All posts tagged government accountability

CBA refuses to investigate – or even respond to – complaint on Edgar Schmidt case

Summer is over and it’s time to catch up on some older stories. The first I’d like to tackle is that of Edgar Schmidt, the Justice Canada lawyer who took a stand against the passing of laws that didn’t meet the Constitutional smell test. You may recall that he exposed an internal policy which set the bar for passing laws at a 5% chance that it might be deemed unconstitutional  That is, Justice Canada was/is approving laws which could have an up to 95% change of being successfully challenged as being in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights. He was run out of the department for that and is now defending himself against reprisals, as well as challenging the Justice Canada policy in court.

You can read a summary of Schmidt’s case one his own website, which he is also using to fundraise for his legal challenge, and on news sites to which he provides links.

This is a very important story and court case. Schmidt is tackling a policy which allows bureaucrats and politicians to ignore our Charter rights. Since few people have the resources to challenge laws like this, and since the government invariably chooses to fight rather than admit fault (and has unlimited tax dollars to do so), it means that rights can be gradually curtailed, one law at a time.… Read the rest

Canadians for Accountability files complaint with Canadian Bar Association against Justice Canada

Canadians for Accountability has filed a complaint with the Canadian Bar Association, arguing that the federal government is requiring its lawyers to violate their moral and ethical obligations and requesting that it conduct an investigation into this matter.

The complaint arises from the suspension of Justice Canada lawyer Edgar Schmidt, who argued that the department was failing to provide Parliament with a full and proper assessment when proposed laws might breach the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He alleges that internal departmental guidance stipulates that such warnings do not need to be given if there is even a 5% chance that it would survive a legal challenge.

“The Minister of Justice has a duty to report to the House of Commons’ said Allan Cutler, President of Canadians for Accountability. “If they are prevented from doing so, we’re in danger of losing fundamental rights to overreaching legislation. The ordinary citizen doesn’t have the resources to launch a Charter challenge against the government – which has infinite resources.”

Schmidt has brought his case before Justice Simon Noël of the Federal Court. Justice Noël, while he has not yet ruled on the case, blasted Justice Canada for its heavy-handed response to Schmidt’s whistleblowing.… Read the rest

Recent Julian Fantino misstep shows some of what’s wrong in Ottawa

The latest mini-scandal in Ottawa involves some overtly partisan letters by Julian Fantino (or, more accurately, his staff writers) which were posted on a publicly funded CIDA website. This is against Treasury Board rules and so resulted in a complaint. The letters were taken down, but opposition critics are arguing that it was no innocent mistake.

This little incident is illustrative. The original letters were prepared for publication in newspapers, and were probably written by government employees – something that is allowed to a point. The dividing line between what is partisan and what is simply the government’s position has become increasingly fuzzy in recent decades.

Once it would have been out of bounds for a minister to ask bureaucrats to write a letter attacking opposition MPs, or to collect data on military helicopter usage by opposition critics, or to ask them to stop a potentially embarrassing access to information request from being processed. But attitudes have slowly changed, and now such requests are routine. What the press reports is just the tip of the iceberg.

Combined with this is the tendency for bureaucrats to simply do what they’re told – even lie – when ordered to do so.… Read the rest