Thanks for the apology, but it’s not enough

The federal justice department’s 19-page internal review into its role in the the Fenwick MacIntosh extradition process — Aug. 15, 1997 (“Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service contacts the International Assistance Group to discuss potential extradition request”) to July 14, 2006 (“Canada formally requests extradition”) — has no named author.

The review itself — which followed the Supreme Court’s recent ruling tossing 17 child sex abuse convictions against MacIntosh, largely because of delays in bringing the case to court — also does not name anyone involved in what Justice Minister Peter MacKay Friday acknowledged was a “depressing display of bureaucratic bungling.”

Instead, they are simply referred to as “justice officials…” “prosecutors…” “the RCMP liaison officer in India…” “the new counsel…”

Similarly, the details of why what happened happened are obscured under suffocating layers of report-speak. There was “serious human error” and an “absence of institutional systems.”

While lamentably lacking in substance, the review’s saving grace was that it acknowledged the department’s failures. “The victims and all Canadians had a right to expect better from federal public officials.”

Justice Minister Peter MacKay — who was not justice minister when any of this happened — was equally forthright. “I want to apologize and express my sincere regrets for the mistakes made by federal employees who played a role in this tragic case and the institutional failures that contributed to this travesty of justice.”


Nothing more to see here, folks. End of story. No need for a public inquiry. Move along.


Why should we trust those who made such a hash of all of this then to tell us it’s all fixed now?

Who were those nameless-but-apparently-not-blameless federal employees and what, if anything, has happened to their careers as a result? More importantly, why did they screw up? Were they overworked? Under-trained? Lazy?

We need a public inquiry that will hear from those bureaucrats — and their bosses — under oath. About what they didn’t do. And why what happened can’t happen again.

We also need to hear from MacIntosh himself — again under oath. Did he, as some media outlets claim, return to Canada from India on several occasions while the Canadian government was supposedly trying to extradite him. If so, how did that happen? (The internal review, being an internal review, finds no documents to support the media suggestion and so investigates no further.)

So thank you, nameless reviewer, for acknowledging fault, and thank you, Peter MacKay, for apologizing for something no one can blame on you.

But it isn’t enough.

As one of the complainants said after the review’s release: “An apology from the federal government is fine and this review is fine, but at the end of the day nothing has changed and MacIntosh is still a free man.”

Surely, we can do better than that.

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