Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Harper Doesn't Let Law Get in the Way

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Harper Doesn't Let Law Get in the Way

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Harper doesn't let law get in the way

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published May 19:

It's unconstitutional in Canada to charge someone with a crime if the offence was not illegal at the time it was committed, technically called an ex post facto law. Unfortunately, the framers of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms never anticipated the Harper government, which has found a loophole on that principle.

Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, actions that were illegal can now be made legal when the law is politically inconvenient.

That's precisely what Mr. Harper has done in a form of amnesty legislation that will exonerate the RCMP for knowingly breaking Canada's access-to-information law, which carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

But RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson won't need a lawyer, because the government intends to pass legislation exonerating the force of wrongdoing, ex post facto.

Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault says the police force broke the law when it destroyed all records associated with the federal long-gun registry after a request had been made for the data under federal access legislation.

The law eliminating the registry had received royal assent in April 2012, when Ms. Legault wrote to the government reminding it records cannot be destroyed if they were subject to an access-to-information request before the law was changed.

Vic Toews, public safety minister at the time, assured Ms. Legault the RCMP "will abide" by the access-to-information legislation.

The RCMP subsequently destroyed the records, although it later provided partial information to the applicant.

Ms. Legault then informed the government the RCMP should be charged under the legislation.

The Harper government has instead written legislation that will exempt the RCMP from charges or "other proceedings" under the Access to Information Act. …

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