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Canada Debates Torture Issue

The United Nations definition of torture entails “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental”of an individual has always been the international norm. But, in 2002, White House leegaladviseers insisted the limits of what is considered to be torture could be pushed in the name of national security. For the most part, Canada has stood by the side in the debate, but the inadvertent disclosure this month of a Department of Foreign Affairs training manual on torture has heated up discussion concerning its nation’s attitude toward torture. The Canadian government was embarrassed when contents of “Torture Awaeness Workshop Reference Matrials” was released and included Israel and the United States as among countries engaged in torture of prisoners. Traditionally, Canada has given America the benefit of the doubt but the case of Canadian Omar Khadr who was sent to Guantanaomo Bay has aroused controversty.

The israeli and American ambassadors were infuriated at inclusion of their nations being cited for torture and Foreign Affairs Minister Maxine Bernier has promised to review the manual and promised revisions. However, her comment about revisions has now sparked a debate among Canadians charging it is not so simple as to remove two names as to totally revise the Canadian definition of torture in order to placate America and Israel. Amnesty Inernational is urging Bernier not to back down but to maintain the maual and its definition of torture even if that upsets the United States.

Of course, another road to take is asking the United States and Israel to cease and desist from employment of torture tactics and that would instantly lead to removal of their names from the list of torturing nations.