In the wake of the verdict in the Air India bombing, there are calls for a public inquiry into the involvement of CSIS and the RCMP in the case. University of Toronto historian Wesley Wark has gone as far as suggesting that an in-depth look at Canada's "security and intelligence apparatus" is called for.
But there is already a public inquiry under way. The fact-finding portion of Justice O'Connor's mandate may involve the specifics of Maher Arar's detention but the policy review portion includes a broader look at the RCMP's role in national security. O'Connor has been asked to make recommendations on that role and on a better accountability mechanism for the force.
Even a brief review of the consultation paper O'Connor has released along with the eight background papers in support of it (available in pdf format here) will show two things:
- The relationship between CSIS and the RCMP has changed significantly in the twenty years since the Air India bombing. For that matter it's changed significantly since 9/11.
- The O'Connor Commission is already examing that relationship along with those between the RCMP and Canada's other security agencies such as the Communications Security Establishment (CSE). (I should note here that Wark believes we should examine the possibility of creating a foreign intelligence service. That's the main function of the CSE.) The commission is already looking at the whole issue of intelligence gathering and national security along with examing the way security issues are balanced against the need for accountability and transparency in eight other countries. In short, the O'Connor Commission is already laying the ground work for just the kind of review people are demanding.
If a public inquiry into the Air India case would focus only on the specifics of an investigation that's twenty years old then it's a different issue, though I'm not sure how successful it would be given that much of the trail is probably cold by now.
But if the point is to examine the way agencies like CSIS and the RCMP function today, why not just broaden Justice O'Connor's mandate and let him get on with the job he's already doing?
And while we're at it, why not demand that the federal government take the brakes off and let that commission do the job it was asked to do instead of forcing it to go to court to release the information it has so far to the public? Yet another public inquiry that will be hobbled by the feds' insistence that everything about the way these agencies operate is secret won't accomplish anything.
Cross-posted at the E-Group.