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Democracy Watch calls on Ethics Commissioner to rule on Clerk of Privy Council Wernick’s preferential phone call with Kevin Lynch

Wernick, in his last week in government, also needs to answer 2 big questions:
Did he talk about SNC-Lavalin or his call with AG with PM from Dec. 19-Jan. 7?
Did he communicate with PM, or anyone who would have communicated to the PM, about SNC-Lavalin or his call from Dec. 19-Jan. 7?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, April 17, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion, calling on him to ensure an independent ruling on Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick giving preferential treatment to Kevin Lynch, Chair of SNC-Lavalin, and Mr. Wernick’s former boss.

Democracy Watch’s position is that, by taking the phone call from Mr. Lynch on October 15, 2019, Mr. Wernick violated section 7 of the Conflict of Interest Act by giving preferential treatment to Mr. Lynch. Democracy Watch has also filed a complaint with the federal Commissioner of Lobbying about Mr. Lynch failing to register the call as lobbying in the Registry of Lobbying.

It is a violation of the federal ethics law, the Conflict of Interest Act (section 7), to give preferential treatment to anyone or any business or organization based on the identity of the person who represents them (such as someone being your former boss).

Unless Mr. Wernick can show that he takes calls from average Canadians and other business executives when they have a concern about a government decision as readily as he took Mr. Lynch’s call, taking Mr. Lynch’s call amounts to a violation of section 7 of the Act because it was “treatment more favourable than might be accorded to anyone else in similar circumstances” – which is the Ethics Commissioner’s definition of “preferential treatment” in a past ruling.

“It is unethical and undemocratic for government officials to give preferential treatment to people they have relationships with, and an independent ruling is needed into Michael Wernick taking the phone call from his former boss and SNC-Lavalin chair Kevin Lynch,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Ethics Commissioner should not make the ruling in this case because he was handpicked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a very secretive, Cabinet-controlled, dishonest process.”

Democracy Watch’s position is that Ethics Commissioner Dion should delegate the investigation and ruling on the situation to a provincial ethics commissioner who has no ties to any party, given that he was chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet after a secretive, Cabinet-controlled, dishonest process that failed to consult with opposition parties as required by the Parliament of Canada Act. Mr. Dion also has a record 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner. As well, his senior lawyer’s sister is the spouse of Liberal Cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc.

Democracy Watch also called on the media and House and Senate committees to ask Mr. Wernick, who is in his last week with the federal government, two simple questions that remain unanswered:

Did Mr. Wernick talk about SNC-Lavalin, or his phone call with then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, with Prime Minister Trudeau or other members of the PM’s staff from December 19, 2018 through to the beginning of January 2019 when everyone returned from vacation?

Did Mr. Wernick communicate in any way about SNC-Lavalin, or his phone call with then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, with Prime Minister Trudeau or other members of the PM’s staff from December 19, 2018 through to the beginning of January 2019 when everyone returned from vacation?

The statement issued a few weeks ago by Mr. Wernick’s lawyer Frank Addario does not answer these questions. It says, very carefully, only that Mr. Wernick did not discuss SNC-Lavalin with the PM after the beginning of January.

The statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office says, very carefully, only that Mr. Wernick did not brief the Prime Minister on the call with the former Attorney General. This does not answer whether Mr. Wernick briefed someone on the PM’s staff about the call, who then briefed the PM about the call.

The statement from Mr. Wernick’s lawyer says:

“Michael Wernick must answer two key questions about whether he communicated in any way with the PM or the PM’s staff after his call with the Attorney General about SNC-Lavalin,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The answers to these questions are key to both the investigation concerning who may have violated the federal government ethics law, and whether any obstruction of justice occurred.”

Answering these two questions is key for the Ethics Commissioner, and the RCMP, in their investigations. Democracy Watch’s February 8th and March 5th letters to Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion are the basis of the Commissioner’s current investigation of everyone who may have tried to influence the former Attorney General in violation of section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. Ethics Commissioner Dion sent Democracy Watch a letter on February 26th confirming his investigation of its complaint.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign

Federal Court rules Lobbying Commissioner was wrong to let Aga Khan off the hook for Bahamas trip gift to PM Trudeau

Court orders Commissioner re-examine Aga Khan Foundation’s CEO for failing to stop the gift, and Aga Khan for not registering as a lobbyist

Court also broadens scope of Lobbying Act to cover all board members of businesses and other organizations who receive any benefits, not just pay

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, April 16, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the ruling it has received from the Federal Court in its case filed in January 2018. The case challenged the ruling in September 2017 by former Commissioner of Lobbying Karen Shepherd that the Aga Khan’s Bahamas trip gift to Prime Minister Trudeau was legal. The ruling was issued on March 29, 2019. Democracy Watch was represented by Ottawa-based lawyer Sebastian Spano.

Commissioner Shepherd’s ruling was that even though the Aga Khan was lobbying the PM, and is chair of the Aga Khan Foundation, which is registered to lobby the PM, because someone at the Foundation claimed the Aga Khan wasn’t paid to lobby for it, the Aga Khan was not covered by the Lobbying Act nor the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct and so his gift was legal.

Democracy Watch argued before the court that Commissioner Shepherd failed to investigate whether the Aga Khan was compensated in any way, and also failed to determine whether the Foundation’s senior officer Khalil Shariff had violated the Code’s principles requiring him to ensure everyone at the Foundation upholds the highest ethical standards and the spirit of the Act and Code.

The court agreed with Democracy Watch, calling Commissioner’s Shepherd’s ruling “unreasonable” because it was a narrow, technical, and targeted analysis that is lacking in transparency, justification, and intelligibility when considered in the context the Commissioner’s duties and functions (para. 146). As a result, the court ordered the Commissioner of Lobbying (now Nancy Bélanger) to re-examine the actions of everyone at the Aga Khan Foundation with “a broad view of the circumstances.”

A key part of the ruling is it requires the Lobbying Commissioner to investigate and issue a public ruling whenever there are “potential compliance questions” (para. 133) concerning the actions of anyone, or any business or organization that relate to the requirements of the Lobbying Act or Lobbyists’ Code (paras. 127-134). In the past, the Lobbying Commissioner has regularly ignored situations that raised such questions.

Another key part of the ruling greatly broadens the scope of the Lobbying Act to cover board members of businesses and other organizations who are compensated in any way or receive “anything of value” – including even the value of being given a position as a member of board (paras. 134-143). Up to now, the Commissioner of Lobbying interpreted the Act as requiring board members to disclose their lobbying in the Registry of Lobbyists only if they were paid more than their expenses. The court rejected that narrow interpretation.

There are 394 businesses and 581 organizations currently registered in the Registry, and so board members who lobby for any of these businesses or organizations are now required to disclose their lobbying in the Registry.

Democracy Watch filed its own complaint in December 2018 with the Commissioner of Lobbying about the Aga Khan’s Bahamas trip gifts to Prime Minister Trudeau in 2014 and 2016, and Liberal Cabinet minister Seamus O’Regan in 2016, and now calls on the Commissioner of Lobbying to ensure that complaint is fully, and independently investigated and ruled on publicly.

Democracy Watch has requested that new Commissioner Nancy Bélanger delegate all investigations to someone who is independent of her and all political parties, given that she was handpicked by Prime Minister Trudeau through a secretive, dishonest process. Democracy Watch is currently challenging her appointment in Federal Court.

“The Federal Court ruling confirms that former federal Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd was a lapdog whose enforcement of the lobbying law and code was negligently weak,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Thankfully, the ruling not only closes secret, unethical lobbying loopholes that Commissioner Shepherd negligently created, it also essentially orders the new Commissioner to enforce the lobbying law and code much more broadly and strongly.”

“Given the Federal Court ruling, Democracy Watch calls on the Lobbying Commissioner to ensure a full, independent investigation into the Aga Khan’s Bahamas trip gifts to Prime Minister Trudeau and Liberal MP Seamus O’Regan,” said Conacher. “Democracy Watch’s opinion is, based on the facts and the law and the ruling, it is very likely that the senior officer of the Aga Khan Foundation violated the lobbying code by allowing the Aga Khan to give the trip gifts.”

Given Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd’s overall weak record of enforcement, Democracy Watch has also requested that the Auditor General conduct a performance audit of her time in office.

“Lobbying Commissioner Shepherd issued only one public ruling in the two years after the Liberals were elected, and she also let almost everyone off since 2008, so the Auditor General should audit her negligently weak record,” said Conacher.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign

Democracy Watch calls on B.C. RCMP and Special Prosecutor to explain failure to charge anyone in two years since lobbyist donations scandal

Will investigation end like quick-wins probe – five years later with no charges?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, April 15, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch called on the B.C. RCMP and Special Prosecutor David Butcher to explain why no one has been charged since March 2017 when the Globe and Mail reported the lobbyist donation scheme involving several lobbyists donating money their clients gave them.

David Butcher was appointed Special Prosecutor to assist the RCMP investigation at the end of March 2017. Elections B.C. reported in April 2017 that the B.C. Liberals had returned $174,313 in donations dating back to 2010 ($92,874 of which the Liberals had admitted were “prohibited” donations), and that the NDP had returned $10,500. The Tyee.ca reported in May 2017 that Elections B.C. reports showed that the total reimbursed by the Liberals had increased to almost $250,000.

“The B.C. Liberals admitted they returned almost $93,000 in illegal donations in April 2017, so why didn’t the RCMP and special prosecutor Butcher ask the Liberals for the list of those donors and charge and prosecute them right away before the 2017 election?” asked Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The RCMP and David Butcher owe B.C. voters an explanation of why they haven’t charged anyone in the past two years.”

Democracy Watch questioned whether this investigation will end like another long-delayed investigation overseen by Butcher – the so-called “quick-wins probe” that last five years and resulted in only one person pleading guilty even though the RCMP recommended charges against other people.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign and Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign

Democracy Watch calls on Integrity Commissioner to ensure independent investigation into Ethics Commissioner’s senior lawyer who is Liberal Cabinet Minister Dominic LeBlanc’s sister-in-law

Integrity Commissioner must delegate investigation to a provincial ethics commissioner as Ethics Commissioner is his former boss

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, April 15, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to federal Integrity Commissioner Joe Friday calling on him to ensure an independent investigation into whether federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s senior lawyer Martine Richard has fully removed herself from all investigations affecting the Trudeau Liberals and opposition parties since she began her position in fall 2013, including the investigation of Democracy Watch’s complaint about the SNC-Lavalin affair. Ethics Commissioner Dion sent Democracy Watch a letter on February 26th confirming his investigation of its complaint.

Democracy Watch is calling for the investigation of Ms. Richard because she heads the Investigations and Legal Services division of Ethics Commissioner Dion’s office, and her sister Jolène is married to Trudeau Cabinet minister Daniel LeBlanc (see also here).

Democracy Watch’s letter also calls for a ruling that Ms. Richard cannot remain in her position, given she has the appearance of bias whether she is investigating Liberals or MPs from other parties, or Conservative ministers, their staff or appointees (from 2013-2015). Her senior position also gives her power over the other people in the division who would investigate situations when she recuses herself, and as a result their actions are also tainted by her appearance of bias.

In addition to Supreme Court of Canada rulings that set high ethical standards requiring government officials to avoid even apparent conflicts of interest, the landmark 1924 British court ruling R. v. Sussex Justices, ex parte McCarthy established the principle that “Not only must justice be done, it must also be seen to be done.” The court ruled that a court clerk who worked for justices who were deciding a case, and had ties to the defendant in the case, created an appearance of bias for the justices just by being their clerk. Even though the justices swore they didn’t talk to the clerk about the case, the clerk’s presence in the justices’ office was enough for the appeal court to rule that the judges had an appearance of bias, and so their ruling was tainted.

The Ethics Commissioner office’s internal ethics code, like the government-wide code, requires all employees to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, and to resolve any conflict of interest in the public interest. The code also prohibits employees from “granting preferential treatment or advantages to family, friends or any other person or entity” (p. 10). All federal ethics rules define “family” as including family by marriage.

Ethics Commissioner Dion is Integrity Commissioner Friday’s former boss, and for this reason Democracy Watch’s letter also calls on Commissioner Friday to delegate the investigation to a provincial ethics commissioner who has no ties to any political party. Mr. Dion has a record 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner, and Mr. Friday never blew the whistle on any of Mr. Dion’s actions.

“The federal Ethics Commissioner’s office has claimed that Ms. Richard has recused herself from investigations affecting the Trudeau Liberals since 2013 but this needs to be confirmed by a fully independent investigation,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Given Ethics Commissioner Dion is Integrity Commissioner Friday’s former boss, this investigation must be undertaken by a provincial ethics commissioner who is fully independent from the commissioners and from any political party.”

“Democracy Watch’s position is that Ms. Richard cannot remain in her position given she has an ongoing appearance of bias in favour of Liberals and against opposition parties, and investigations and rulings on ethics violations are too important to let them be tainted by this bias,” said Conacher.

Incredibly, it could be that employees in the Ethics Commissioner’s office are exempt from the federal, government-wide Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment, and the office could also be exempt from the requirement to have an internal ethics code set out in section 6 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign

Democracy Watch calls on Ontario Ombudsman to investigate Premier Ford’s staff and others violating ethics and spending laws in OPP Commissioner appointment and other processes

Integrity Commissioner’s ruling on OPP Commissioner appointment contains clear evidence Ford’s Chief of Staff, deputy minister and possibly others gave preferential treatment to Ron Taverner and Mario di Tomasso

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, April 9, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé calling on him to investigate Premier Ford’s Chief of Staff Dean French (and possibly other Ford staff) and former deputy minister Steve Orsini providing preferential treatment to Ford’s friend Ron Taverner, and also to Mario Di Tomasso and Chris Froggatt, which would violate the provincial government ethics law.

Democracy Watch sent a similar letter to Ontario Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake on March 25th but he has refused to confirm even receiving that letter even though Democracy Watch has contacted him multiple times. Democracy Watch also sent that letter to Ontario Conflict of Interest Commissioner Sydney Linden but he refused to issue a public ruling.

In its letter to Ombudsman Dubé, Democracy Watch also requested an investigation of Premier Ford’s staff intervening in the purchase by the OPP of a van for the Premier’s travel, in violation of government spending rules.

Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake’s ruling on March 20th concerning the OPP Commissioner appointment process contains clear evidence that Dean French, and former Secretary of the Cabinet Steve Orsini, and likely others, provided preferential treatment to Mr. Taverner with regard to the offer Premier Ford made to Taverner of an executive job with the government’s Ontario Cannabis store, and also throughout the OPP Commissioner appointment process that resulted in Premier Ford’s attempted appointment of his friend Mr. Taverner.

There is also evidence in Commissioner Wake’s ruling that Mr. French and Mr. Orsini provided preferential treatment to Mario Di Tomasso by considering only him for the position of Deputy Minister of Community Safety, which helped ensure Mr. Taverner’s appointment as OPP Commissioner given Mr. Di Tomasso was Mr. Taverner’s former boss at the Toronto Police Service.

There is also evidence in Commissioner Wake’s ruling that Mr. French provided preferential treatment to Chris Froggatt in connecting him (and him only) with Mr. Taverner after the Ford Cabinet appointed him as OPP Commissioner to have him give Mr. Taverner communications advice and assistance.

Further investigation is needed by Commissioner Wake to determine if the actions of Derek O’Toole, Senior Policy Advisor in Premier Ford’s office, and Greg Harrington, Policy Advisor to Mr. French, also crossed the line in the ethics law. There is some evidence in Commissioner Wake’s ruling that they also provided preferential treatment to Mr. Taverner.

All public servants in the Ontario government, including ministers’ staff and the Secretary to the Cabinet, are prohibited by regulations under the Public Service of Ontario Act from giving preferential treatment to any person or entity, and are required to “endeavour to avoid creating the appearance that preferential treatment is being given to a person or entity…”

“There is clear evidence in the Integrity Commissioner’s ruling on the OPP Commissioner appointment process that Premier Ford’s Chief of Staff Dean French and his former deputy minister violated Ontario government ethics rules by giving preferential treatment to Ron Taverner more than once, and also to Mario Di Tomasso,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Hopefully Ontario’s Ombudsman will do the right thing and investigate and issue a public ruling on these violations.”

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign

Democracy Watch questions whether Ethics Commissioner’s senior lawyer is Liberal Cabinet Minister Dominic LeBlanc’s sister-in-law?

Again calls on Ethics Commissioner to delegate investigation of PMO/AG/SNC-Lavalin situation to a provincial ethics commissioner – Commissioner biased as Trudeau Cabinet chose him after secretive, dishonest process, and senior lawyer also has appearance of bias

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, April 8, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch raised questions about whether federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s senior lawyer, Martine Richard, is the sister of Jolène Richard, who is married to Trudeau Cabinet minister Daniel LeBlanc (see also here). Ms. Richard heads the Investigations and Legal Services division of the Ethics Commissioner’s office.

If so, in addition to this conflict of interest, Mr. Dion was chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet after a secretive, Cabinet-controlled process that failed to consult with opposition parties as required by the Parliament of Canada Act. As well, Mr. Dion also has a record 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner.

If Ms. Richard has this connection with Minister LeBlanc, and given Mr. Dion’s current prolonged medical leave, Democracy Watch again called on Commissioner Dion to delegate to a provincial ethics commissioner (who has no ties to any political party) the investigation of its complaint concerning who tried to influence former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene and stop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC).

Democracy Watch filed the first complaint with Ethics Commissioner Dion about the PMO/Attorney General/SNC-Lavalin situation on February 8th, alleging that anyone covered by the federal Conflict of Interest Act, including the Prime Minister and PMO staff, who tried to pressure the Attorney General violated section 9 of the Act by using “his or her position as a public office holder to seek to influence a decision of another person so as to… improperly further another person’s private interests.”

Ethics Commissioner Dion sent Democracy Watch a letter on February 26th confirming his investigation of its complaint. Democracy Watch sent a second letter to Ethics Commissioner Dion on March 5th requesting that he expand the investigation into all 11 people whom Ms. Wilson-Raybould named in her testimony before the Justice Committee on February 27th.

“The federal Ethics Commissioner’s office is tainted by bias in favour of the Trudeau Cabinet, and must delegate the investigation of the SNC-Lavalin scandal to a provincial ethics commissioner who is fully independent of any political party,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Ethics Commissioner Dion should not be ruling on any situations involving Liberals as he was hand-picked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive, very questionable process, has a senior lawyer with a family connection to a Cabinet minister, and has an unethical past enforcement record.”

Democracy Watch also called for an independent investigation of Ms. Richard’s family connection to Minister LeBlanc, and her actions and decisions in all investigations and situations since she joined the Ethics Commissioner’s office. It is unclear when Ms. Richard joined the office – although according to a newsletter on the website of her former employer, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, she started sometime in September-October 2013.

Incredibly, it seems that employees in the Ethics Commissioner’s office are exempt from the federal, government-wide Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment, and the office seems to be exempt from the requirement to have an internal ethics code set out in section 6 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.

However, the Ethics Commissioner’s office does have an internal code that, like the government-wide code, requires all employees to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, and to resolve any conflict of interest in the public interest (for example, by not participating in a decision-making process when they have an appearance of a conflict – p. 9). The code also prohibits employees from “granting preferential treatment or advantages to family, friends or any other person or entity” (p. 10). All federal ethics rules define “family” as including family by marriage.

Federal Integrity Commissioner Joe Friday should issue a public statement whether his office has the legal power to investigate Ms. Richard if she is related to Dominic LeBlanc, and if he does he should delegate the investigation to a provincial ethics commissioner given he has an appearance of bias as his former boss was current Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion.

If Ms. Richard, is Dominic LeBlanc’s sister-in-law, the key question is whether Ms. Richard has effectively removed herself from investigations and decisions that affect Trudeau Cabinet ministers, their staff and Liberal MPs since she started in the office, including the investigation of the SNC-Lavalin affair, and also past investigations including the one that led to the ruling finding Dominic LeBlanc guilty of handing out a surf clam licence to a company connected to a cousin of his wife? And an overall question is whether Ms. Richard can serve in such a position given her family relationship to Dominic LeBlanc?

“If Martine Richard has a family relationship with Liberal Cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc, a fully independent investigation is needed into the actions and decisions of the Ethics Commissioner’s senior lawyer in all investigations and situations since she joined the office, along with a public ruling detailing whether and how she can actually remain in this job,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign

Democracy Watch in B.C. Court of Appeal arguing for more independence from Cabinet for law enforcement tribunals

DWatch intervening in challenge of ruling that failed to uphold measures to prevent political interference by Premier and Cabinet ministers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, April 4, 2019

OTTAWA – Today and tomorrow, Democracy Watch will be at the B.C. Court of Appeal intervening in the challenge of a B.C. Supreme Court judge’s ruling that failed to uphold key measures to ensure law enforcement tribunals are protected from political interference by the Premier and Cabinet ministers.

The case Walter v. Attorney General (B.C.) is about whether the Attorney General can control the salaries of members of the B.C. Review Board (including Mr. Bernd Walter, Chair of the Board, who filed the court challenge and appeal). The Board decides the conditions of sentences for some people convicted of a crime who are not criminally responsible due to mental illness.

If the Attorney General can control the salaries, it means the Attorney General could cut the salaries of members of the Review Board if they made a decision that the Attorney General didn’t like. As a result, the case raises the issue of whether the Board members have adequate protection from political interference by the Attorney General, and the Cabinet overall.

The B.C. Supreme Court judge decided that, unlike court judges, members of tribunals like the Board are not protected by Canada’s constitution from political interference by Cabinet ministers.

The ruling was based on a 2001 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that set a standard that undermined the independence protection measures for hundreds of federal and provincial tribunals that make rulings on important situations involving human rights, legal rights, health and safety, government accountability and corporate responsibility. However, since that ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada has issued rulings that seem to contradict and raise questions about what level of protection members of law enforcement tribunals should have.

Democracy Watch is intervening in support of Mr. Walter’s appeal, urging the B.C. Court of Appeal to establish a broad new standard that ensures law enforcement tribunals are protected from political interference as much as judges are protected. See Democracy Watch’s legal arguments here (PDF).

“In order to ensure fair law enforcement across Canada, it is important that the court of appeal rules that members of law enforcement tribunals are protected in the same ways judges are from interference by politicians,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Adjunct Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Ottawa.

Democracy Watch is represented at the appeal hearing by Sean Hern and Brent Ryan of the law firm Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP.

The hearing in the Walter v. Attorney General (B.C.) appeal is at:

TIME:  10 am PST
DATE:  Thursday and Friday, April 4-5
LOCATION:  B.C. Court of Appeal (Courtroom 50)
400-800 Hornby Street, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2C5

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

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