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January 26, 2010

Whistleblower sues Harper government

CANADA - The whistleblower Richard Colvin who blew the whistle on the Afghanistan torture issue (essentially Canada was knowingly giving over detainees to Afghan officials knowing they would be tortured for information, tantamount to "outsourcing torture") is now suing the Canadian government for refusing to pay his legal bills in 2009.

Richard Colvin's testimony hurt Stephen Harper's government in 2009 when it was learned the government was handing detainees over despite widespread knowledge they were going to be tortured, and have been doing so since 2005. The Harper government then made a big stink about it, which led to an inquiry into the whole affair and a pile of legal bills for Mr Colvin.

Normally when a diplomat has legal bills they are paid for by the Canadian government, but because Colvin damaged the reputations of various high ranking Conservative Party members they decided not to pay his legal bills in reprisal. Colvin is entitled to legal representations as a federal civil servant who was summoned to testify about his work in Afghanistan. The government originally agreed to provide funding for independent counsel prior to his testimony because the Justice Department could not represent parties on both sides of the dispute, given the risk of a conflict of interest.

Now that the government has reneged on its promise to pay the legal bills Colvin is now suing for the full amount. Owen Rees, Colvin's Toronto lawyer, says his client has "a reasonable belief" that the government's refusal to pay his legal bills is a clear reprisal and part of an effort to silence future whistleblowers, according to a letter submitted yesterday to the Military Police Complaints Commission.

“Coupled with the government's public attacks on Mr. Colvin and his testimony before the special committee on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan ... our client is left with the reasonable belief that the denial of legal indemnification is a reprisal for his participation before the committee and the commission,” the letter says.

The Harper government has denied Colvin's testimony and has instead gone on the attack, trying to ruin Colvin's reputation as a civil servant.

Stephen Harper's government was so upset by the torture testimony the Prime Minister prorogued parliament in an effort to stay in power and to silence the scandal. That is basically an admission of guilt.

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