The NDP’s national defence critic accused the prime minister of prioritizing propaganda over the safety of Canadian troops after his staff were forced to pull videos promoting his tour of Iraq and Kuwait.
“They actually used them and then claimed that they had been vetted by the military and never did correct the record,” said national defence critic Jack Harris to reporters on Friday.
“I mean that’s misleading. It’s disinformation. It’s just shows that they – they were concerned more about the prime minister’s propaganda value than they were about the safety of Canadian soldiers.”
On Tuesday, a series of videos were posted to the prime minister's website showing highlights of his recent visit with Canadian special forces soldiers stationed in the Middle East.
Members of the media travelling with Harper were told explicitly not to publish photos of the JTF-2 soldiers. The producers of the prime minister's “24 Seven” video series did not abide by the rules.
After the videos were uploaded, Harper's office told reporters the footage was vetted by the military — which turned out to be false.
In question period, the security lapse was brought up by Liberal MP Geoff Regan.
“The PMO staff broke DND protocols that protect our armed forces,” said the Halifax West MP. “They said they had DND’s consent; they did not.”
Conservative MP James Bezan acknowledged the mistake.
“We regret this error,” he explained. “We have apologized and we are reviewing all the protocols to ensure it does not happen again, and these videos should not have been posted.”
Sources told The Globe and Mail that military officials were not impressed with the fact the government didn't make it clear it was their mistake — not the military's.
Defence chief General Tom Lawson addressed the bungle in a brief statement.
“The safety and security of our deployed personnel is paramount,” he said, adding an assessment deemed the overall risk to soldiers as low.
The military has no plans to withdraw soldiers from the region over the video related to the breach.
With files from The Canadian Press
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