Pacific Islands States Commit to Advancing International Criminal Justice

 

Laying the groundwork to make ecocide a crime against humanity under the authority of the International Criminal Court

Group Photo

On 31 May 2019, more than 40 members of parliament, government representatives, and senior diplomats convened at a strategic high-level event in Port Vila, Vanuatu, to promote the advancement of international criminal justice in the Pacific Islands region. The Roundtable was hosted by the Government of Vanuatu and organised by Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), a worldwide network of legislators committed to promoting justice and the rule of law, with the invaluable cooperation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Republic of Korea, and the European Union.

The Pacific Islands Roundtable on the ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court brought together representatives of the executive and legislative branches of the governments of Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu; senior ICC officials; representatives of the diplomatic community; academic experts and members of civil society, united in their objective to promote international justice, including through the universality of the Rome Statute system.

Universality of the ICC: Moving Closer

“Now, more than ever, it is the time for our great region to join this universal system of international justice and take a decisive stand in the world fora. We are very hopeful that the example of my country will inspire all the remaining States that have still not taken this step.” — Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade of Vanuatu

The universality of the Rome Statute and effectiveness of the ICC system are essential prerequisites for accountability and lasting global deterrence for the most serious crimes of international concern; namely, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression, which shall not be left unpunished. Of the 16 independent and self-governing States that comprise the Pacific Islands Forum, only eight are States parties to the Rome Statute and only three have effectively implemented the provisions of the Statute of the ICC on complementarity and cooperation with the Court. MORE

RCMP invasion of Wet’suwet’en Nation territory breaches Canada’s ‘rule of law’

“Canada is not a country that follows the rule of law. Canada makes and breaks laws to suit its own economic and political interests, which run counter to those of Indigenous peoples. It is time to be honest about it, and call out Canada as an outlaw, and take action to support the Wet’suwet’en Nation, who have occupied their lands since time immemorial.” – Prof Pam Palmater

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes flowery public speeches about respecting the rights of Indigenous peoples and reassures the international community that there is no relationship more important that the one with Indigenous peoples, Canada invaded sovereign Wet’suwet’en Nation territory. When questioned about this aggressive move at a Liberal fundraiser in Kamloops, British Columbia, he responded: “No, obviously, it’s not an ideal situation… But at the same time, we’re also a country of the rule of law.”

Canada’s invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory through its national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), is an example of the blatant violation of the rule of law in favour of corporate interests. Canada has consistently failed to follow the rule of law when it comes to Indigenous peoples, and the violent arrests of the Wet’suwet’en people at the Gidimt’en checkpoint, set up in support of the Unist’ot’en homestead, is a glaring example of Canada’s lawlessness.

The people of Wet’suwet’en Nation, as represented by their traditional government, have long asserted their sovereign jurisdiction over their Nation’s lands which span about 22,000 square kilometres in northwest British Columbia. These lands have never been ceded, nor have their rights to use, manage, protect or govern these lands been extinguished in any way. The Nation has never signed any treaty or constitutional agreement that has specifically surrendered their sovereignty as a Nation. While there have been many federal and provincial laws that have interfered with First Nation laws in general, there has never been an explicit extinguishment of Wet’suwet’en laws and jurisdiction over their Nation’s sovereign territory. Their land rights are not only recognized in Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982, but they are also protected in numerous international treaties and declarations, like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). In other words, there was no legal basis for Canada to invade their territory. MORE

Wilson-Raybould slams feds for ‘incremental’ progress on Indigenous rights recognition

 

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Former justice minister Jody Wilson-RaybouldOTTAWA — Former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is slamming the federal government she was once a part of for making only “incremental” progress on the Indigenous justice file and their promise to “decolonialize” Canadian laws and policies.

“My fear and disappointment is that despite sounding the alarm, providing the advice, pushing and challenging, sharing perspectives of lived Indigenous experience… the federal government has fallen back once again into a pattern of trying to ‘manage the problem’ with Indigenous peoples and make incremental shifts rather than transforming the status quo,” Wilson-Raybould said during a keynote address on Wednesday at the First Nations Provincial Justice Forum in Vancouver. They were invited by the B.C.-based First Nations Justice Council.

She appeared alongside fellow newly-Independent MP Jane Philpott to deliver a joint address called: “From denial to recognition: the challenges of Indigenous justice in Canada.”

“Since I spoke to the leadership of British Columbia this past November, there have been a few developments, things have changed a bit,” Wilson-Raybould said early in her remarks, to laughter. “Perhaps not fully unexpected but certainly an eventful time,” she continued, appearing to reference the months-long controversy surrounding her allegations that she faced a sustained effort from senior government officials to attempt to pressure her to interfere in a criminal case against the Quebec engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin.

Wilson-Raybould framed her comments as her reflections and insights from her nearly three years as Canada’s first-ever Indigenous justice minister and attorney general, presented with the aim of informing these Indigenous leaders’ ongoing efforts to change the current justice system.

She said that she had “no illusion” about the reality of the system she was taking the helm of, but said that over the course of her time in cabinet she fought to challenge the way things had been done. MORE

Andrew Coyne: The real scandal in the Lavalin affair is Trudeau’s attempts to pretend it’s not a scandal

The real scandal is the determined — and, it would appear, largely successful — campaign on the part of the prime minister and his officials to normalize their conduct


In this file photo taken on March 07, 2019 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media at the national press gallery in Ottawa, Ontario.Lars Hagberg / AFP

Where is the scandal here, ask the worldly-wise? No money changed hands, no crimes were committed, not even a whiff of sex. When it comes down to it, isn’t this all just a disagreement between a couple of cabinet ministers?

This is the scandal in the SNC-Lavalin affair. It isn’t just that the prime minister and a phalanx of other senior government officials — including his principal secretary, Gerry Butts, his chief of staff, Katie Telford, and the clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick — quietly tried to derail the prosecution of a company with a long history of corruption and an even longer history of donating to the Liberal party; that they pressured the former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to have prosecutors drop charges of fraud and corruption against the company in favour of a “remediation agreement” for which it had already been deemed ineligible; or that they did so, by the former attorney general’s account, for explicitly partisan reasons.

It isn’t that the crimes of which the company is accused — bribing officials in the bestial Gaddhafi regime in Libya, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars — makes this one of the most serious cases of alleged corporate corruption in Canadian history; or that the case is regarded as an important test of Canada’s willingness to prosecute companies alleged to have engaged in corruption overseas, as a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials, after years in which we were regarded as international scofflaws.

It isn’t that the legislation providing for remediation agreements — also known as deferred prosecution agreements, they are a kind of plea bargain wherein a company admits guilt, pays a fine and restitution, but avoids a criminal conviction — had only just been passed, tucked deep inside an omnibus bill, in response to a massive public and private lobbying campaign by SNC-Lavalin; or that, when the director of Public Prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, declined to offer the company the escape hatch it had spent so much money to obtain, it mounted yet another furious lobbying campaign to have her decision overturned.

It isn’t normal. More, it must not become normal

It isn’t that when caught Justin Trudeau and his people lied about it (“the allegations are false”); that when they were done lying about it stonewalled, deflected and obfuscated; that they repeatedly smeared, or encouraged others to smear, both the former attorney general and the former Treasury Board president, Jane Philpott, who resigned from cabinet rather than participate in this sordid campaign; that they muzzled both women by selective application of solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality, even as they ignored these constraints themselves; that they shut down two parliamentary committees rather than hear all the evidence from these and other relevant witnesses; and that after all this, when there was nothing to be achieved by it but sheer humiliation, kicked them both out of caucus.

No, the real scandal is the determined — and, it would appear, largely successful — campaign on the part of the prime minister and his officials to normalize their conduct: as if monkeying around with criminal prosecutions was all part of the usual give and take of cabinet government, or at worst a misunderstanding between people who “experienced situations differently.” MORE

 

SNC-Lavalin affair raises the issue of the role of former judges

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Trudeau speaks to reporters in Sudbury, Ont. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The SNC-Lavalin scandal has proven to be an insatiable beast with tentacles reaching deep into the political and legal worlds — perhaps even as far as the Supreme Court of Canada.

Politically, the allegations of interference with the justice system have deeply damaged the “sunny ways” Liberal brand and catapulted the Conservative Party ahead of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in pre-election opinion polls. And, as most scandals do, the SNC affair has led to a series of high-profile resignations. Former minister of justice and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould may have been the first out the door, but her departure was quickly followed by the principal secretary to the prime minister, Gerald Butts, the president of the Treasury Board, Jane Philpott, and, most recently, the clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick.

The government, in its scramble to defuse the political crises, launched a half-hearted study into the allegations before the Liberal-controlled justice committee appointed Anne McLellan to advise the PMO on the role of justice minister and attorney general in cabinet.

But none of this, rightly so given that the rule of law is at stake, has quieted the continuing questions about Trudeau’s integrity and his leadership.

And now there seems to be a rising grumbling that the legal profession should consider what activities former judges can be permitted to engage in after retirement.

After all, the short history of the SNC scandal does reveal a who’s who of the legal profession.

Former Supreme Court of Canada judge Frank Iacobucci, who is now senior counsel at the law firm Torys, was actively involved in SNC-Lavalin’s defence — even signing his name to a letter to the Public Prosecution Service advocating for a deferred persecution agreement.

Wilson-Raybould hired former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell to provide her with legal advice about the scope and application of solicitor-client privilege.

Even the PMO got into the former judge game by floating the idea of retaining former Supreme Court Chief justice Beverley McLachlin to provide a legal opinion on deferred prosecution agreements.

The re-examination of permissible post-judicial activities may all just be a convenient distraction for those who wish to turn the channel away from the actions of the prime minister and his office. But there may be some merit considering what activities judges should be permitted to engage in during their golden years.

Should judges go gently into the good night of retirement? Or should they rage, rage against the dying of the light?

Should former judges have been involved in the SNC case at all? MORE

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Relations between Trudeau, Wilson-Raybould began to fray over her Supreme Court pick: Sources

 

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Trudeau rejected Wilson-Raybould’s conservative pick for high court, CP sources say

SNC-Lavalin dispute deepens as Wilson-Raybould testimony at odds with PM’s take

Former AG supported by opposition MPs, challenged by her own colleagues

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PMO staffers Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques were “kicking the tires, I said no, my mind had been made up and they needed to stop, this was enough,” Wilson-Raybould said. 0:41

Jody Wilson-Raybould said she wanted to tell her truth on the SNC-Lavalin story. The story she told Wednesday at the Commons justice committee is so vastly different from everything the prime minister has said until now that the two versions simply can’t be reconciled.

The former attorney general spoke of veiled threats if she didn’t intervene in the criminal prosecution of the giant Montreal construction firm. She spoke of constant and sustained efforts over a four-month period last fall by some of the most powerful people in government to ensure SNC-Lavalin avoided a trial.

The pressure began right at the top, she said, starting with Justin Trudeau, his top adviser and the country’s most senior bureaucrat.

All of them have denied doing, saying or counselling her to do anything improper. MORE

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Politicians denounce Trudeau government for sexist treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould

Jody Wilson-Raybould, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, seen in the foyer of the House of Commons, in Parliament in Ottawa on June 20, 2018. File photo by Alex Tétreault

Female politicians from all parties have come to former federal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s defence after anonymous Trudeau government insiders labelled her difficult to work with and self-centred — an attack one Conservative calls a “disgusting” and sexist character assassination.

Wilson-Raybould — Canada’s first Indigenous attorney general — is at the centre of a political scandal sparked by a Globe and Mail report that someone in the Prime Minister’s Office pressed her to stop the prosecution of Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin on fraud and corruption charges.

report by The Canadian Press exploring the relationship between Wilson-Raybould and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office quoted a handful of anonymous government sources saying for example, that she “had become a thorn in the side of the cabinet,” and was “difficult to get along with, known to berate fellow cabinet ministers openly at the table, and who others felt they had trouble trusting.”

The report said these were cited as among the reasons Wilson-Raybould was demoted to the veterans affairs portfolio in a recent cabinet shuffle. They noted too that she had four chiefs of staff in three-and-a-half years and “only showed up to meetings when she felt like it,” according to the report by The Canadian Press . MORE