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Military whistleblower calls on Conservatives to demand probe of torture video reports

The former soldier who blew the whistle on alleged torture videos involving Iraqi security forces who were trained by Canadian troops has made a direct appeal to Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre.

In a letter, retired sergeant Mike MacInnis called on the Conservatives to push for a follow-up investigation into how the military handled his warnings.

He said his efforts to get the attention of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence have led nowhere.

“The matter needs to be appropriately investigated in order to uphold the values we hold dear as Canadians,” MacInnis wrote in the letter, delivered to Poilievre’s office in mid-December.

“As a former member of the armed forces, I firmly believe in the importance of accountability and justice. It is deeply troubling to witness the erosion of these principles within our own ranks and government.

“The failure to address and intervene in such grave offences not only undermines the credibility of our military and nation, at home and abroad, but also compromises the safety and well-being of our personnel.”

A man dressed in a suit stands and addresses other politicians in the House of Commons.
A former Canadian military trainer is calling on Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre to demand a new investigation into allegations implicating Iraqi trainees in war crimes. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

MacInnis was a Canadian Forces team leader on a mission to train Iraqi security forces near Mosul in northern Iraq in 2018. He said that some of the recruits showed him and other Canadian trainers cellphone videos depicting the torture, rape and summary execution of suspected Islamic State militants and their supporters.

Under international law, Canada was obligated to report the concerns of soldiers on the ground. A CBC News investigation revealed last month that the Iraqi government was not notified of the alleged torture videos until 2021 — after the issue went public.

“The Canadian government failed to disclose this information for three years to the Iraqi government, and only did so after it received media attention, and more importantly, at the behest of the Iraqi ambassador,” MacInnis wrote in the letter, dated December 11.

“Iraq has laws against murder and rape within their country and they possess a professional law enforcement agency capable of criminal investigation.”

‘An impassive disregard for justice’

The failure of the Canadian government “to provide timely disclosure,” MacInnis added, “portrays an impassive disregard for justice, depriving the host nation of the opportunity to due process, and denying awareness to the international community.” 

Two requests for comment sent to the Conservative leader’s office over several days went unanswered.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan raised concerns in the House of Commons in 2021 about the case, before MacInnis came forward publicly last fall.

In an exclusive interview with CBC News in November, MacInnis said that Canadian troops instructed trainees they suspected of having committed war crimes and were ordered to supply them with weapons and personal protective equipment.

“We just spent a month making these people significantly more efficient at what they’ve already been doing. And what they’ve already been doing was committing war crimes,” he said.

WATCH: Former Canadian military trainer says Canada trained alleged Iraqi war criminals    

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Military whistleblower alleges Canada trained, armed Iraqi war criminals

1 month ago

Duration 2:16

A former Canadian soldier is speaking publicly for the first time to CBC News about Canada’s alleged training and arming of suspected Iraqi war criminals in 2018. Retired sergeant Mike MacInnis said one Iraqi trainee even showed him cellphone video of what appeared to be the lynching of an Islamic State prisoner.

The troops were told at the beginning of the training mission that the students would be part of “the wide area security force,” MacInnis said — essentially a militarized version of the police that help to stabilize areas with “static functions” such as manned roadblocks.

He said there were some auxiliary police officers among the trainees but the Canadians were alarmed to learn they “had people that even told us that they came from Shia militia groups.”

The Shia militias played a crucial role supporting the Iraqi army’s campaign to rid the country of Islamic State extremists between 2014 and 2017. But the armed groups also were viewed as a source of political tension with ethnic Sunnis and Kurds, as well as a major human rights concern.

The year before Canadian troops deployed for the training mission, Human Rights Watch accused the U.S.-trained Iraqi 16th Division of extra-judicial killings and other abuses during the battle to retake Mosul, the country’s second largest city.

Amnesty International Canada is on the record calling for a follow-up investigation of the training mission.

WATCH: Lawyer says Canada could be held to account  

military whistleblower calls on conservatives to demand probe of torture video reports 2

Does Canada bear responsibility for suspected Iraqi war criminals?

1 month ago

Duration 0:54

Human rights lawyer Paul Champ says if Canada’s military trained individuals they reasonably believed had committed war crimes, it could be argued under international law that Canada bears responsibility.

Paul Champ is a lawyer who represented Amnesty International Canada in the early 2000s in its bid to halt the transfer of suspected Taliban prisoners during the Afghan war. He said Canada had an obligation under international law to immediately report the concerns of soldiers on the ground — something that didn’t happen for three years.

Canada’s military police conducted an investigation of the allegations made by MacInnis and other soldiers. In a statement, the Canadian Forces said investigators found “no evidence of negligence (sic) performance of duties, inappropriate conduct nor other offenses by CAF members.”

Bill Blair, the defence minister at the time, turned aside calls for an inquiry. He said he’d been briefed by senior military commanders and was satisfied Canada lived up to its international obligations.

The NDP also called for an inquiry in 2021.

When MacInnis came forward last November, NDP defence critic Lindsay Mathyssen said that the public deserved to know why the warnings went nowhere for three years, and what Canada did to fulfil its international obligations.

“Time after time, minister after minister, we’ve seen things buried. It cannot continue,” she said.

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