Monday, May 31, 2010

Gun registry report's delay raises questions

There was a big report from CP yesterday on the gun registry issue that raises some pretty big questions (below): "Gun-registry report delayed until after Commons vote." Essentially, documents obtained via access to information show that a crucial and favourable report on the gun registry's effectiveness was withheld from Parliament before the second reading vote on the gun registry's repeal on November 4th. As we know, that vote passed.

Peter Van Loan, Public Safety Minister at the time, was given the report on September 17th which means it would have had to be tabled in Parliament well before the November 4th vote. But it wasn't. Here are the key facts from the CP report:
The minister's office has claimed Van Loan received the document, the 2008 annual report of the commissioner of firearms, on Oct. 9. The Firearms Act requires the minister to table the report in Parliament within 15 sitting days, which would have made Nov. 6 the legal deadline.

But a series of internal documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act contradicts that.

The documents include a Sept. 16 letter from William Elliott, the Tories' hand-picked head of the RCMP, addressed directly to Van Loan. Elliott also serves as Canada's commissioner of firearms.

The letter says the 2008 annual report is enclosed and advises the minister of the 15-day rule for tabling.

Van Loan also received an Oct. 8 memo from his deputy minister, Suzanne Hurtubise, confirming that the RCMP had submitted the report to the minister on Sept. 17 -- starting the clock ticking for parliamentary tabling.

"It is recommended that you table the 2008 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Firearms on or before the statutory deadline of Oct. 22, 2009," Hurtubise advised. (emphasis added)
What does all this mean?

The second reading vote which passed C-391 is now confirmed to have been a contaminated vote. Parliament did not have information before it that was entirely relevant to the vote and which Parliament was legally entitled to have. That report may have affected the outcome of that vote. It's like evidence at a trial being withheld by a prosecutor in order to affect the verdict. These are grounds to reconsider the vote on C-391 at third reading. As is the most recent information that they are yet again withholding a key RCMP report. Enough.

Peter Van Loan has some explaining to do, to put it charitably.

So do the RCMP, who have now provided two different submission dates for the report. What is going on here? See RCMP Commissioner William Elliott's letter of September 16th to Van Loan enclosing the report, referenced above. But, as Aaron Wherry pointed out last night, that mid-September date (with the official September 17th submission date confirmed by Van Loan's Deputy Minister) was mysteriously contradicted by an RCMP officer around the time of the report's eventual tabling:
Responding by email to questions from the Star, RCMP Sgt. Greg Cox said late Friday the force submitted its 2008 firearms report on Oct. 9, four weeks ago.
Why would Sgt. Cox say the report was submitted on October 9th when his boss, the Commissioner, submitted it in mid-September and the documents show that? Did someone tell him to use the October 9th date in response to the media? October 9th being the date which would make the Conservatives' eventual tabling of the report statutorily safe?

We are a nation of laws...not men and women. Right?