Law Clerk warns that Conservative MP Del Maestro over-stepping Parliament and interfering with courts

OTTAWA – In a stunning letter to New Democrat Ethics Critic Charlie Angus, the Parliamentary Law Clerk calls Conservative Dean Del Maestro’s use of the Ethics Committee to demand unredacted documents from the CBC “unlawful” and possibly “interference” in the independence of Canadian courts.

Parliamentary Law Clerk Rob Walsh was responding to a letter from Angus that outlined New Democrats' legal concerns about Del Maestro’s use of the Conservative majority on the Ethics Committee to force CBC to produce unredacted documents. Angus said the letter fires a serious shot across the bow of the Harper government.

“We have seen a full out attack by the Harper government on the ability of committees to carry out their work. Conservatives have gone way over the line this time," said Angus. "The Parliamentary Law Clerk has sent a clear message that Del Maestro’s antics are undermining the constitutional division of power between Parliament and our Courts.”

In his letter, Walsh points out that Del Maestro’s demands for documents is “comparable to a demand for a taxpayer’s income tax returns,” and is well beyond “the constitutional function of the House.” Walsh goes on to warn that the Conservative motion could be found to be “invalid and unenforceable by law.”

Angus says Del Maestro’s attack on the CBC is part of a disturbing pattern.

“This isn’t a case of a rogue parliamentarian running roughshod over the independence of the courts. Mr. Del Maestro is the hand-picked secretary to the Prime Minister," said Angus. "It’s time the Prime Minister reigns in Del Maestro -- or they risk turning Parliamentary Committees into kangaroo courts.”

Walsh’s letter represents the third time in little over a month that Del Maestro has run into trouble for his interference in the courts. Last month, he was repudiated for trying to demand a Judge come before the committee. And last week, the Bar Association challenged him for interfering in the Access to Information case underway with the CBC.



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