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Torture ‘counter to our values,’ say Canadian military commanders

Canadian military commanders leading the fight against ISIS in Iraq say Canada’s military remains steadfastly opposed to the use of torture.

“Torture is against the code of Canadian Armed Forces conduct,” said Brig.-Gen. Shane Brennan, commander of Joint Task Force Iraq.

“It’s against the Geneva Convention and so our Canadian Armed Forces members are trained that they will not be involved in any type of torture, of any detained personnel, or anyone else for that matter.”

Brennan’s remarks come in the wake of controversial comments by U.S. President Donald Trump who told ABC News he believes techniques such as waterboarding would be an effective tool in the fight against ISIS.

“When they’re shooting. When they’re chopping off the heads of our people, and other people. When they’re chopping off the heads of people who happen to be a Christian in the Middle East, when ISIS is doing things that nobody has heard of since medieval times; would I feel strongly about waterboarding? As far as I’m concerned; I want to fight fire with fire,” Trump said.

Canada is part of the U.S. led coalition combating ISIS. Canadian special forces are operating with Kurdish Peshmurga fighters in Iraq while Canadian surveillance aircraft are helping with intelligence and reconnaissance efforts.

In a conference call to update current operations, senior Canadian commanders were asked about Trump’s remarks. While they refused to comment on U.S. policy, they stressed it would have no impact on Canada’s long-held position that torture is impermissible.  

Brig.-Gen. Steve Kelsey, another senior Canadian commander in Iraq, said torture is “clearly something against…that is counter to our values. It’s not something that I could speak to happening here on the ground.

“And it’s not something that, something that is being considered, not something that is being talked about because the same values are shared here.” 

‘Torture works’

In his interview with ABC News, Donald Trump also claimed he has been told by “people at the highest level of intelligence” that torture “absolutely” works, though the president added he would defer to his Secretary of Defence James Mattis, who Trump says is “not a believer” in the merits of torture.

The two Canadian commanders would not speculate about how any possible use of torture by U.S. forces might affect Canada, U.S. military co-operation.

They also had little news about Canada’s ongoing mission in Iraq, and could offer no new information about operations by Canada’s special forces.

Initially the military also provided little information about a pledge the government made nearly a year ago to supply small arms to Kurdish fighters. Later in the day, DND issued a statement saying the government still intended to supply the Kurds with pistols, carbines, mortars and other gear and that “suppliers are in the process of preparing bids.” 

“The exact time lines for the acquisition of the items are not yet known, though the intent remains to deliver the items as quickly as possible,” the statement read.  

CBC | Politics News