The Canadian Press requested the 2013 directive one year ago under the Access to Information Act and just this month received a draft copy of the document — marked unclassified — with key elements censored.
However, a classified April 2013 covering letter says the planned directive was based on a government-wide framework that guides Canadian security agencies when seeking or sharing information puts someone in foreign custody at serious risk of being abused.
The framework for addressing risks in foreign information-sharing applies to Defence, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Communications Security Establishment, the electronic spy service.
The federal policy has drawn sharp criticism from human rights advocates and opposition MPs, who say it effectively condones torture, contrary to international law and Canada's United Nations commitments.
Defence is the only one of the five that has not disclosed most or all of the respective ministerial directive tailored for its use.
The refusal coincides with fresh allegations published by Montreal newspaper La Presse that Canadian military police mistreated Afghan detainees being held in Kandahar in late 2010 and early 2011.
The newspaper, quoting unidentified sources, said the military police carried out repeated raids on the prison to intimidate inmates into giving up information that might help Canadian troops and their Western allies counter threats from Taliban insurgents.
Under questioning from NDP defence critic Jack Harris in the House of Commons, Conservative MP James Bezan said the case was investigated by the Canadian Forces national investigative service, which found that there was no mistreatment of prisoners.
In April 2011 the service concluded "the evidence did not merit the laying of charges," said Bezan, parliamentary secretary to Defence Minister Jason Kenney.
The four-page 2010 framework document, previously released under the access law, says when there is a "substantial risk" that sending information to — or soliciting information from — a foreign agency would result in torture, the matter should be referred to the responsible deputy minister or agency head.
In deciding what to do, the agency head will consider factors including the threat to Canada's national security and the nature and imminence of the threat; the status of Canada's relationship with — and the human rights record of — the foreign agency; and the rationale for believing that sharing the information would lead to torture.
The framework says it applies primarily to sharing with foreign government agencies and militaries, but also with military coalitions, alliances and international organizations.
Amnesty International Canada has argued that the war in Afghanistan showed that Canadian military forces can and do develop close relationships with foreign security agencies that are unquestionably responsible for torture.
One of the few paragraphs of the draft directive that was released says sharing shall be done in compliance with Canadian and international laws, Canadian Forces policy and "the protection of human rights in this context."
National Defence began developing a directive from the minister to put the framework into effect as early as 2011, previously released documents indicate.
Defence spokeswoman Tina Crouse said last year the department could not release a copy of the resulting directive — nor say when it was completed and issued — because it was classified. She said an Access to Information request was required.
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