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Potential motion accusing Harper of Contempt of Parliament and Parliamentary Committees PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Wednesday, 03 March 2010 02:33

Potential motion accusing Harper of Contempt of Parliament and Parliamentary Committees

- Joan Russow (PhD) Global Compliance Research Project
Hopefully, MP Dennis Lee will table his motion in Parliament; this motion if passed would find the Harper government in contempt of Parliament. The Parliamentary Foreign Affairs committee had requested unredacted documents about the Afghan Detainees; the Harper government refused to comply with the request. Unfortunately, this process should have been invoked in 2008 when the Harper government was in contempt of the Parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Access to Information which was investigating the Harper Conservatives` in-and-out scheme used during the 2006 Federal Election  investigation. 

www.PEJ.org <https://www.pej.org


Should Harper  be suspended, removed or jailed for Contempt of Parliament

On February 3, 2010, the Opposition parties, after a meeting with constitutional lawyers, held a press conference. The press conference was in relation to the Harper government¹s refusal to release ``unredacted`` documents on the detention of Afghan prisoners. The Opposition parties are referring to Harper's and his government¹s refusal to release unredacted documents, as a demonstration of contempt of Parliament. When does it apply and what are the implications of an allegation of contempt of Parliament or of Parliamentary Committees?
WHAT IS DEEMED TO BE CONTEMPT OF PARLIAMENT?
Contempt of Parliament, is described in the House of Commons Procedure and Practice manual: "any conduct which offends the authority or dignity of the House, even though no breach of any specific privilege may have been committed."
Contempt of Parliament is the offence of obstructing the Parliament and Parliamentary Committees from the carrying out of their functions.

PRECEDENT FOR HARPER`S CONTEMPT OF THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE ON ETHICS AND ACCESS TO INFORMATION
In 2008, the Harper government was being investigated by the Parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Access to information. Harper and senior administrators ``advised`` the 67 MPs who were implicated in the 2006 in-and-out funding scheme (search ``Harper and prorogue`` in PEJ news for previous articles) to not appear before the Committee. When subpoenas were issued, again Harper or his agents advised the impugned MPs to refuse to appear. This action definitely demonstrated Contempt for the Parliamentary Committee, and impeded the Committee from carrying out its work. Harper then stepped down and called upon the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and call an election, which she did.
 
SUBSEQUENT HARPER¹S CONTEMPT OF THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
On November 19, 2009 Colvin, a Canadian diplomat in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, testified, before the special meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs,  that he tried repeatedly to raise concerns with senior military and government officials, about the treatment of Afghan detainees, but his concerns were ignored.
In his testimony he  challenged the position of  the Harper government that no evidence existed of abuse of prisoners captured by Canada. He also indicated that Canada had taken far more prisoners than other NATO countries.
The Harper government had been requested by Parliament to release documents, which they did, but in redacted form. Harper and the Conservatives were concerned about the implications of this investigations, and Harper called the Governor General and asked her to prorogue Parliament until March 3, which she did.
Parliament had been scheduled to resume on January 25, 2010, so the Liberals and the NDPs returned to work, and on  February 3, the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, investigating the treatment of Afghan detainees, resumed to meet informally, and heard testimony from Constitutional lawyers on various options available to the Opposition for procuring necessary unredacted documents. At the informal meeting, Errol Mendez, an expert in Constitutional Law, indicated that there was a possibility of demonstrating that the Harper government could be in contempt of Parliament.
Following the informal meeting, the NDP's foreign affairs critic, Dewar, said that he would send a letter, requesting the release of the documents, to the Minister of Justice, and if the Minister denied the request, he would advocate proceeding with an allegation of Contempt of Parliament. Bob Rea, the Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic, also was considering the option of an allegation of Contempt of Parliament. Claude Bachand. Bloc Foreign Affairs critic, even referred to Canada as being a Banana Republic, and said that the Bloc was considering a number of options including allegation of Contempt of Parliament.
POTENTIAL REMEDY: GOVERNOR GENERAL TO INVOKE ARTICLE  V OF HER LETTRES PATENT.
In the event that Harper is deemed to be in contempt of Parliament and Parliamentary Committees, the Governor General could use her powers under Article V of her Lettres Patent, which reads: .

"and we do further authorize and empower our Governor General, so far as we lawfully may, upon sufficient cause to him [her] appearing, to remove from his Office, or to suspend from the exercise of the same, any person exercising an Office within Canada, under or by virtue of any commission or warrant granted, or which may be granted, by us in our name or under our authority."
Surely, being in contempt of both Parliament and Parliamentary Committees. is sufficient cause. for suspending Harper and his impugned ministers.
OTHER REMEDIES
There are remedies for Contempt of Parliament
â‚ 1913. Businessman R.C. Miller is found in contempt of Parliament after refusing to answer questions from the public accounts committee and :at the bar: of the House of Commons. He was imprisoned for four months until the Parliamentary session ended.
·        2008- RCMP Deputy Commissioner, Barbara George, was accused of misleading the House at a Parliamentary Committee Hearing. In February and December, 2007 she appeared before the Public Accounts Committee. She denied that she was involved in the removal of  Staff-Sgt. Mike Frizzell from the RCMP.This was an Ottawa police probe into the governance of the Mounties' $12-billion pension and insurance plans. February  12, 2008, the All-party Committee recommended that the House of Commons find her in contempt of Parliament. It appears that remedies were being sought through the courts.
·         2010, Might  Harper finally be deemed to be in contempt of Parliament and Parliamentary Committees, and  be suspended, removed or jailed?

 

 

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