As the Speaker rules for Parliament…
… well, he had to. I mean, politics and national security interests aside, if Parliament asks for documents, Parliament has the right to those documents. That’s just kind of how it is.
What do I think? Well… I think the opposition has been irresponsible and borderline libellous on the issue at hand. That said, if a majority of parliamentarians want to be irresponsible and libellous, well, that’s really their right. (Otherwise known as “parliamentary privilege”.)
If the government ignores said libellous and irresponsible parliamentarians, they’re probably flouting the constitution.
Is there any way to enforce the (unwritten) constitution? Sure. Said majority of parliamentarians can vote down the government and run against them as a bunch of unparliamentary goons.
Will that work? Under ordinary circumstances, yes, absolutely, but do remember that the opposition would then be running on a platform of accusing Canadian high officials of war crimes and demanding that sensitive national security secrets be handed over to the traitors who represent two-thirds of Quebec ridings.
Update: It’s not that hard a question –
Milliken ruled Parliament had a right to order the government in December to produce uncensored documents to members of a special committee examining allegations that detainees transferred to Afghan custody were tortured.
He said the order was “clear” and procedurally acceptable but acknowledged it had no provision to protect sensitive information within the material.
“It is the view of the chair that accepting an unconditional authority of the executive to censor the information provided to Parliament would, in fact, jeopardize the very separation of powers that is purported to lie at the heart of our parliamentary system and the independence of its constituent parts,” Milliken told the House.
“Furthermore, it risks diminishing the inherent privileges of the House and its members, which have been earned and must be safeguarded.”
Rule no. 1: If the House wants the docs, the House gets the docs.
Rule no. 2: If the House doesn’t get the docs, refer back to Rule no. 1.
Or, go to the people and get a new House. Which way would it move? Not sure.
Update again: Historically, I believe this has been dealt with by a security clearance-like oath — that is, members of the opposition, or the leaders of the opposition parties were brought into the Crown’s confidence through a body known as the Privy Council: a council that is privy to the Queen’s top secrets.
That’s really how it should have gone — maybe that’s how it will go. Swear the leader of each party and his foreign policy critic in as Privy Counsellors (Ignatieff, Rae, and Layton already are, no?), and give them full access.
But no, that’s too logical a solution. We’ll be at it hammer and tongs for the next two weeks.