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Complaint filed over CSIS torture comments

The BC Civil Liberties Association filed a complaint with the CSIS review body following testimony earlier this week that said the spy agency is willing to use information derived from torture.

The complaint to the Security Intelligence Review Committee was filed yesterday in response to comments made by CSIS lawyer Geoffrey O’Brian to the House of Commons public safety committee on Tuesday.

“The quotes suggested that CSIS either uses or would use information that it knew was derived from torture if it knew lives were at stake,” said David Eby, acting executive director of the BCCLA.

“If you use information derived from torture it condones the practice of torture,” Eby said.

According to media reports, O’Brian told the House of Commons public safety committee that CSIS would rarely use such information but it remained a possibility.

"The simple truth is, if we get information which can prevent something like the Air India bombing, the Twin Towers – whatever, frankly – that is the time when we will use it despite the provenance of that information," O’Brian said.

The BCCLA complaint is asking the review body to investigate O’Brian’s comments, finding out if CSIS has relied on information derived from torture in the past and whether it remains current CSIS policy.

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan contradicted the lawyer’s testimony on Wednesday, saying that O’Brian’s statements were not government policy.

"We do not condone the use of torture in any circumstances," he said.

"If there's any indication, any evidence that torture may have been used, that information is discounted."

Critics said this denial shows inconsistency between the policies of the government and the spy agency.

“Either the government doesn’t know what CSIS is doing or CSIS doesn’t care what the government says,” said Eby.

The BCCLA helped draft a House of Commons bill to define Canada’s position on torture, following reports of the risk of torture faced by Afghan detainees when transferred by Canadian forces in Afghanistan.

NDP MP Dawn Black introduced the legislation last year to define Canadian policy and practice regarding torture.

“I drafted legislation because I think there is a gap and I think it needs to be addressed,” she said.

Black, who is leaving her seat to run as the NDP candidate for New Westminster in the B.C. provincial election, told The Hook that information obtained from torture is “notoriously unreliable” and violates Canada’s commitment to abolish torture.

According to the complaint filed against CSIS, the BCCLA considers torture to be “the most egregious potential civil liberties violation against the individual short of execution.”

Garrett Zehr reports for The Hook

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