So federal justice minister Rob Nicholson isn’t the tiniest bit curious/concerned/appalled about what went wrong, and why, and what needs to be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada threw out Fenwick MacIntosh’s 2011 conviction on 18 charges of sexual assault and gross indecency, not because he didn’t do terrible deeds to at least four boys back in Port Hawkesbury in the 1970s but because the federal justice department, Canada Customs, Passport Canada, the department of foreign affairs, the RCMP and Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service botched his case so badly MacIntosh’s rights had been violated beyond the possibility of a fair trial.
The minister sees no need for a public inquiry.
After the boys came forward with their allegations as adults in the 1990s, the RCMP investigated. Officers laid charges in December 1995. By then, however, MacIntosh had left Canada for a job in India.
It took the Mounties a full year and a half to alert Canada Customs to watch for him. It took another year for Nova Scotia’s prosecution service to ask Ottawa to ask India to send him home to Canada for trial. And then another five years — yes, five, count ’em! — for Ottawa to prepare the extradition request. And — hold it, we’re not even half done yet — another three years for Ottawa to deliver the request to New Delhi.
During this time, MacIntosh, a known fugitive from Canadian justice, got his passport renewed twice. When Passport Canada turned down one application, MacIntosh appealed. Passport Canada didn’t show up at the hearing and a federal court judge “temporarily” overturned its decision. Passport Canada apparently never followed up.
In fact, MacIntosh traveled back and forth between India and Canada on at least three occasions without even being questioned by authorities.
And yet, Rob Nicolson doesn’t believe there are any lessons to be learned from a full public airing of how this travesty of justice happened?
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter has promised an “eyes wide open” inquiry into the province’s role in all of this, which is welcome. But given all of the federal agencies involved, it isn’t nearly good enough.
The Canadian Psychiatric Society, among others, publishes guidelines for reporting on youth suicide. Don’t put the word “suicide” in the headline, it says. Don’t give such stories undue prominence. Don’t describe the method. Don’t glorify the victim.
The guidelines are designed to reduce the very real risk of copycats.
We know many media outlets violated those guidelines while reporting Rehtaeh Parsons’ suicide.
We can’t know — yet — whether that will lead more young people to kill themselves. But we also can’t know whether the avalanche of publicity about this horrific incident will encourage as many or more parents to ask their kids the right questions before it’s too late, or give some troubled kids the courage to seek the help they need.
What we do know is that publicity about her case has triggered a much-needed public debate about youth sexual assault, cyber-bullying and teen suicide.
I, for one, worry about the mob mentality unleashed by publicity about Rehtaeh Parsons’ suicide. Too many people have been too quick to leap to conclusions based on too little real evidence. Too many people have been too willing to assume they know all they need to know to become judge, jury and executioner — of the justice system, of the school system, of the boys allegedly responsible.
And yet, I also have to acknowledge that same social media mobilization not only forced the reopening of the criminal investigation of Rehtaeh’s alleged sexual assault but has also sparked a broader review of how the system worked, or didn’t, and has even led to proposals for new laws, including how to deal with distributing intimate photos without permission.
Ask Adam Barnes. The 19-year-old Cole Harbour youth was among those “outed” as one of Rehtaeh Parsons attackers. Vigilantes distributed his photo online. Though he says he wasn’t even at the party where the assault allegedly occurred, Barnes now fears for his life. “I always have to worry about who recognizes me,” he told CBC News last week. “I always have to look out behind my back.”
In our rush to end online bullying and win justice for Rehtaeh, will we become the new bullies?
It is complicated.
Did Darrell Dexter balance the budget?
Is the pope Argentinian?
Depends on which pope you mean.
And what you mean by balance.
Not to forget "the..."
The perhaps more relevant pre-election questions out of last week’s legislature exercise:
- Would the other parties have done anything different in either the budget’s broad strokes or in its jiggery-pokery, see-we-kept-our-promise presentation?
- And, setting aside for the moment everyone’s OCD-like obsession with balanced budgets, is there anything good, and/or different to be said about this NDP budget?
The answer to the first question is easy. No.
One of the lessons learned from electing our first “democratic socialist” government four years ago is how little party labels matter.
This NDP has continued the dream-big-or-go-home Tory-Gliberal tradition dating back to at least Robert Stanfield, doling out wing-and-a-prayer pots of taxpayer dollars to multinational corporations—can you say Dae Woo?—for jobs that never seem to materialize.
And, like governments of all stripes everywhere, the NDP claims to worry about deficit and debt while implicitly subscribing to reality-discredited tax-cutting-to-prosperity theories. It continues to cut corporate taxes that help fund programs it then has to cut in order to pretend to bring down the deficit.
Throw in the uncontrollable constraints of a high Canadian dollar, an aging provincial population, declining federal transfers, corporate non-re-investment and the torrent-down joblessness of the global non-recovery… and you end up with an NDP budget that, in its broad outlines, probably resembles what Stephen McNeil or Jamie Baillie would have presented.
And McNeil and Baillie would almost certainly have engaged in the same reality-adjusting, future-finessing, Pollyanna presentation as the NDP to peddle it.
Which brings us to the tinkers. Is there anything good, and/or different to be said about this NDP budget?
Even in the current slice-and-dice-to-balance atmosphere, the NDP did play at its progressive edges.
There were minor increases for those on income assistance, more funds for low-income housing, an upped age limit for free kids’ dental care, modest tax breaks for low-income seniors and laudable, targeted new spending from insulin pumps and newborn screening to head-start education programs for poor children.
It’s not much—maybe $12 million in a $9.5 billion budget—but, from a progressive point of view, it’s probably more than we could have hoped for from the Liberals or Tories.
As we head into an election, is it enough?
If his latest poor-me pronouncements weren’t so outrageously obnoxious—not to mention flagrantly false—we would be wise to treat disgraced, and disgraceful former MLA Russell MacKinnon with the mocking contempt he’s richly earned.
The Finance Department made me do it… The Finance Department made me do it…
MacKinnon, one of four MLAs whose entitled-to-their-entitlements expense claims were so egregious they warranted actual criminal charges, arrived for his trial two week s ago, loudly proclaiming his innocence. Three days later, he copped a mid-trial plea like a common thief when it became clear he couldn’t sell his convoluted contortionist’s explanations for his bad behavior.
He pled guilty to one count of breach of trust and got a sweetheart deal. Four months’ house arrest, with numerous get-out-of-the-house free cards, four months’ curfew, a year’s probation.
Unfortunately for MacKinnon’s reputation—and our blood pressure—his sentence didn’t come with a muzzle.
MacKinnon has spent the past week playing the aggrieved. “I didn’t defraud the government of five cents, not a penny… I got the bejesus kicked out of me for the last three years over this, and I didn’t do anything wrong… I pleaded guilty to breach of trust because I believe MLAs are held to a higher standard, and I have to take responsibility even though the fault lies with the Department of Finance…”
Oh, let’s not bother responding to his truth twisting.
No wonder people are upset. No wonder the call by the we-hate-any-government-anywhere-anytime-anyway Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation to eliminate pension benefits for former MLAs convicted of crimes has traction.
But we need to pause, take a breath.
The real problem here isn’t with MLAs convicted of breaching their public trust continuing to draw pensions to which they contributed, and to which they—and, more importantly, their families—are legally entitled.
It’s with the MLA pensions themselves. By most anyone’s standards, they’re incredibly rich and wrongly funded out of regular operating revenues rather than investments.
By all means, let’s reform the MLA pension system.
But let’s not set a bad precedent by taking away someone’s legally earned pension benefits. There’s no telling where that could lead.
Let’s just accept that Russell MacKinnon’s behavior is beneath and beyond contempt—and move on to more important matters.
Like MLA pension reform.
What was he thinking? That he could baffle, buffalo, bamboozle past way too many inconvenient contradictions from too many witnesses with too little to gain to lie about what he’d done? That the law wouldn’t apply to him because he’d been an MLA and Liberal cabinet minister?
On Friday—after four days of a scheduled five-day trial and in the middle of his own credulity-stretching testimony—Russell MacKinnon caved, signed a hastily cobbled together one-page written statement of agreed facts and copped to a plea of a breach of the public trust.
By the end of the day and after an apology that wasn’t—“I would like to apologize for allowing the matter to come this far”—MacKinnon managed to walk away from it all with no jail time. Just a ruler-to-the-knuckles eight-month conditional sentence.
In 2006, MLA MacKinnon submitted $3,400 in receipts for work done by constituency secretary Nicole Campbell. The problems: Campbell never did the work and never received the money. MacKinnon did.
He also submitted $7,500 in receipts for work done by George MacKeigan, his executive assistant. Again, MacKeigan never saw the cash; MacKinnon kept it.
Four years later—after an auditor general’s report triggered an investigation that led Canada Revenue Agency to issue T4A slips to MacKinnon’s former aides for the payments they’d never been paid—the whole sordid mess unraveled.
At that point, MacKinnon doubled down on his deceit, showing up on the doorsteps of his former aides with cash peace offerings to make his wrongs right.
Even after that didn’t wash, MacKinnon still had the audacity to take up valuable court time with his far-fetched versions and that-never-happened stories.
Until late Thursday when his wife, NDP MLA Michele Raymond, and his lawyer, Joel Pink, decided Judge Felix Cacchione wasn’t buying the soap MacKinnon was selling.
“You watch your client, you watch the body language of the judge and you try to make a determination as to how the judge is reacting to the evidence,” Pink explained later.
Russell MacKinnon should have gone to jail.
Not so much for what he did. But for what he didn’t do. Apologize. And take real responsibility for his actions.
He didn't. Pity.
Do you remember back in the dying days of the Rodney MacDonald regime when then-NDP finance critic Graham Steele threatened the then-deputy finance minister with contempt of a legislative committee for refusing to be forthcoming about the province’s finances? Remember when the deputy finance minister shot back that Steele’s criticism was all “political foolishness?”
Do you remember how quickly all was forgiven and forgotten just three months later when the NDP formed the government, Steele became finance minister, the deputy minister remained deputy minister and the new government casually assumed the former government’s penchant for secrecy?
Flash forward to the fall of 2013. Presume we’ve had our provincial election. Presume the polls hold. Presume now-Opposition leader Stephen McNeil is premier.
You remember Stephen McNeil?
Last week, McNeil was in high holy dudgeon after Irving shipbuilding CEO Jim Irving centred McNeil in his cross-hairs. Irving had taken offence at what he considered McNeil’s “cheap political shots” at Darrell Dexter’s NDP for having had the “guts” to loan his shipyard $304 million to cement the $35-billion federal shipbuilding contract.
The Dexter government’s loan, McNeil returned fire, may have “bought him the support of a billionaire CEO,” but the people’s tribune—which is to say McNeil—would continue to “demand accountability when our precious tax dollars are put on the line.”
Should McNeil do the thinkable and win the next election, expect he and Jim Irving to make similar kissy face, and for the Liberals—like the NDP—to cosy up to the usual assortment of billionaires and Michelin Tire executives.
Not to mention finding unexpected virtue in the too-far-gone-to-stop Maritime link to bring Newfoundland power to Nova Scotia. The Liberals, McNeil will parse, never actually said they opposed the deal, just the Dexter government’s failure to consider alternatives…
And so it will go.
This seeming hypocrisy is partly an inevitable result of our political system. Opposition parties oppose. Governments make deals. Partly, too, the reality that the real range of options for any government of any stripe is severely limited. And partly, of course, because we seem to prefer to elect politicians who lie to us to get elected just so we can complain later that they lied to us.
Such, it seems, is politics.keep looking »