Calls for independent prosecutor to be appointed, and guarantees from RCMP Commissioner
Senate motion to suspend without pay violates Parliament of Canada Act – new rules and enforcement system needed because House and Senate are kangaroo courts
Monday, October 28, 2013
OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch launched a letter-writing drive (jointly with Leadnow.ca), and a national Change.org petition, calling on Prime Minister Harper and RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to take key steps to ensure the truth comes out about the Senate scandals, and all wrongdoers are held accountable.
As well, Democracy Watch called for a completely new Senate penalty system – the current suspension without pay proposal violates sections 55 to 59 of the Parliament of Canada Act which make paying MPs and senators mandatory (s. 55) and only allow pay to be cut after an MP misses the House or Senate more than 21 days in a session (sections 57 and 59). As well, having the House or Senate hand out penalties is a dangerously unfair process that is wide open to abuse because, like all legislatures, the House and Senate are kangaroo courts undermined by partisan and other political and personal conflicts of interest. No one concerned about having a rule of law (ie. democracy) in Canada should endorse the current House or Senate discipline processes.
To have a democratic rule of law in this area, the House and Senate rules, and the rules in every legislature across Canada, should be changed to define exactly what suspensions (of various time periods) are mandatory for alleged and confirmed violations of criminal, ethics, spending and other integrity laws, codes and rules. The suspensions should range from 6 months with pay up to losing one’s seat without pay or pension. These changes will make standards of conduct and penalties clear to all, and remove the possibility of any legislature arbitrarily suspending, penalizing or kicking out some members but not others even if their violations are similar.
In addition, a fair compromise concerning pay for suspended senators and other politicians would be to establish a rule that if a politician is found guilty of the alleged violation, they would be required to return any pay received after the allegation was first made.
Concerning the Senate scandal overall, the various situations involving three Conservative senators (Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau),former PM Chief of Staff Nigel Wright, and other Conservative senators and staff of the Prime Minister’s Office, are all currently being investigated by the RCMP and the Commissioner of Canada Elections, overseen by who knows which Crown prosecutor or prosecutors who may serve under Prime Minister Harper and Minister of Justice and Attorney General Peter MacKay.
The RCMP’s independence is questionable given the RCMP Commissioner’s widely criticized new policy revealed in April 2013 that aligns his office with the office of the Minister of Public Safety in all communications about the RCMP’s actions. Many commentators have raised concerns about how this new policy negatively affects the ability of the RCMP to make independent law enforcement decisions, especially about the actions of government officials.
In similar situations, many provincial governments including in B.C. and Ontario have appointed independent prosecutors to ensure that investigations are conducted properly and thoroughly, and to ensure that decisions to prosecute are not undermined by career ambitions or other dangerous conflicts of interest. However, even in these situations, the fact that the Premier or provincial Attorney General selected the special prosecutor led to questions about the independence of the prosecutor.
As a result of these serious questions about lack of independence and conflicts of interest that must be resolved in order to have a just and effective resolution of the situations involving the senators, Democracy Watch is calling on Prime Minister Harper to do the following:
- appoint an independent prosecutor after consulting with and seeking the approval of all federal political party leaders to ensure a fully independent, fully non-partisan, qualified prosecutor is chosen;
- empower the prosecutor to oversee and direct the investigations of all the Senate scandals that the RCMP and the Commissioner of Canada Elections are currently investigating;
- require the prosecutor to give public updates on the status of all the investigations every month (of course, without disclosing any details that would undermine the investigations), and;
- require the prosecutor to explain publicly if s/he decides not to prosecute someone who is facing allegations (as independent prosecutors have in B.C. in similar politically charged situations).
As well, Democracy Watch, together with Leadnow, is calling on RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to take similar steps to ensure the integrity of the RCMP’s investigations.
Democracy Watch will continue pushing for these key independence guarantees to ensure independent, complete and transparent investigations and prosecutions of everyone wrongdoer in the Senate scandal.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Duff Conacher, Board member of Democracy Watch
Tel: 613-241-5179 or Cell: 416-546-3443