Monday, October 26, 2009

The federal government's bullying on the Afghan probe continues

The latest incredible effort at squeezing a witness: "Feds refuse legal funding to whistleblower diplomat." Richard Colvin, presently the deputy head of intelligence at the Canadian embassy in Washington, has retained independent counsel to assist him with his effort to testify at the Military Police Complaints Commission. He's entitled to do so and have that paid for by the government, according to government policy:
Colvin opted last summer to retain his own lawyer rather than rely on the Justice Department's stable of attorneys and, under federal guidelines, Ottawa is obliged to cover the cost.
The reason for such a policy is common sense. The interests of the employee could clearly diverge from the government's. And indeed they do here. The government has not been hesitant in its attempts to shut down the Commission's operation. From challenging its legal jurisdiction to allegations of intimidating witnesses, it's objective has been clear.

Colvin, on the other hand, wishes to cooperate with the Commission (he was in fact subpoenaed), has filed an affidavit in front of the Commission as to his knowledge about torture allegations involving detainees in Afghanistan. His affidavit also confirms his reporting of information back to senior Foreign Affairs, Defence and military officials in Ottawa.

So it's not surprising to learn that despite the above policy that requires Colvin's legal costs to be covered, the Foreign Affairs department is nevertheless refusing to pay unless Colvin's lawyer breaks her solicitor/client privilege with Colvin: won't pay the first set of bills until his lawyer discloses to the Justice Department who she has been talking with in relation to the case - something that could be a breach of ethical rules.
When the federal government is seeking to breach its own employees' solicitor/client privileged communications, something is seriously wrong here. Such tactics signify a government unchecked, willing to pressure and intimidate to an unacceptable point. What a chilling message to be sending to government employees and whistleblowers.

How far these Harper Conservatives have come from their lofty and now very distant rhetoric on whistleblowers and standing up for Canada. They're acting like this is a banana republic.