Thursday, August 2, 2012

Jason Kenney faces legal uprising over Conrad Black visa

More than 80 lawyers have signed an open letter to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney challenging his insistence he played no role in granting Conrad Black a permit to live in this country even before the U.K. citizen had finished his jail time in Florida.

The lawyers, all immigration specialists, say they believe Mr. Kenney must have had some part in the controversial decision to grant a temporary resident permit to Mr. Black, who renounced his Canadian citizenship in pursuit of a British peerage and had served time in a Florida jail for fraud and obstruction of justice.

They are also daring the Harper government minister to haul them before the Law Society of Upper Canada for saying so.

The lawyers banded together in defence of Toronto colleague Guidy Mamann, whom Mr. Kenney’s office tried to have censured after he told journalists that he found it improbable that such a major decision was made without the minister’s input.

An aide to the Immigration Minister pursued a formal complaint against Mr. Mamann with the Law Society of Upper Canada this spring – which it dismissed in July. The body regulates the conduct of lawyers in Ontario.

Globe Story Here

I may be on the wrong side of this one.

I think it perfectly plausible that Minister Jason Kenney played no role in granting Conrad Black a permit to live in Canada (of course Khadr does show that Ministers do, from time to time, get involved in high profile residency cases) .  What's more, I think Conrad Black should be allowed to reside here.

But that's not really the point.

Kenney's aide (certainly acting with the approval of Kenney) filed the complaint for the obvious purpose of shutting up an opponent of the government.  It's not the Pussy Riot case (story) but it's the same idea. If Kenney really felt he had been subject to "baseless accusations of misconduct and reckless character smears, by someone holding himself out to be an expert" he had the option to sue for defamation.  That's been done before (hello Hill v Scientology) but it does run a risk -- maybe the allegations are shown to be true?

Using a criminal or quasi-criminal process to obtain a civil advantage is wrong.  To use such process to gain a political advantage is not only wrong, it's contrary to Canadian tradition and is unCanadian.

We all dislike people who spout off stuff we find repulsive politically but if you want to be in politics you need to have a thick skin -- the right response is to reply, in the political forum, and to suck it up.  Suing for defamation is an option (one I see as bush-league but whatever) but beyond that there is nothing appropriate to do.

In any event does a wild and baseless allegation of wrongdoing breach the lawyers' professional obligation? Likely yes -- Professional Conduct Rule 4.06(1) and especially the commentary, makes clear that any criticisms of the legal system or people involved therein should be bona fide and reasoned.  To be bona fide means there must be a genuine belief based on something in the truth of the allegation.  So, if I believe, with some reason, that the Mayor of Keewatin is taking bribes I may allege that (and run the risk of being sued etc etc) without breaching my duties as a lawyer.  But if I, as a political opponent of Stephen Harper allege, without basis, that he evades paying taxes, then I do breach my obligations.   My own sense is that Prime Minister Harper is smart enough to realize that pursuing some crackpot lawyer who makes obviously bogus allegations is a mug's game -- but, in truth, I don't expect to ever find that out for certain!


Anonymous said...

80 wealthy lawyers sign a petition. Big deal.

How many of them have donated to the Liberal Party of Canada?

Anonymous said...

It's amazing designed for me to have a site, which is beneficial for my knowledge. thanks admin

Also visit my web site ... online graduate certificates