Friday, June 6, 2008

Stop The Press: Part Two; Access to Information Request:

This Blog's access to information request appears to confirm that $7,888.00 was paid out of taxpayer's funds to reimburse Dr. Charles Smith for legal expenses he incurred in suing the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for libel.

I will repeat that: $7,888.20 - almost $8,000.00 out of the taxpayer's pocket to help Dr. Smith sue the CBC - in connection with the CBC Fifth Estate documentary which, we now know, as a result of the evidence called at the Goudge Inquiry, told the truth about Dr. Charles Smith and the Chief Coroner's Office.

In previous posts I have discussed this issue in the context of freedom of expression - and government funds being used to chill the press from performing its watchdog function.

That's a no-brainer.

But I am also troubled by the fact that the government should go to bat to protect Dr. Smith's reputation with taxpayer's dollars - when many of the innocent parents and caregivers affected by Dr. Smith - and their families - had to scrape together funds in order to retain lawyers who were willing to take on the government and its
supreme witness, Dr. Charles Smith.

Some had to borrow heavily.

Others had to use up their hard-earned retirement savings.

All this while trying to cope with the horror of being accused of killing a child - and, in some cases, fighting to fend off the seizure of other children by the Children's Aid Societies.

The thought that Dr. Smith's victims were unknowingly helping pay his legal fees out of the taxes they paid to protect his reputation is also disturbing.

I wonder how they feel.

We learned from the Inquiry that attempts to complain about Dr. Smith to the Chief Coroner's Office came to naught - because there was no political will to receive and consider them - and determine if they were justified.

(That allowed Dr. Smith to continue reaping the damage with impunity);

Since there was no channel within the Chief Coroner's to have complaints seriously probed and acted on, Dr. Smith's victims had only one other recourse - the media - and at the same time the government was helping thwart media scrutiny by supporting Dr. Smith's private lawsuit against the CBC.

I am also troubled by the secrecy with which this appears to have been done.

If it weren't for the Goudge inquiry we might never have discovered that public funds had been used to fund this private law suit.

What now?

Justice Stephen Goudge is set to issue his report on Sept. 30, 2008: Perhaps he could recommend that Dr. Smith return the $8,000 to government coffers.

I would love to see the Canadian Civil Liberties Asociation take on this issue: It goes to the heart of our democracy;

I would also like to see the CBC wake up to this issue that hit them so close to home, follow up with its own stories, and join me on my appeal of the government's refusal to provide several documents relating to this matter on the basis that they are protected ny the "solicitor client privilege."