“We are a society of laws and not of men. But when bad men make bad laws, and unprincipled officials compromise good ones, then we must be men and exercise responsible agitation to prevent governments from staggering drunkenly from wrong to wrong merely to perpetuate
their own immortality.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
"Justice must be seen to be done, as well as to be done."
~ Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
"Senator, have you no shame? Have you no conscience left?
~ Army Counsel Joseph N. Welch to Sen. Joseph McCarthy
The famed journalist Douglass Cater once wrote that “…the greatest threat of McCarthyite smokescreens was not to individual liberty or even to the orderly conduct of government. The greatest threat was that it corrupted the power to communicate, which is indispensable to men living in a civilized society.” We have written often that the Gomery effect has created just such a climate. Last week saw the corruption of our civilized society’s failure of comprehension not just communication. And I was assaulted by the politics of the big lie.
In his testimony at the Gomery Inquiry, Jean Brault brought up my name as having attended a lunch with Joe Morselli and himself in August of 2001. He said that when he arrived he put an envelope with $5000 in it on the table in front of Mr. Morselli. He further testified that after a half hour I had not yet arrived. He excused himself to go to the washroom and when he returned I was at the table talking to Mr. Morselli and the envelope was gone.
For the record, I never saw an envelope. Morselli says there was no envelope. I never received any compensation in any form from Brault then or later. Actually, Brault never even claimed that I did. I had left the Liberal Party two months before this lunch and the discussions at the lunch were of a private business nature regarding the possibilities of expanding Brault’s company profile into the non-francophone private sector. That was the purpose for which Mr. Morselli had asked me to meet Brault in the first place.
But putting truth aside for a moment, since it doesn’t seem to have much currency in today’s circus atmosphere, is it not remarkable that the media accepted the story of this envelope without any of its usual cynicism about anything anyone says. Who ever heard of anyone leaving an envelope filled with cash on a table for a half an hour?
One could be forgiven for wondering if the press, particularly in the francophone sector, would have given this story such visibility if the people Brault was lunching with did not have Italian and Jewish last names. Brault’s bathroom break story is about as credible as Rosemary Woods’ explanation of her physical contortions that led to the “accidental” erasure of 18 key minutes in the Nixon tapes during the Watergate hearings.
I was counselled by many to remain silent and just let this incident pass. That it was just politics as usual. Just a mention of my name and the usual smear game. But my name is the very capital I work with.
I felt that if I did not speak out, if I did not meet the media storm that ensued head-on , I would be betraying the very words I had written – and the very warnings we had issued - not only on Gomery, but on the whole issue of state rape. The brutal intrusions to - and the cavalier treatment of - our individual liberties and Charter protections by government acting shamelessly without restraint of consequence.
The response to my interviews and articles, locally and nationally, has been remarkable. Thousands of calls and emails of support. And I think that part of the reason is the rising resentment by many Canadians of the insidious invective and innuendo in the Gomery process. Unsubstantiated hearsay. Guilt by association. Testimony built on half-truths. All the ingredients for character assassination.
One of the most egregious omissions by this Commission is its failure to caution the public that some of the witnesses are under criminal indictment. That it is not uncommon for those in such a position to make deals with Crown prosecutors. Deals that lead to testimony characterized by the widest possible detailed specificity - whether those details are true or not - in order to establish more seeming credibility. And the more seeming credibility, the more apparent legitimacy there is to be exploited by the Crown.
Justice Minister Cotler raged recently about the lack of respect for the principle of presumption of innocence the opposition demonstrated for the Liberal Party in Parliament. Perhaps this Commission, the creation of this Liberal government, should respect this very same principle that Minister Cotler rightfully holds so dear.
But I shouldn’t have been surprised really. I had faced this kind of nonsense before. Every one in public life has. Yet it still is sad that every time an attempt is made to take an institution that is ostensibly built to serve the people really serve the people, someone tries to smear you. If for no other reason than that they are jealous that you actually thought of something valuable that will challenge them to do better. They attempt to compromise and prejudice your work and when you resist, they denigrate it as unnecessary, or worse.
My work in public interest advocacy is based on advancing common universalities, not perpetuating parochial particularities. That was why I accepted Joe Morselli’s invitation to direct an effort within the Liberal Party of Canada’s Quebec wing aimed at expanding the party’s base by increasing the involvement of cultural communities and social action groups. Bringing in their vibrant vitality into positions of responsibility where their voices and visions would be effective.
During those six months my small working group responded to all manner of requests for help and advice from people for whom the party purpose itself was suspect. We obtained assistance for ethnic, communal and sporting events; established liaison for interfaith groups with Ministers; spoke to dozens of organizations explaining the appropriate forms of approach to government agencies; produced guides to make available subsidy programs accessible and understandable; and even assisted with anti-hunger and anti-poverty initiatives.
Sadly, this project ended because of fierce opposition by LPC (Q) bureaucrats to giving these civic leaders appropriate roles in the party process other than just as campaign workers and ticket buyers. The bitter acrimony was not lessened by the fact that, in addition to everything else, we had two very open, transparent and successful fundraisers attended by many of the very people who had been totally alienated from political involvement for too long.
In a letter I gave to then political Minister for Quebec Alfonso Gagliano I wrote “When citizens ask for guidance from the Party of the ruling government, we have an obligation to provide that guidance and make of our offices more than just a processing center for membership cards and cheques….That is how you build a culture of commitment…. And if you can’t, then what in blazes is that office in existence for!”
The outreach we were doing was opposed by retrograde and racist elements in the party who branded it as “marketing the party’s influence.” In their degenerated, narrow mindset, subservience to the privileged - which they had practiced for so long - was to remain sovereign over service to the people. This was the low estate to which the party of Trudeau had sunk.
It may very well be that we will have to say a plague on the houses of all Liberal leadership of the past twelve years. But this was not the proper forum for getting at the truth. This process has been nothing other than state sanctioned public political executions for the diversion of the masses. The very nature of its mandate, stripped of the inherent protections of the rule of law, could have made it nothing else. An unholy construct born of mendacity that will crumble from the corrosion of its own inherent legal illegitimacy.
Illegitimate because if there was wrongdoing, the RCMP and Justice systems should have been allowed to finish the work they had already started within the appropriate legal frameworks. Illegitimate because the establishment of the Commission by Order-in-Council implicitly violated the section 7 guarantees in our Charter of Rights that demand that all state authority be exercised along the principles of “fundamental justice”, the definition of which, according to Justice John Sopinka in the seminal Stinchcombe decision of 1990, includes “disclosure of all relevant information by government authorities in order to allow for full answer and defence. This is one of the pillars of our justice system.” Illegitimate because the Commission is respecting none of that, and has become nothing more than a witch-hunt.
Canada has just been named by the United Nations as one of the most controlled and controlling societies in the free world. It is time to remedy that and heed the words of Justice William O. Douglas who wrote that “In a civilized society the means are all important. It may seem unimportant that one person’s guilt is established through questionable means, but in the sweep of history a nation that accepts indiscriminate practices as normal has no claim to a position of moral leadership among the nations.”
If we Canadians have one boast, one over-riding advantage, not just over totalitarian regimes, but even over sister democracies, it is that our legal traditions reflect our national consensus that our governance must have a broad base in morality and decency and protect our individuality and conscience against direct and indirect breach by government. If we fail in this then we may, as Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby put it so well, “…lose sight of what our democracy is all about.”
Let the investigators investigate and the prosecutors prosecute and the judges judge, but within the limits of due process. And with the appropriate verbal restraint from our public officials so that the reputations of our citizens are not compromised. Let us never become so falsely pious as to forget that today’s laws are merely the limits on our actions placed by those in power who profited from a yesteryear when these laws did not exist, and now seek to protect their own gains by limiting access for others.
But the impetus that led to Gomery was not justice. It was to deflect attention from Mr. Martin's own questionable activities that were beginning to attract attention.
For months prior to the Auditor-General's report - which itself was a strange reprint of two previous ones excluding only the part that confirmed that the problems had been repaired and was curiously accompanied by verbal commentary for which Fraser was criticized by her own professional body - stories began appearing about Prime Minister Martin's questionable actions in relation to CSL, Earnscliffe, Lansdowne Technologies, Bombardier, Barbadian tax shelters, Liberian flags of convenience and Indonesian port rights. They began attracting investigative attention. Two events pre-empted any negative fallout.
The first was Mr. Martin's Quebec lieutenant, Bloc Quebecois co-founder Jean Lapierre, compromising the ongoing RCMP investigation by suggesting criminal charges be speedily laid before the last federal election in order to help the Liberals. The second was the establishment of the Gomery Commission with a mandate to focus solely on sponsorship. The reasons were simple. To deflect attention from Mr. Martin, and to smear any Liberal of importance who had not pledged obsequiesce obedience to the Martin cult.
This is not to defend those we may have taken advantage of taxpayers’ dollars for private gain. But with the implementation of his strategy, Martin brought to an end the legacy of Trudeau Liberalism. A Liberalism grounded in fidelity to a faith - whose hallmark was the Charter of Rights - that each individual was superior to, and had sovereignty over, the collectivist interests of the state. A faith of foundational principles that rule of law must never be prejudiced and due process never politicized. That the state would always be compelled to act within these two boundaries of restraint. The dagger that was raised at the twin pillars of justice by Prime Minister Chretien in the Beaudoin affair, and wielded by Jean Lapierre at the RCMP, was finally driven home with vicious fury by this Prime Minister when he established his McCarthyite witch hunt.
The attempt at subornation of the rule of law that we are now witnessing will have a greater systemic destructiveness than any monetary malfeasance that may have been committed by Martinites or Chrétienites. I say attempt, because just as with President Nixon, it will fail in the end. The unravelling may have already started with the House Public Accounts Committee hearings into Earnscliffe that just began, and the first evidence that senior members of Martin's staff and Ministry had dealings with the very people at the heart of the sponsorship affair that he claimed to have no knowledge of.
For a liberal democracy is first and foremost about freedom, not finance. What is ongoing at this moment is a tort on the body politic and a generational threat to our liberties without parallel in our history. And that will be this Prime Minister's legacy. A legacy of stone. And every Liberal MP who did not stand for what Lord Acton called the "...equity of just consideration..." will be judged just as harshly by history as will this Prime Minister.
There is a quantitative and qualitative difference between a specific government initiative prejudiced by greed and waste during its execution, versus a continuing and systematic pattern of manipulated law and legislation that compromised instruments of the legal order on the basis of rule, not exception.
If we have to live our lives weighing every action, every communication, every human contact - including an innocent lunch - wondering what agents of the state might find out about it, how they would analyse it, judge it, tamper with it, and somehow use it to our detriment, we are not truly free.
As Justice Felix Frankfurter put it,” The security of one’s actions against arbitrary interpretation by the state is basic to a free society. Judgment by sole authority of law-enforcement officials is inconsistent with the conception of human rights enshrined in our history and in the basic constitutional documents of free nations.”
And that is what is really at stake today in our land. The concept of Canada as a free nation. A United Nations report recently called Canada one of the most controlled and controlling societies in the western world. It's time to end that. It's time to stop complaining, start engaging and take back our country. Time to demand that our great political parties remain loyal to a culture of conscience where victories are won on the battlefields of ideals and principles never vanquished in the backrooms of deals.
We have been taken through the looking-glass. Black is white. White is black. But we must resolve to rouse from our slumber. Vindicate the possibilities of our capacities. And make our political elites submit to the sovereignty of our suffrage so that they learn the lesson of Frederick the Great that, “It is a political error to practice deceit when deceit is carried too far.”