Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has lost its iron grip on information about detainee treatment in Afghanistan after a showdown that pitted the power of the ruling party against the power of Parliament and the combined force of the opposition parties.
The Liberals narrowly pushed through a motion in the Commons Thursday that forces Harper’s government to release waves of unedited documents so Parliament can examine whether Afghan prisoners detained by Canadian forces were subject to torture when handed over to local authorities, and what the government knew about the issue.
The motion passed with a vote of 145-143.
It’s not clear how that information will be released in days ahead, or whether the government will continue to resist the documents’ release.
Failure to hand over the material, however, could result in the Conservative government being found in contempt of Parliament and could see the Commons asking police to step in and obtain the information that has now been formally ordered released.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s motion was also supported by the New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois.
The government fought hard Thursday against the release of information, arguing the Taliban would profit from the data.
Ignatieff said such arguments were “ridiculous.”