Monday, July 22, 2013

Can "Helicopter Pete" save the mother of all public inquiries?

Good Day Readers:

Will parachuting new Minister of Justice/Attorney General of Canada Peter "Helicopter Pete" MacKay into the Douglas Inquiry really change anything in a Canadian Judicial Council hearing that in the eloquent words of Trailer Park Boys Ricky is already "totally ....ed?"

Fancy this. After a Federal Court of Canada judical review is enentually completed of the apprehension of bias allegation filed by Lori Douglas' taxpayer financed defence "team" such is ruled to be the case. Then what? A new replacement inquiry panel is re-convened and it's back to square one?

In the alternative, the FCC rules there is no such bias and the inquiry featuring its current cast of players grinds on, and on and on ..... Either way it's taxpayers and not Lori Douglas who are the Big Losers! And what's Helicopter Pete doing while all this is happening?
Clare L. Pieuk
Tough message directed to AG
"Public interest" is getting short shrift in stalled Douglas inquiry: Justice Snider

By Cristen Schmitz
July 26, 2013 Issue

A Federal Court judge has warned that it would be “irresponsible” and “close to contempt of court” should the Attorney General of Canada effectively “abdicate” his role as the respondent in a judicial review application launched by a senior Manitoba judge who wants discipline proceedings against her quashed for bias.

On July 12, Justice Judith Snider granted Manitoba Queen’s Bench (Family Division) Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas’s motion to shut down a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry into Justice Douglas’s conduct until the judge’s bias allegations against the presiding inquiry committee are finally determined as part of her application to Federal Court for judicial review.

Justice Snider also reminded the Attorney General that, as the respondent, he is obliged to fulfil his role by defending, supporting, explaining or otherwise making arguments with respect to the inquiry committee’s refusal to recuse itself a year ago for alleged reasonable apprehension of bias.

At press time, the AG (Rob Nicholson until Peter MacKay replaced him July 15) had been mum on the bias charge. In April, a Federal Court prothonotary declined the AG’s request to remove him as the respondent. The AG also took no position on Justice Douglas’s request for a temporary stay pending the final outcome of her judicial review application, and consented to appeals of prothonotary rulings barring the inquiry committee’s intervention in the judicial review, and restricting the independent counsel’s efforts to pick up some of the AG’s apparent slack in advocating the public’s interest. The controversial inquiry is likely to cost millions.

“As a reluctant respondent, the Attorney General has not been forthcoming on what positions he might take on any particular issue,” Justice Snider said. “It is important to note, in spite of this overwhelming silence to date, that we do not know what position the Attorney General may take in the public interest on the merits. We cannot assume that, just because the Attorney General did not oppose the stay, that he will take no position on the judicial review. Indeed, I would view such an abdication as irresponsible, totally contrary to the public interest and close to contemptuous of this court.”

Justice Snider upheld prothonotary Mireille Tabib’s decision last April not to permit the inquiry committee to intervene since: the tribunal comprising three judges and two lawyers is not better placed than the AG to review and analyze the record before the court; allowing the inquiry to make arguments concerning its own jurisdiction and questioning of witnesses would effectively allow the tribunal to supplement its reasons for refusing to recuse itself for bias; and since its impartiality is directly at issue in the judicial review, it would be harmful if the inquiry committee was perceived as defending its ruling or as adversarial to the judge.

In granting Justice Douglas a temporary stay, Justice Snider accepted that the judge would suffer “irreparable harm to her personal and professional reputation” if the proceedings continued before a tribunal later determined to have a reasonable apprehension of bias. “The sensitive nature of the personal information which may be disclosed if the proceedings are permitted to continue supports a finding of irreparable harm,” she concluded.

Justice Douglas has denied complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment from Alexander Chapman. She is also fighting a charge that nude and sexually explicit photos of her — that she and her husband both say he circulated on the Internet without her knowledge or consent — have damaged her reputation such that she can no longer perform her judicial role.


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