In this article, the first in a series of unsigned editorials from the Sputnik, we’ll be taking a look at one of the most sensitive wartime issues: torture and specifically, what stance Canada should adopt on torture.
There is an immediate feeling that torture is somehow innately wrong, that it flies in the face of what it means to be a citizen of “the West.” It’s barbaric: human beings are put through the most physically and psychologically traumatic punishments imaginable without promise of limits or restraint.
As hard as we try to wash our Canadian hands of this issue, this isn’t a simple “us vs. them” situation. In fact, torture isn’t only practiced by developing nations or countries that have yet to adopt democracy, but also by Western nations and by developed countries. Most recently, allegations of contributing to torture in Afghanistan have fallen on a select few Canadian soldiers – an accusation that leaves an ugly blemish on our country’s reputation worldwide. The fact of the matter is that torture is unacceptable and although we cannot control the actions of other nations, we can control the actions of our own country. In this respect, Canada – a country proud of its label as a peacekeeping nation and a fierce supporter of human rights – shouldn’t accept torture as an acceptable form of action in dealing with prisoners of war who may or may not have relevant information for whatever conflict we may be involved in. More to the point, Canada should actively condemn torture and punish those Canadian soldiers who independently engage in torture while representing this country overseas.
The other side of making a statement like this is the question of whether saving Canadian lives trumps the disdainfulness of using torture as a method of acquiring information. Should we torture one individual for the sake of saving more? It’s a difficult question and not one we feel prepared to answer. What we do feel prepared to say is that Canadian soldiers cannot be engaged in arbitrary torture of prisoners, and that there must be consequences for those who decide to do so. As a country hoping to promote respect for international human rights standards and an arguably stable form of government found in democracy, Canada and Canadians cannot engage in the same activities we’re hoping to stop.