VANCOUVER - A member of Parliament from British Columbia is challenging the federal immigration minister to a debate on torture, war crimes and whether former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney should be barred from entering Canada.
Don Davies, the NDP immigration critic, said Cheney should not be allowed into Canada to promote his book "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir" during an exclusive $500-a-ticket dinner in Vancouver Monday night.
Davies said Cheney has admitted publicly to authorizing and endorsing the use of water boarding and sleep deprivation while serving as vice-president in the Bush administration. Davies contends those interrogation techniques break Canadian and international law.
"Sections 35 and 36 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act have a number of provisions that directly state that anybody who has engaged in those practices is inadmissible to Canada," said Davies. "So I'm just calling on the immigration minister to enforce the law."
Davies said the federal government has been silent on the issue and he's ready to debate Immigration Minister Jason Kenney "on any point" raised.
Kenney hasn't commented on the issue, but a spokesperson said that highly trained public servants who follow Canada's immigration laws make decisions on admissibility on a case-by-case basis.
Cheney's spokesmen could not be reached to comment on the controversy his visit has generated. However the former vice-president has vigorously and vocally defended interrogation techniques used on detainees during the Bush years, saying they saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
Monday night's exclusive event at the Vancouver Club has already sold out, said Leah Costello, founder of the Bon Mot Book Club.
She said club organizers wanted to stimulate debate and decided to invite Cheney because of the anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks and the release of the former vice-president's memoirs.
"How I feel, you know, it definitely comes down to the freedom of speech issue, and what I love about Canada is that we are all free to speak and to debate and to pursue ideas and positions that we believe in."
Costello said the club has a security plan in place and has contacted police.
A number of Vancouver peace activists and organizations are calling for protests.
The website stopwar.ca is calling Cheney an "unrepentant torture and war advocate" and is asking supporters to give him the "welcome he deserves."