Democracy Watch Calls on Federal
Conservatives and Opposition MPs to Refer Afghan Detainee Document and
Committee Testimony Disclosure Issues to Supreme Court of Canada for
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
OTTAWA - Today, before the ad hoc committee hearings federal
opposition parties are holding examining the Afghan detainee document
and testimony disclosure situation during the prorogation of
called on the federal Conservative Cabinet to refer the issues to the
Supreme Court of Canada for a ruling, and for opposition party MPs to
make the referral and hold Cabinet ministers accountable if they refuse
to do the referral.
"MPs and the government and
their lawyers have different opinions about the legality of disclosure
of documents and testimony to MPs and the public, and a Supreme Court
of Canada ruling could resolve the dispute relatively quickly and
constructively, and also establish clear rules for dealing with similar
situations in the future," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of
Under subsection 53(1) of the Supreme Court of Canada Act, the
Cabinet can refer questions about the interpretation of the Constitution of Canada or any other
law, and the powers of Parliament, to the Court for a ruling.
The constitutional and constitutional convention powers of
Parliament and its powers defined under the Parliament of Canada Act, as well
as the interpretation and application of the federal Access to Information Act, Canada Evidence Act, National Defence Act and the Security of Information Act, are
all in dispute in the document and testimony disclosure situation.
While the Supreme Court of Canada has made it clear in past
rulings that Parliament (through votes and agreements supported by a
majority of MPs) not the courts determines the exercise of its own
powers as part of the parliamentary privilege constitutional
convention, it is not completely clear whether the privilege powers
include the right to disclosure of these types of documents and
testimony before parliamentary committees, let alone to the public.
If the Conservative Cabinet refuses to be reasonable and refer
the issues to the Supreme Court for a quick ruling that would clear up
the situation, Democracy Watch's position is that the opposition
Finally, Democracy Watch also called on federal political parties to change the federal Inquiries Act to allow a majority of political party leaders to initiate an inquiry (currently, only the federal Cabinet can initiate an inquiry -- To see op-ed on this issue, click here).
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