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



    Lettre de la part du très honorable Brian Mulroney à Paul Szabo,
    Président du Comité permanent de l'accès à l'information, de la
    protection des renseignements personnels et de l'éthique

    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 Québec (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 (Gérard 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 Lavallée)
          VanKesteren.D@parl.gc.ca (Dave Van Kesteren)
    




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For further information: Joseph Lavoie, Navigator Limited, (416)
642-4044, jlavoie@navltd.com

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