’s. Thursday Mr. Harper informed us that Afghan authorities “actually agreed they will formalize that agreement”. The Minister of Defence tells us the ink on the paperwork is dry, the Prime Minister tells the papers haven’t been signed, let alone been typed up, while the Public Safety Minister is making claims that we have always had access to detainees, claims which are contradicted by the Afghan Ambassador to Canada. The Harper government has gone back and forth, upside down and around so many times this week you’d think they were the East German Olympic gymnastics team.

Our men and women in uniform who serve this country do so with valour and honour. The Canadian military since the days of Vimy Ridge has been the allegory of what makes this country great. We are a humble and generous nation, courageous and guided by noble convictions committed to the peace, order, good government and the betterment of all humanity. A nation that is at times prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice to share these principles with others where they are denied, our troops in Afghanistan are living breathing proof of this. That Mr. O’Connor, who must be commended for having served in our military has repeatedly failed to have any grasp of this mission, is a slap in the face to everything we have been accomplishing in Afghanistan.

To put it bluntly Gordon O’Connor’s incompetence as Defence Minister is so disgraceful it would not be unkind to declare that he is Canada’s Donald Rumsfeld, incompetent, detached, self-contradicting and a disgrace. The only thing missing is a Rumsfeldian like declaration in Question Period to the effect that “freedom is untidy”. Mr. Harper pretending that Mr. O’Connor is worthy of any credence is a farce. Whether Mr. O’Connor does the honourable thing and resigns or Mr. Harper lives up to the responsibilities of his office and fires him one thing is certain Mr. O’Connor like Rumsfeld should go.

Letlotlo Coco Lefoka is a Liberal Activist who served two terms as the President of the Young Liberals of Canada in British Columbia


Young Liberals in Thunder Bay Welcome Dion

What a great sign of support for the ridings of Thunder Bay-Rainy River and Thunder Bay- Superior North when Liberal Leader Dion came to grace us with Liberal vision at Fort William Historical Park to a crowd of 140 over the lunch hour.

Dion spoke of the transition that Thunder Bay and region will be experiencing over the next many years as we move from a resource based economy to a knowledge based economy that must be supported federally. He also spoke of how Prime Minister Harper has been neglecting FedNor because regional strength is not apart of the conservative vision.

What is also important to note is that Dion made sure to take his message out to the outlying region by going out to Dryden. Many leaders tend to forget that there are Canadians out in the region, yet, Dion headed straight into the west of the region. Sign, of course, of a true 308 riding strategy and not resting on the laurels of traditional support.

Vince Riccio