Commissioner of Canada Elections and Director of Public Prosecutions have made it clear they won’t prosecute despite clear evidence Conservative Party made misleading calls to voters in many ridings across Canada
Thursday, July 23, 2015
OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch announced that, given the Commissioner of Canada Elections and the Director of Public Prosecutions have made it clear that they are going to ignore clear evidence, it will launch a private prosecution of the Conservative Party officials who arranged the robocalls to voters in many ridings across Canada that misled them concerning the location of their polling station.
The Commissioner of Canada Elections concluded in April 2014 after investigating that officials in the Conservative Party, after being warned not to do so by Elections Canada, booked robocalls to voters in many ridings across Canada that misled them about the location of their polling station, which is a clear violation of federal elections law. The Commissioner did not even refer his findings to the Director of Public Prosecutions for review and possible prosecution.
Since then, Democracy Watch and others have appealed to the Commissioner and Director to prosecute the officials who booked the fraud robocalls. They have refused, even though former Conservative staffer Michael Sona has been charged, prosecuted and sentenced to jail for misleading voters during the 2011 election with fraud robocalls in a Guelph, Ontario riding – even though the evidence that he was involved was much less clear than the evidence that the Conservative Party booked robocalls that misled voters in many ridings across Canada.
“The Commissioner of Canada Elections and Director of Public Prosecutions have clear evidence that the Conservatives made election robocalls that misled voters, which is a clear violation of the federal elections law, but they won’t prosecute so Democracy Watch will to ensure the violators are held accountable for their wrongdoing,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa. “There is no way the Commissioner or Director can justify refusing to prosecute the Conservatives given that the only case on record for misleading voters with fraud robocalls, Michael Sona’s case, resulted in a conviction based on relatively weak evidence. In such a situation, and given the clear evidence the Conservatives intentionally made misleading robocalls to many voters, neither the Commissioner nor the Director can claim they know for sure that prosecuting the Conservatives will not be successful, and so they should be prosecuting and letting the courts decide if the Conservatives crossed the line and should be convicted.”
Democracy Watch was the first to notice the huge number of complaints from voters about the 2011 election and it called for transparency from Elections Canada about what they were doing with the complaints (and complaints back to the 1997 election) in a November 2011 news release.
After digging by Ottawa Citizen/Postmedia reporters Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor, and leaks, Elections Canada finally disclosed details in spring 2012 about the election fraud robocalls investigation underway by the Commissioner of Canada Elections (who enforces the Canada Elections Act). Democracy Watch continued to push for transparency about the Commissioner’s rulings on all past election complaints.
Democracy Watch launched a national letter-writing campaign and petition drive calling for proper enforcement of the federal election law, and for key changes to ensure fraud robocalls would be effectively stopped, a campaign that continued through to June 2014 pushing for changes to the Conservatives’ unfair so-called “Fair Elections Act.”
Not only did the Commissioner keep rulings on past complaints secret, he also refused to clarify a clearly flawed ruling he made on a complaint filed by a voter about a clear violation of the law during the 2011 election, and an audit of the 2011 election found other enforcement problems.
In response to the Commissioner’s secrecy, Democracy Watch filed a complaint with the federal Information Commissioner about the refusal of the Commissioner to disclose his rulings on past election complaints (he refused because some of the rulings might make him look bad).
The Commissioner of Canada Elections finally ruled on the fraud robocalls scandal in April 2014, letting the Conservative Party off the hook even though the Commissioner found that it deliberately made robocalls in many ridings across Canada during the 2011 federal election that misled voters about the location of polling stations (which is a clear violation of the Canada Elections Act).
Democracy Watch criticized the Commissioner’s ruling announced that it would launch a private prosecution of the Conservatives if government lawyers didn’t overturn the ruling and launch a prosecution.
Since then, former Conservative staffer Michael Sona has been prosecuted and found guilty and sentenced to 9 months in jail for misleading voters during the 2011 election with fraud robocalls in a Guelph, Ontario riding – even though the evidence that he was involved was much less clear than the evidence that the Conservative Party booked robocalls that misled voters in many ridings across Canada.
The Criminal Code allows anyone to launch a private prosecution for certain offences, and Democracy Watch continues to gather evidence and legal support to take those Conservatives responsible for the 2011 election fraud robocalls to court — because government lawyers won’t.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch, Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Democracy Watch’s Robocalls Prosecution Campaign page