Opinion » Editorial


It wouldn’t take much for Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Solicitor General Andy Scott to open up the RCMP Public Complaints Commission hearing into police conduct at last year’s APEC meeting so that the truth comes out, just a little honesty and integrity. But they appear to be woefully lacking in both departments. Most everyone knows the general details of what happened at UBC last November: students protesting the conference’s inclusion of despots clashed with RCMP who were charged with the responsibility to make sure the conference continued. The RCMP Public Complaints Commission was set up to hear public complaints about RCMP conduct, of which there were many at APEC. Whether the complaints are valid and action should be taken against RCMP members is what the hearing is designed to determine. But the scope of the inquiry has gone way beyond that now. The federal government has, from the outset, attempted to make sure it isn’t embarrassed by information coming out of the hearing. It started by assigning a battery of 10 lawyers to represent the RCMP, the federal government and its agencies. On the other side of the table are student protesters who feel they need legal representation to present their stories and to cross examine RCMP members. A federal court has ruled the students deserve funding from the government for their lawyers, but a Liberal-dominated parliamentary foreign affairs committee has recommended against it. Liberal MP Ted McWhinney thought the students deserved legal funding and was promptly kicked off the committee. Solicitor General Scott has been asked by the commission to reconsider funding for the students but has offered no response. Meanwhile, there is some evidence that the RCMP’s orders to crackdown on students came directly from the prime minister or his office, but Prime Minister Chretien isn’t talking and he isn’t likely to respond if he’s called to the hearing. The actual pepper spraying incident in itself and the arrest of students is no longer the issue. The issue is the Liberal government’s blatant attempt to thwart free speech and to prevent the truth from coming out at the hearing. This is a fundamental human right that our government is toying with in order to avoid embarrassment. The guts of the issue is the muzzling of free speech. That in itself should be disturbing to all Canadians. That there is some evidence to suggest the prime minister, or his office, ordered that muzzling should be especially disturbing to all Canadians Unlike Bill Clinton, Monika Lewinsky tryst, the act is the serious issue

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