Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Return of The Man from Niagara Falls

Ottawa, Night.

I had been retained as a constitutional lawyer by Hockey Night In Canada. The Man In Stripes said they couldn’t pay me money, but offered two vouchers for Leafs’ playoff games, including the Stanley Cup final if the team got that far. Something bothered me about the deal, but I didn’t have time for due diligence.

My job was to figure out who investigated cabinet officers, and particularly Attorneys-General, for alleged crimes, in this case, obstruction of justice. There wasn’t much in the way of precedent, fortunately, but Rule 4 of the Law Society of Upper Canada was quite explicit:

Rule 4

"The lawyer has a duty to the client to raise fearlessly every issue, advance every argument, and ask every question, however distasteful, which the lawyer thinks will help the client's case and to endeavour to obtain for the client the benefit of every remedy and defence authorized by law. The lawyer must discharge this duty by fair and honourable means, without illegality and in a manner that is consistent with the lawyer's duty to treat the tribunal with candour, fairness, courtesy and respect and in a way that promotes the parties' right to a fair hearing where justice can be done. Maintaining dignity, decorum, and courtesy in the courtroom is not an empty formality because, unless order is maintained, rights cannot be protected."

Parliament itself was explicit:

Parliamentary Privilege

"Members of Parliament are not above the law. The right to freedom from interference in the discharge of parliamentary duties does not apply to actions taken by Members outside parliamentary proceedings which could lead to criminal charges. No Member may claim immunity from arrest or imprisonment on such charges."

Nevertheless, I couldn’t see the next step. I was going nowhere and needed help, but I couldn’t discuss this openly without breaching solicitor-client privilege.

I had a source so highly placed and so sensitive that I couldn’t contact him directly. He was familiar with the workings of the Law Society of Upper Canada and major figures in the Canadian underworld. I referred to him only as Deep Frog. If I wanted a meeting with him, I’d move my dead Christmas tree from one side of my balcony to the other. Next day, I’d find a clock with the time of the meeting penciled on the front page of my Globe and Mail. I never knew how he got to my Globe and Mail. If he couldn’t meet me, I’d find a copy of the National Post with no clock on it. I never knew how he didn’t get to my National Post either: I didn’t have a subscription. If I needed an urgent meeting, I’d turn on the lights of the tree from which I had not removed the decorations.

We met in a biker bar outside Gatineau late at night. The atmosphere was so menacing that senior civil servants rarely went there.

“What’s up?” he asked.

I told him my problem.

“Follow the lawyers,” he said, cryptically.

Suddenly, the bar was filled with the howling of a dozen Harleys arriving. When I looked back at my contact, he was gone.

What could he mean? Follow what lawyers? From the Department of Justice? Rob Nicholson, himself? Niagara Falls? Suddenly, it hit me. Where did lawyers go when they were in trouble? Who, outside the government, could investigate government lawyers? I called a crash meeting with Deep Frog.

“I wondered how long it would take you,” he said with some amusement. “But be careful how you approach The Law Society. The government has friends in high places everywhere, and I mean everywhere.”

I had contacts, “paralegals”, who did work for me when I wanted an investigation with no fingerprints. These guys worked freelance after careers in the RCMP, CSIS, the military. They were tough, reliable, and knew how the world worked. I didn’t need them.

What I needed was another kind of paralegal: people I called “moose”. I called them that because they were so clumsy and obvious that no one in their right mind would think they were connected with me, or in fact anyone other than the Loony Left or the Rabid Right. I had a moose in Vancouver, and I knew I could send him on a Mission from God, even if it meant destruction, but the collision would, like the Large Hadron Collider, yield particles of interest.

To be continued....