Thursday, December 22, 2011

OMG our Member of Parliament is an alleged defamer what should we do?

Helena Guergis sues Stephen Harper over ejection from the Tory Caucus

Postmedia News
By Mark Kennedy and Lee Berthiaume
Thursday, December 22, 2011

OTTAWA — Former federal Cabinet Minister Helena Guergis is suing Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Conservative party, and several other people for $1.3 million in connection with her 2010 ejection from the Tory caucus over allegations of improper conduct.

The lawsuit, filed in an Ottawa court Thursday, comes after a lengthy period in which Guergis publicly complained she had been mistreated by her former boss and political colleagues.

Now, as the Plaintiff in a civil lawsuit, she is seeking compensation for the damage which she alleges those actions inflicted on her public reputation.

Specifically, with regards to the actions of Harper, a 31-page Statement of Claim entered in court by her lawyers seeks damages from the Prime Minister for his alleged “conspiracy, defamation, misfeasance in public office, intentional infliction of mental suffering, and negligence.”

None of the allegations contained in the Statement of Claim has been proven in a court.

Among those sued along with Harper are two of his Senior Aides, a Conservative Party lawyer, a private investigator who came forward with an allegation about the conduct of Guergis, and two Tory MPs.

Together, the Statement of Claim alleges those being sued conspired to present allegations about her behaviour — including fraudulent activity, extortion, association with prostitutes, and cocaine use.

All the allegations are false and defamatory and have “resulted in damage to the plaintiff’s reputation,” as well as her “political career, health, and well-being,” says the Statement of Claim.

Guergis was formerly in Harper’s Cabinet as Minister of State for the Status of Women. But that ended suddenly in April of 2010 when Harper announced that his Office had become aware of “serious allegations” regarding her conduct which he was forwarding to the RCMP and Ethics Commissioner.

Guergis was booted from the Cabinet and the Tory Caucus, and the Party removed her thereafter as its candidate for the next election in the southern Ontario Riding of Simcoe-Grey.

In the Sstatement of Claim, lawyers for Guergis allege the allegations about her behaviour were put forward as a method to remove her from the Tory fold.

“The conspiracy was to engage in unlawful acts in order to remove and/or justify the removal of the Plaintiff from her positions as a Member of the Caucus of CPC (Conservative party of Canada), the candidate for the CPC in the Electoral District of Simcoe-Grey, and the Minister of State for the Status of Women, in a manner deemed by the Defendants to be to their political, personal, and/or financial benefit.”

After she was removed from Caucus, Guergis got caught up in a political storm in which opposition MPs wanted to learn more about her behaviour — whether she was assisting her husband, former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, in efforts to lobby for federal money, and whether Jaffer himself had violated lobbying laws.

Eventually, Guergis ran as an Independent candidate against the Tories in this year’s spring election against Tory candidate, Kelly Leitch, but she lost.

In the Statement of Claim, Guergis is asking the court for general damages of $800,000 as well as $250,000 in aggravated damages and $250,000 in punitive damages, plus associated court costs, for a total of more than $1.3 million.

“The Defendants engaged in arbitrary, reckless, capricious, malicious, high-handed and arrogant conduct,” says the Statement of Claim.

As a result, it says Guergis is entitled to an award of punitive or exemplary against the Defendants to ensure they are “appropriately punished for their conduct and deterred from such conduct in the future.”

Named in the lawsuit :

- Harper

- Raymond Novak, the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary, largely regarded as the second-most powerful man in Ottawa

- Guy Giorno, the former lawyer who served as Harper’s Chief of Staff from July 2008 to January 2011

- Arthur Hamilton, a Toronto lawyer who has served as Counsel for the Conservative Party numerous times over the years

- Derrick Snowdy, the Toronto private investigator who shot into the national spotlight following his allegations against Guergis

- Shelly Glover, the Conservative MP for Winnipeg’s Saint Boniface Riding and currently Parliamentary Secretary to the Finance Minister (emphasis ours)

- Lisa Raitt, who served as Natural Resources Minister from October 2008 to January 2010 and is now the Labour Minister

- Axelle Pellerin, former Chief of Staff to Guergis before becoming Raitt’s Senior Policy Adviser

- The Conservative Party of Canada and Hamilton’s law firm, Cassels Brock and Blackwell.

The Statement of Claim alleges that Guergis’s troubles began in September of 2009.

Although her legal documents do not mention this, it was in that month that Jaffer was charged with cocaine possession and drunk driving after Ontario Provincial Police pulled him over. The Crown later withdrew those charges and Jaffer eventually pleaded guilty to a careless driving charge and was fined $500.

The Statement of Claim says that during that month, Harper, his staff, and other members of the Tory Caucus with whom she had once had cordial and effective working relationships” began excluding her from meetings and activities.

“The Plaintiff states that this conduct was solely as a result of negative media coverage respecting the Plaintiff’s spouse, and constituted a deliberate and calculated attempt to marginalize the plaintiff.”

With files from Neco Cockburn (Ottawa Citizen)


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