TMCnet News

Letter on behalf of The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney to Paul Szabo, Chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
[January 25, 2008]

Letter on behalf of The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney to Paul Szabo, Chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics


(Canada Newswire English Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Attention News Editors

Lettre de la part du tr?s honorable Brian Mulroney ? Paul Szabo,

Pr?sident du Comit? permanent de l'acc?s ? l'information, de la

protection des renseignements personnels et de l'?thique

TORONTO, Jan. 25 /CNW/ -

January 24, 2008

Mr. Paul Szabo, M.P., Chair

c/o Mr. Richard Rumas, Clerk

STANDING COMMITTEE ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION

PRIVACY AND ETHICS

Room 6-18

131 Queen Street

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Dear Sir:

I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated January 16, 2008 requesting certain information and documents from The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney. As I had previously indicated in my letter of December 21, 2007, Mr. Mulroney has been out of the country until very recently. Accordingly, and as I had undertaken, I recently met with him to discuss your request and I will be responding to it presently.



Before doing so, however, I must bring to your attention very serious concerns as to how the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (the "Committee") is proceeding with its work. Indeed, a number of glaring violations of the most basic rules of fairness and natural justice have already occurred in the Committee's treatment of Mr. Mulroney.

Thus, during Mr. Mulroney's appearance on December 13, 2007, certain questions were asked of him by a member of the Committee (which questions we later learned had been provided to him by a member of the media) that clearly fell outside the scope of the mandate of the Committee as you yourself set it out at the outset of the hearing:


"That in order to examine whether there were violations of ethical and

code of conduct standards by any office holder, the Standing Committee on

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics review matters relating to the

Mulroney Airbus settlement, including any and all new evidence, testimony

and information not available at the time of settlement and including

allegations relating to The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney made by

Karlheinz Schreiber and, in particular, the handling of allegations by

the present and past governments including the circulation of relevant

correspondence in the Privy Council Office and Prime Minister's Office."

Then, when Mr. Mulroney attempted to bring to your attention the terms of his invitation to appear as a witness, contained in an e-mail from the Clerk of the Committee, you interrupted him preventing him from doing so and ruled him and other Committee members out of order.

The e-mail, whose content I assume you were aware of and had approved, stated:

"Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics of the

House of Commons wishes that The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney appear

before the Committee .... to answer questions concerning matters relating

to the Airbus settlement, including and all new evidence, testimony and

information not available at the time of the settlement and including

allegations relating to The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney made by

Karlheinz Schreiber." (November 27, 2007)

Both Mr. Rumas' November 27, 2007 e-mail and the mandate which you read out on December 13, 2007, make it abundantly clear that the questions that you allowed had nothing whatsoever to do with the Committee's mandate. Permitting those questions to be posed amounted to the clearest breach of natural justice conceivable.

It is surprising, to say the least, that any parliamentary Committee should allow such a flagrant transgression of a witness' fundamental rights. Parliament, after all, is the body that has enacted the Bill of Rights, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and myriad other laws designed to ensure that fair procedures are in place to protect the rights of Canadian citizens. Parliament may have its own rules, but as the guarantor of Canadians' rights, one would expect these to include basic fairness.

Indeed, any parliamentary Committee should have recognized the gross unfairness of proceeding as you allowed in this case. But this should be especially true of the Ethics Committee whose mandate includes defining appropriate norms of conduct for those persons involved in public service. A Committee, charged with the delicate task of defining ethical standards, should itself be and appear to be beyond reproach in the way it deals with any witness, and eschew partisan politics.

In this connection, it is deeply troubling that this Committee - some of whose members have already evinced conduct that was both biased and disrespectful - should be asked to prepare a report on the ethical conduct of my client. What confidence can my client - or the Canadian public - have that this report will be fair and objective when a member of your Committee (well before Mr. Mulroney had finished his own testimony and while the Committee has yet to hear from other witnesses) proclaims that he does not believe anything my client has said?

As if these breaches of fairness were not enough, I learned through the media, on January 17, 2008, that you contacted the Office of the Auditor General with a view to having Mr. Mulroney's income tax returns audited. No notice whatsoever was given to me as counsel for Mr. Mulroney or to Mr. Mulroney himself of this request. Yet, it represented a clear attempt to violate one of the sacrosanct protections of any Canadian's privacy, confirmed by a law of Parliament itself, namely, the Income Tax Act which states:

"notwithstanding any other act of Parliament or other law, no official

shall be required, in connection with any legal proceedings, to give or

produce evidence relating to any tax payer information." (ss. 241 (2))."

Hence, it is absolutely clear that a government official could only provide taxpayer information with the consent of the taxpayer (ss. 241 (5)). In those circumstances, your attempt to circumvent Mr. Mulroney's rights, without notice to him, raises serious doubts as to the fairness of the Committee that you are chairing.

It is indeed incongruous that a Committee charged with ensuring that Canadians' privacy rights are adequately protected, should ignore those rights so blithely, bearing in mind as well that Mr. Mulroney's right to privacy is enshrined in Quebec's Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Art. 5) and in the Civil Code of Qu?bec (Art. 35).

In conclusion, allow me to remind you that Mr. Mulroney has cooperated fully with the Committee and to assure you that he intends to continue to do so to the extent that legitimate questions remain to be examined. But, given the way the proceedings have unfolded thus far, any reasonable observer must conclude that very serious breaches of fairness have occurred and that a lack of appearance of impartiality and instances of actual bias already jeopardize the reliability and objectivity of the Committee's ultimate report. Any Canadian, even a former Prime Minister with whom political differences may still obtain, is entitled to have any examination of his conduct by the Ethics Committee done fairly and in a non-partisan manner. Unfortunately, these basic tenets of fundamental justice have so far been ignored.

I await your response to these concerns.

Yours truly,

BORDEN LADNER GERVAIS LLP

(signed)

Guy J. Pratte

/mv

Encl.

<<
C.C.: Committee members:
Martin.Pat@parl.gc.ca (Pat Martin)
Tilson.D@parl.gc.ca (David Tilson)
Asselin.G@parl.gc.ca (G?rard Asselin)
Dhaliwal.S@parl.gc.ca (Sukh Dhaliwal)
Hubbard.C@parl.gc.ca (Charles Hubbard)
Pearson.G@parl.gc.ca (Glen Douglas Pearson)
Wallace.M@parl.gc.ca (Mike Wallace)
DelMastro.D@parl.gc.ca (Dean Del Mastro)
Hiebert.R@parl.gc.ca (Russ Hiebert)
Lavallee.C@parl.gc.ca (Carole Lavall?e)
VanKesteren.D@parl.gc.ca (Dave Van Kesteren)
>>
Joseph Lavoie, Navigator Limited, (416) 642-4044, jlavoie@navltd.com

Copyright ? 2008 Canada Newswire Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

[ Back To TMCnet.com's Homepage ]