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DWatch in court today vs. Ethics Commissioner’s ruling that ignored PM Trudeau’s clear violation in WE Charity grant approval

Stage 1 hearing of case is about whether errors in Ethics Commissioner rulings can be challenged in court when government tries to prohibit challenges

Federal ethics law prohibits all conflicts of interest and improper decisions, including improper apparent conflict that the Commissioner found Trudeau had

Monday, March 25, 2024

OTTAWA – Democracy Watch announced that the court case it filed in June 2021 is finally in the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) today, although still at a preliminary stage.  The case challenges Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s May 2021 ruling on Prime Minister Trudeau’s participation in the WE Charity grant approval process because the Commissioner made four key errors in letting Trudeau off even though Trudeau clearly violated the federal government ethics law.

The hearing is at the FCA today at 9:30 am in Ottawa at the Thomas D’Arcy McGee Building, 90 Sparks Street, 10th Floor.  The case is FCA file #A-169-21, and anyone can click here and register to watch the hearing on Zoom.  Michael Fisher of Ravenlaw is representing Democracy Watch in the case.

The Attorney General of Canada (AGC) handles the case when the Ethics Commissioner is challenged in court, which is strange given the Ethics Commissioner issues rulings on the AGC and other member of the federal Cabinet.  Cases challenging Ethics Commissioner rulings go straight to the FCA.  In 2021, the AGC filed a motion to try to stop the case, arguing that DWatch didn’t have standing to pursue the case, and that errors in the Commissioner’s rulings can’t be challenged in court.

Justice Stratas of the FCA ruled in December 2022 that DWatch had public interest standing to pursue the case, but he then ruled in February 2023 that the FCA had to first consider whether section 66 of the Conflict of Interest Act (which is known as a “partial privative clause”) prohibits challenging errors in the Commissioner’s rulings in court.

The ruling on this Stage 1 issue in the case will set a precedent that not only determines whether DWatch’s case challenging errors in the Ethics Commissioner’s ruling will go ahead, but also determines whether anyone can challenge errors in the rulings of any federal agency, board, commission or tribunal that has a “partial privative clause” in the law that governs it.

Democracy Watch is arguing that anyone should be able to challenge errors in Ethics Commissioner and other tribunal rulings in court to ensure that they interpret and enforce the laws they enforce properly. That’s why we have courts, to ensure that every government official, include watchdogs and administrative enforcement agencies, comply with the law.

Click here to see the Backgrounder summarizing the four key errors in the Ethics Commissioner’s ruling.

“Hopefully the court will allow the case to go ahead challenging the Ethics Commissioner’s error-filled ruling on Prime Minister Trudeau participating in the WE Charity grant approval, and will set a precedent that allows future cases challenging of errors in rulings by all federal agencies, boards, commissioners and tribunals to ensure that they always enforce the law properly,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

“Former Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion contradicted himself, tied himself into knots, and cut the federal ethics law into pieces in his ruling letting Prime Minister Trudeau off even though he clearly violated the federal conflict of interest law by participating, and having his office staff participate, in the WE Charity grant approval,” said Conacher.  “Former Ethics Commissioner Dion rolled over like a lapdog and again failed to properly enforce the ethics law, and Democracy Watch is challenging his ruling in court because it sets a very bad precedent that will allow politicians and government officials to take part in future decisions to hand out money to individuals and organizations that have close relations with their families.”

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s and Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Fraud Politician Spending Campaign