Chretien's lawyers move to oust
[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:40 p.m. January 25, 2005]
OTTAWA — Lawyers for former prime minister Jean Chretien have filed papers seeking Justice John Gomery to
recuse himself from overseeing the public inquiry into the sponsorship scandal.
Chretien's lawyer David Scott filed a 25-page submission with the Gomery inquiry on Tuesday alleging that comments the judge made to the media in pre-Christmas interviews about testimony and witnesses raised questions about his objectivity.
"They raise serious issues as to the fairness and objectivity of the process now underway," Scott said
in his filing. "It is respectfully submitted that the Honourable John Gomery ought to recuse himself as commissioner of the inquiry."
Scott said if Gomery does not recuse himself the next step for
Chretien's lawyer may be to take it to federal court.
In a series of interviews with the media before the commission broke for Christmas break, Gomery spoke frankly about a number of matters before his commission, including calling the central figure in the scandal, Chuck Guite, "a charming scamp" who "had his department mesmerized," and saying that he was " coming to the same conclusion as (Auditor General) Sheila Fraser that this was a government program which was run in a catastrophically bad way."
Gomery has already publicly defended his comments at the commission after Chretien's
lawyer and a lawyer for former PMO chief of staff Jean Pelletier raised their concerns when the inquiry started to hear from witnesses again earlier this month.
"There have been changes over the years in what is expected of a judge or of a person presiding over an inquiry of this kind," Gomery said at the time. "Fifty years ago, most judges sat stony faced throughout a hearing, never made an intervention, never asked a question, never made a comment and didn't say anything until the moment when judgment was rendered. That was regarded as proper judicial comment. That is no longer the case."
Chretien is set to appear before the inquiry in early February.
And Scott has said in the past the former PM still plans to appear before Gomery despite questions about his objectivity.
Speaking with reporters in Victoria, B.C., Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said Chretien "should be ashamed of himself" for bringing the allegation of bias against Gomery forward.
Harper said the Martin government should reject Chretien's request and take all means to fight it.
"In the past, the Liberals shut down inquiries when they got hot - both the Somalia inquiry and the APEC inquiry -- shut them down when they proved too embarrassing for the government.
"Our party expects and will settle for nothing less than the Martin government taking every available means to ensure that the Gomery inquiry continues and reaches its completion."
The federal government is among the few groups and individuals to have standing at the Gomery commission.
It is represented by lawyers from the Attorney General of Canada.
The inquiry is expected to deal with this matter next week.
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