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Liberal precedent for confounding dual role of Minister of Justice and Attorney General PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Written by Joan Russow
Thursday, 07 March 2019 11:12

By Joan Russow

Global Compliance Research Project

Image result for image of irwin cotler as minister of justice



Image of the Honorable Irwin Cotler as Minister of Justice and Attorney General. in 2004, I wrote to him about my being discriminated on the grounds of Political opinion under the ICCPR, 

When I was national leader of the Green Party of Canada,I found out in 1998 that I was on a RCMP Threat assessment list. In 2002  I filed a case about being on a threat Assessment list and was in Court was against Paul Partridge  the Lawyer for the Attorney General office.. The lawyer from the then Attorney General Office was obviously acting in the political role of the Minister of Justice.  I was appealing in court for the attorney General to reveal the reason for my being on the RCMP list. The Judge said that I did not have enough information; I replied that he placed me in a conundrum because the government had refused to divulge the reason for my being placed on the list. The judge struck my claim but did not dismiss my case and advised me to go through access to information and Privacy to obtain documents which I did but the responses were all didacted for international reason of security.  In 2004,I wrote the enclosed letter to Irwin Cotler as Minister of justice and Attorney General and received no assistance from him. Irwin Cotler is purported as being concerned about discrimination on the grounds of political or other opinion in other countries yet not in Canada in 2004 when he was minister of Justice in his partisan role or as Attorney General, in his non partisan role.

FAX:  TRANSMISSION Fax 1 613 9907255


the reason NAME: Hon Irwin Cotler

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada





Please give this your immediate attention.




1230 St. Patrick St.

Victoria, B.C. V8S 4Y4

1230 St Patrick

September 23, 2004


Hon Irwin Cotler

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada,

Justice Building 4th floor

 284 Wellington St.

Ottawa, On., K1A 0H8



Fax 1 613 9907255

Dear Minister Cotler,


At least since 1997, I have been on an RCMP threat assessment list. I found out about this fact inadvertently during the release of documents during the APEC inquiry. Although I have often been a strong critic of government policy and practices, I have never been arrested and I have never been a threat to any person or to any country.


I have a Masters Degree in Curriculum Development, introducing principle based -issue principle analysis- a method of teaching human rights linked to peace, environment and

social justice within a framework of international law. I have a doctorate in interdisciplinary studies. I was a former lecturer in global issues at the University of Victoria. I co-founded the Vancouver Island Human Rights Coalition in 1981, I have been on the Board of Directors of United Nations Association in Victoria and the Vancouver peace Society, and I am a member of the IUCN Commission of Education and Communication and the Canadian UNESCO Sectoral Commission on Science and Ethics. I am the author of the Charter of Obligations - 350 pages of international obligations incurred through conventions, treaties, and covenants, of international commitments made through conference action plans, and of expectations created through UN. General Assembly Declarations and Resolutions related to the public trust or common security (peace, environment social justice and human rights). I had attended international conferences as a member of an accredited NGO or as a representative of the media. From April 1997 to March 2001, I was the Federal leader of the Green Party of Canada,


However, as an activist from India once stated: nothing is more radical than asking governments to live up to their obligations. If academic/ activist condemning the failure of the government to live up to its international obligations, commitments, and expectations is a threat to the country, then I am a threat to Canada. However, under CSIS, there is no provision for designating as a threat those who engage in "legitimate dissent" which I would propose is what I have been engaged in for years.  I subsequently sought through privacy and access to information requests to determine the reasons for placing me on a list. I obtained unsatisfactory and evasive responses from the RCMP, CSIS, Privy Council, PMO, SIRC with exemptions under various section being cited such as “information cannot be released for military and international security reasons".


After being refused media access to the APEC conference, I filed a complaint with the RCMP Commission in January,1998. In my complaint I pointed out to the RCMP officers who interviewed me, that I suspected that there had been a directive from the Prime Minister’s office because his office had pulled the pass of a journalist from Reuters because she had asked a probing question at an APEC press Conference. [I had upset Prime Minister Chretien when in the 1997 election I asked him to address the issue of Canada’s failure, in many cases, to enact the necessary legislation to ensure compliance with international law]. I was, however, never allowed to appear before the Commission even though the commissioner was aware that there was a directive from the PMO to prevent me from attending the Conference. [an RCMP document in 1998 indicated that the media accreditation desk had received instruction from a Brian Groos from PMO to pull my pass after it had been issued].  I even spoke several times to the lawyers acting for the Commission and to Commission Hughes about my case. I was not even able to appear, even though I pointed out that a constable from the Vancouver police had made a statement, on the stand, that I had behaved inappropriately on a media bus going out to UBC during APEC. Her statement was reported on CPAC and thus across the country. I had never been on a media bus, and I was never out at UBC during the APEC conference.  After the APEC conference, in February 1998 I had a petition placed on the floor of the House of Commons calling for an investigation into the Canadian Government’s disregard for the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and in particular the requirement to not  discriminate on the grounds of "political or other opinion".--a ground unfortunately not enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms  or addressed  under the Canadian Human Rights Act. .


In September 1998, it was brought to my attention that I had been placed on an RCMP APEC threat assessment list of "other activists”. The placing of the leader of a registered political party on a threat assessment became a media issue and was reported widely across the country through CBC television, through CBC radio, and through the National Post and its branch papers in 1998. The Privy Council was concerned that the Opposition might raise the issue in parliament, and a response was prepared for the Solicitor General. [accessed through A of I} My being placed on a threat assessment list coincided with the announcement the leader of the German Green party, Joska Ficher’s being named foreign Minister.


In 1999, an additional article appeared across the country when I filed a complaint with SIRC, and a new response was devised by the Privy Council for the Solicitor General to diffuse any questions from the Opposition [document accessed through A of I].


In August of 2001 there was an award-winning series of article, in the National Post and its Affiliates on the Criminalization of Dissent. One of the pieces was dedicated to the placing of a leader of a political party on a threat assessment list. In the Ottawa Citizen, my picture along with Martin Luther King’s accompanied the article. In the Times Colonist in Victoria the series generated much comment. Although most of the comments were supportive, many citizens were convinced that there must have been a valid reason for placing me on a threat list. One of the reasons may have been that during the 2000 election, a campaign worker in David Anderson’s office had circulated a press release claiming that I was under investigation by Elections Canada, and two days before the election this press release was the top news item on the principal AM station in Victoria. [an affidavit by a relative of another campaign worker in David Anderson’s office, had been filed with Elections Canada; Elections’ Canada had immediately dismissed the complaint and on election Day the AM station issued a retraction but the damage was irreversible]. 


In 2002, after years of trying to find out about the reason for my being placed on a threat assessment list, I decided to launch a case of defamation of Character against various federal government departments. I filed a statement of claim against the Crown. I had been told by a representative from the Federal Court in Vancouver that if I listed "her majesty" in the Style of Cause, that all the other departments which I mentioned in the body of the claim would also be deemed to be defendants. However, only the Attorney General's office was represented.


The Attorney General's office has been remiss in not advising the Federal government that "politics" is a listed ground under the ICCPR and should have been included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When I raised the fact that "politics" is a recognized ground, internationally, the lawyer from the Attorney General's office and the Judge appeared to be reticent about giving credibility to the binding provisions of International covenants to which Canada is a signatory. When I appeared in court the judge acknowledged that I was making serious allegations, but he thought that I needed to have more particulars and proposed that I increase Access to Information requests. I have submitted numerous additional requests but always government departments use sections in their Acts that preclude the full disclosure of information. Even under the Privacy Commissioner, nothing can

be done if the agency argues that it was collecting information under a legal investigation, and that collected by a recognized body under statutory provisions. In addition, there was the constant exemption related to military and international security.


I believe that the issues I raise are ethical ones of abuse of power and discrimination on the grounds of politics - a ground that is included in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, a covenant that has been signed and ratified by Canada but not effectively incorporated into legislation even though Canada incurred an obligation to enact the necessary legislation to ensure compliance with the Covenant.


My reputation has been damaged, and I have had to continue live under the stigma of being a “threat to Canada”. 


The sequence of events and the myriad of frustrating fruitless government processes have left me disillusioned with politics and in particular with the unethical abuse of political power.




In 2002, there was an article that appeared across the country about the launching of my court case, and about my concern at being deemed a security risk.   I mentioned the stigma attached to my name, and the possibility that any international access might be curtailed, and any employment opportunities, thwarted.


In 1995, I was co-teaching a course in global issues at the University of Victoria, and I received two CIDA grants one for authoring the aforementioned Charter of Obligations for the UN Conference on Women, and the other for an exploratory project on the complexity and interdependence of issues in collaboration with academics in Brazil. On completing my doctorate in January 1996, I had no doubts about my ability to repay my student loan. I have attempted, however, to apply for numerous jobs, and have been continually disappointed.


Apart from two $500 government grants in the Spring of 1996, I have not earned any income. I incurred a student loan of $57,000 when I graduated. Twenty thousand of the amounts was granted in remission for community service by the Provincial government. I then still owed $37,000 to the Federal Government under the Ministry of Human Resources.



I have, however, continued to promote the public trust continually writing and lecturing on common security – peace, social justice, human rights, and the environment,


In 1996, for the Habitat II Conference, I prepared 176-page book in which I placed the Habitat II Agenda in the context of previous commitments made through Habitat 1, and subsequent commitments from conference action plans, obligations from conventions, treaties, covenants, and expectations created through UNGA declarations and resolutions.


When I returned from the 1996 Habitat II conference, I applied for numerous federal grants

with no success. Ironically, one of my grant applications was with the Canada Mortgage and

Housing Corp under Public Works. I applied for a research grant under one of their categories

“Sustainable Development”.


The proposed project was the following: A revising of "Sustainable Development" in the context of '"sustainable human settlement Development" from principle to policy."  This project was linked to the commitments made through the Habitat II Agenda, and brought to a local context with community groups. My grant was refused. The reason for the refusal I found out later through a privacy request was the following:


“IRD Review of Submissions - 1006 External Research Program - The six 1996 ERP submissions that were sent to International Relations Division for review have been evaluated and the results are summarized in the enclosed table.” 


"All the submissions reviewed were interesting, trade-relevant and were thought likely to

generate some added value. Nevertheless, none of these proposals were thought to be sufficiently compelling or well targeted in relation to the Division's current or likely future priorities

that we would be prepared to urge that they be supported.”


"This [MY PROJECT] is the highest scoring of the proposals reviewed by IRD, this score is largely a reflection of the thoroughness of the proposal and its supporting documentation.


This proposal, however, is marginal in terms of its capacity to support the international commercial endeavours of Canada's housing industry.


IRD cannot support this proposal as it provides is unlikely to result in any tangible benefit to Canada' housing exporters. " [Note the current relevance when there is a current Commission looking into criteria for projects within the Department of Public Works]


Prior to finding out in 1998 that I was on the threat assessment list, even though I still had not received any income, I decided that I would not declare bankruptcy and renege on my obligation to repay my student loan. Although I was not earning an income, I was continually making grant applications and contributing my time to further the public trust and the respect for international law. I was often part of government stakeholder meetings, and in 1997 I had been asked to review Canada's submission to the UN for RIO +5. I spent several months reviewing the documents and then preparing a 200-page response. Rather than receiving remuneration, I was thanked for my comprehensive submission, and denied a request on my part to participate on the Canadian delegation. I participated, without remuneration, throughout the years as a stakeholder, in conference calls, in meetings, working groups and similar undertakings. I realized one of the repercussions of raising issues during election at all candidates’ meetings. At the University all candidates meeting I raised the issue of corporate funding of university; the next day, the University of Victoria, sent a note to the office of the Green Party of Canada stating that I was no longer associated with the university. I had been a sessional lecturer and co-developed the course in global issues. [Subsequently, a global studies section was established with substantial corporate funding.]


I was constantly hounded by credit agencies and I finally decided to write to the Minister of Human Resource, Pierre Pettigrew, in 1998 asking if it was possible to forgive my loan on the basis of my contribution to years of community service [some years earlier Senator Perrault, had proposed that students should be able to repay their loan through community service] and given that I was then 60 years old and my chances for employment were diminishing. He declined. Also, even though, I was then 60, and entitled to my meager Canada pension of $78 per month on the hope I declined to accept the pension on the hope that I could find work, and thus repay my loan.


In 1998, when I found out that I was on the Threat Assessment list, and when it was well publicized across the country, I realized that my reputation had been sullied and the chances of my finding work was next to impossible


Since 1998, I have been constantly harassed by credit agencies every two weeks and sometime even more often. In 2003, I wrote another letter to the Jane Stewart, the then Minister of Human Resources, indicating that for "unforeseen and unexpected" reasons I would not be able to repay my loan citing the fact that my being placed on a threat assessment list, the wide publication of this fact, and the stigma attached to being placed on the list prevented me from fulfilling my obligations. I received a phone call from Minister Stewart’s office, and was told to deal with the Collection agencies.


With interest I now owe $\67,000.  August 2004, I received a phone call from a law firm in Victoria about the Attorney General's taking me to court about the loan, and that a notice would be served to me around mid August. I phoned Human Resources and appealed to them again and they arranged with the law firm that I could have until October 15 to prepare my case.


I have now made about 60 privacy and access to information requests - many still outstanding, and still have not found out why I have been deemed to be a threat to Canada. Yet while I have had to live with the stigma, so many of government officials and political representatives whose departments have invoked, against me, exemption clauses of " military and international security" have been discredited.


This list would include:

(I)  Robert Fowler as Deputy Minister of Defence- the originator of the infamous list of groups that the military should not belong to. This list, which was reported in Now magazine, included a category of social justice and human rights groups including mainline Christian and Jewish organizations, and another category of groups that have a greater bond among their members than to their country; this category included the Green Party and the Raging Grannies. 

(ii) Andy Scott, for prejudging the APEC inquiry;

(iii) McCauley for accepting benefits;

(iv) Radwanska for misappropriation of funds;

(v) Gagliano for his potential involvement in the Sponsorship scandal;

(vi) Jean Chretien for his potential involvement in the Sponsorship scandal;

(vii) Howard Wilson for potential bias and not "speaking truth to power".


And as reported today, September 23, 2004, the Department of Justice hired Group action even after there had been a warning about Group action’s incompetency sent from the Treasury Board.


When I appeared in the Federal Court in 2002, I was up against an adept lawyer from the Attorney Generals’ office, and I was scolded by the Federal judge for appearing before the court without sufficient particulars.  The judge placed me in a conundrum by stating that he would not grant my claim because I did not have sufficient particulars when it was the crown and numerous government departments represented by the Attorney General that had refused to disclose the particulars.  I would think that placing a plaintiff in such conundrum would violate a principle of equity under common law. Similarly, a demand by a government department to fulfill an obligation while creating a situation that makes it impossible to fulfill this obligation would perhaps violate a similar principle of equity.  I currently have thousands of pages of data related to my case and I have no idea know how to proceed.


I feel that I have been discriminated against on the grounds of “political opinion”- both small “p” and large “P” political opinion. I appeal to you to address, at the highest level, in some way, the years of injustice and discrimination that I have undergone.  I know that under the Optional Protocol of the Covenant of Civil and Political Rights- to which Canada is a signatory, that if I have exhausted all domestic remedies, I have the right to take my case before the UN Human Rights Commission charged with the implementation of the Covenant. I believe that I am close to having exhausted all domestic remedies available for justice in Canada.


As you said in your address to the Canadian Bar Association, you want to create a culture of

justice, and to further the public trust.

Yours very truly



Joan Russow (PhD)

1230 St. Patrick St.

Victoria, B.C. V8S4Y4

1 250 598-0071


Last Updated on Saturday, 09 March 2019 09:11

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