Volume 93, Issue 81

Friday, March 3, 2000


Editorial Board 1999-2000

Time for the PM to ante up

Editorial Cartoon

Time for the PM to ante up

It first made headlines in 1997.

Student protesters were pepper sprayed, strip searched and arrested by RCMP officers during a demonstration opposing the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit at the University of British Columbia. The students claimed the crackdown came without explanation or warning and was unduly harsh. Fifty-two complaints to the APEC commission followed, promoting an inquiry into the RCMP's actions.

Our country's leader, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, has been implicated in a phone call which instructed RCMP officers to remove the protesters by force. He has denied the accusations, but apparently he hasn't been very convincing. The inquiry is still making headlines two and a half years later.

Recent developments have been morally dismal, at best. After APEC commissioner Ted Hughes decided he did not have the jurisdiction to call Chrétien to appear before the RCMP Public Complaints Commission, a disgruntled group of four protesters dropped from the public inquiry, questioning the soundness of the entire process.

Hughes did, however, invite Chrétien to testify. He also stated publicly that if the Prime Minister declined, an element of doubt would always exist about the investigation. Chrétien respectfully turned the invitation down.

If there is even an inkling that the Prime Minister of Canada is responsible for, or played even a small part in, the tumultuous events at UBC, should Chrétien not have to defend himself or give his account of the proceedings?

As Prime Minister, Chrétien has a responsibility to answer to the citizens he represents. If there was any wrongdoing on the part of the RCMP because of orders sent from the Prime Ministers Office, then the RCMP Public Complaints Commission should be able to pursue their mandate and figure out who, if anyone, is to blame.

The Canadian people should also see Chrétien's avoidance as a black mark on the entire process and view his reason – that testifying could set an unnecessary precedent – as a sorry excuse.

This story has been important enough to stay in newspaper headlines across the country for an amazing amount of time and therefore, in the eyes of many Canadians, it is deserving of our leader's time and attention.

In our neighbouring country, the judicial system leaves nobody above the law. Not even the President of the United States, who answered questions about his sexual history, was allowed to skirt a public inquiry.

Thank goodness one group of protesters still have enough faith in our country's judicial and inquiry systems to remain faithful to their personal promise of finding out who the guilty parties are.

If only our Prime Minister had a similar amount of pride in his country and sense of moral obligation.

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