August 19, 2008

Canada judge warns judiciary on politicized public inquiries

Devin Montgomery at 12:05 PM ET

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[JURIST] Richard Scott, head of the Canadian Judicial Council [official website] conduct committee [materials], warned on Sunday that judges should exercise caution in agreeing to head up extra-judicial public inquiries designed to address politically controversial issues. Scott, who is also the chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Appeal [official website], said that by straying too far from their normal duties as judges, members of the judiciary risked the appearance of being seen as partisan. Scott's comments come after the Federal Court of Canada [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in June that media comments by Quebec Justice John Gomery [CBC profile], who led the public inquiry into the sponsorship scandal [CBC backgrounder] involving the Liberal Party [party website] government of former prime minister Jean Chr├ętien [official profile], had demonstrated bias against Chr├ętien [judgment, PDF] and his chief of staff Jean Pelletier [judgment, PDF]. In October, another Manitoba judge is scheduled to lead a similar committee established to investigate money that former Conservative Party prime minister Brian Mulroney received without paying taxes [Globe and Mail report]. Canwest has more.

Gomery's first and second reports [text and materials], released in November 2005 and February 2006 [JURIST reports], outlined the results of his judicial commission of inquiry [official website] into the Canadian scandal and included recommendations for controlling prime-ministerial power. The investigation began after Liberal Party Prime Minister Paul Martin, Chretien's successor, acknowledged allegations [JURIST report] of money laundering and kickbacks and took full responsibility for the misuse of public funds. After the reports has been issued, Gomery criticized [JURIST report] the now ruling Conservative Party [party website] for ignoring his recommendations on limiting government corruption and abuse of power. In June 2007, a former Canadian advertising executive was sentenced to 42 months in prison [JURIST report] for misappropriating nearly $1.6 million in government funds as part of the scandal.

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