Entire Douglas inquiry committee quits

The entire Canadian Judicial Council inquiry committee looking into the conduct of Manitoba Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas resigned today after saying it’s no longer “in a position to complete this inquiry.”

The committee cites a number of factors that led to the wholesale resignation including the fact  ongoing delays and associated costs over debates about the process itself were not in the public interest.

“In the normal course, by now the committee would have concluded its hearings, prepared its report, and forwarded it to the Canadian Judicial Council for consideration. As matters have transpired, more than two years have now gone by and the hearings have not been completed,” the committee said in its reasons last week.

Currently, the Federal Court is scheduled to hear a challenge from Douglas later this month about a number of issues relating to the process of the inquiry. Some questions remain about whether these proceedings will go ahead as planned.

The committee noted costs in this Federal Court case have been exacerbated by interlocutory court proceedings and they “will continue to rise and will no doubt be significant.” It had tried to resume hearings but Douglas was granted a stay until the final determination of her judicial review application.

As well, it noted that in the Federal Court proceedings, there are huge conflicts for the federal attorney general meaning “there is no voice in defence of the process and an inquiry committee’s role in it. Thus, this fundamental part of the process is silenced and paralyzed.”

In the face of so many challenges, the committee felt it had only one way forward.

“In light of recent events, it has become apparent that this committee as presently constituted will not be in a position to complete its inquiry and submit its report to the council for a very extended period of time. Even further delays and costs are unavoidable. In these circumstances, the committee has determined that it must consider whether the public interest would be better served by resigning to permit a new inquiry committee to be appointed.”

In a 10-page explanation signed by Alberta Chief Justice Catherine Fraser, Newfoundland and Labrador Chief Justice Derek Green, P.E.I. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jacqueline Matheson, Barry Adams, and Marie-Claude Landry, the committee lamented the various judicial reviews Douglas has pursued and how those proceedings have interrupted their inquiry.

“If this process is to work as Parliament intended, it is imperative that there be no ability to interrupt an inquiry with litigation in another court that spawns its own further litigation and takes the process ever further away from theobject of the inquiry,” they wrote. “This is not in the public interest.”

“In due course, another inquiry committee may be appointed in respect of Associate Chief Justice Douglas,” said the CJC in a statement.

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