Friday, March 5, 2010

Parliamentary Privilege Watch: Former SCC Justice to Decide?

I recently posted about the current standoff in Canada, between Parliament and the Federal Government, over Parliament's power to subpoena documents in the Government's possession.  To oversimplify the issues somewhat, essentially the House of Commons issued an order that the Government produce documents in its possession concerning Canadian military and detainee matters in Afghanistan, and the Government has so far refused to disclose those documents, citing statutory duties to protect national security interests under the Canada Evidence Act.

According to Kady's latest blog post, it seems the Canadian Justice Minister, who has tried to maintain some distance from the controversy so far, has announced that the Government has retained the services of former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci to look over the documents.  The opposition is being cautious in its response so far.

The problem with this solution for those like MP Derek Lee, however, is that the whole point of the controversy is to preserve the ancient privileges of Parliament, which include the power to subpoena documents, and also the power to arrest those who might obstruct the House in exercising such powers.  And part of preserving those parliamentary privileges is the belief that they are not subject to judicial definition or oversight; and the Supreme Court of Canada itself has been pretty clear about that.

I wouldn't be surprised if Derek Lee rejects the Government's offer, unless it unequivocally recognizes the House's power to obtain all documents notwithstanding its attempt to find a way out of the standoff.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Website Tracker