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Arar inquiry told Canada may deal with nations that use torture
Last Updated: Jun 22 2004 08:12 AM EDT

OTTAWA - The former director of Canada's intelligence agency admitted Monday that Canada might have information-sharing relationships with other agencies in countries that engage in torture.

Ward Elcock (File image)

Ward Elcock (File image)

Ward Elcock was testifying on the first day of a federal public inquiry into the Maher Arar case.

Arar responded to Elcock's revelation by wondering, "As a human being, how can you sleep when you know that this information might be used to torture people?"

The inquiry is examining the involvement of Canadian officials in Arar's arrest, detention and deportation to his birthplace of Syria by U.S. officials in 2002.

Arar spent over 10 months in a Syrian prison, where he says he was repeatedly tortured in order to make false confessions about suspected al-Qaeda links. Arar was eventually released without charge and returned to Canada last fall.

Elcock was in charge of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) when Arar was detained in the U.S.

While Elcock said that CSIS may share information with other countries, he said the spy agency can't confirm absolutely that those countries engage in torture.

Elcock said CSIS can't prove a country like Syria practices torture, despite reports from the U.S. State Department and Amnesty International saying it does.

To this, Arar's lawyer, responded by asking Elcock, "Is your position then that I'm going to close my eyes to torture until I see that person putting the electric cattle prods on the Individual? Is that your position, sir?" asked Lorne Waldman.

"I didn't say that was my position at all," said Elcock.

The former head of CSIS refused to answer more specific questions about Arar's case, citing national security concerns – a frustration for Arar.

But those answers will be heard in camera by Justice Dennis O'Connor, who will then rule on what can be made public.

Elcock continues his testimony Tuesday.

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