Thursday, April 22, 2010

Even the worst among us deserve to have their rights protected

Some weeks ago, I wrote about Conservative MP Helena Guergis’s meltdown at Charlottetown, P.E.I. airport, an incident in which the junior federal minister is reported to have acted like a petulant child. At that time, I suggested the minister do the right thing and resign from cabinet.

I haven’t said much since, as I decided there was enough piling-on and character assassination in the media without my two cents worth. After watching what looked to me like an old fashioned witch-hunt on Parliament Hill yesterday, however, I’ve been prompted to express my disgust at the way the Liberals and New Democrats are handling this matter.

Whatever ex-MP Rahim Jaffer—Helena Guergis’s husband—might have done, I don’t see what a parliamentary review by the House of Commons government operations and estimates committee can accomplish at this stage. Surely, if there is creditable evidence that Mr. Jaffer has committed a crime, he should be investigated by the police, who are qualified to deal with such matters.

Once, if ever, he has been found guilty, a parliamentary committee might want to review the matter to determine whether there needs to be rule changes to help prevent a reoccurrence. But what can really be gained at this stage, except a point or two in the opinion polls?

What we witnessed yesterday was shabby and sordid politics. One cornerstone of our judicial system was left in tatters, at least, insofar as Rahim Jaffer was concerned—that of presumption of innocence. 

Winnipeg Centre New Democrat MP Pat Martin’s roll in the proceedings was especially deplorable. At one point, he even tried to work into the proceedings the fact that police allegedly found a quantity of cocaine in Mr. Jaffer’s procession some months ago, after which he had been charged with drunk driving and cocaine possession. Mr. Jaffer pleaded guilty to careless driving, however, the other charges were withdrawn.

In other words, our legal/judicial system had already dealt with the matter, and Pat Martin was raising the issue maliciously. It took the intervention of Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi, chair of the committee, to get him to back off.

Watching my television, self-claimed moral superiority and self-righteousness were palpable in the committee room even as the pack shredded Mr. Jaffer’s right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty in a court of law.

Do our parliamentarians believe that only the rights of those in whose political party they belong should be protected? Shame on them!

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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  1. I am outraged and disgusted by the way that Jaffer and Guergis have been treated. The Committee interrogation is the last straw. In my view it is a blatant violation of Jaffer's rights and hope he sues. MP's across the board are behaving like ignorant bullies. Shame on them all.

  2. This committee is dysfunctional and has been hijacked by the opposition for political purposes. It did not work last time and will not work this time, but they are not working.