Reference Guide for Judges Heading Commissions

A number of months ago (but unremarked here on Slaw) The Canadian Judicial Council released a “Reference Guide for Judges Appointed to Commissions of Inquiry,” [PDF] those investigative, often palliative, and sometimes corrective events with which all Canadians are familiar. This acts as a resource guide to accompany the Protocol [PDF] governing appointments of judges that the Council released back in August of 2010.

Part I serves as an Introduction to orientate the reader and briefly describe the purpose of the Protocol.

Part II offers a checklist of the types of things any commissioner will likely wish to consider as critical first steps in undertaking the inquiry and ensuring its smooth and effective operation.

Part III provides a list of past commissioners and information relating to the inquiries over which they presided.

Part IV includes sample provisions from previous Orders-in-Council (OIC), which are intended to assist the commissioner in determining whether the enabling OIC contains the necessary powers and authority to complete the commission’s mandate or whether revisions will be required.

Part V provides a list of reference materials including textbooks, academic journals and case law to which the commissioner might refer, when needed.

Most interesting, perhaps, for those of us not on the bench, is the Appendix which contains a “summary of key elements” of nearly 40 past federal and provincial inquiries, the names of which read like a “Who’s Who” of Canadian disasters: Ipperwash, Walkerton, Dziekanski, Pickton, Neil Stonechild, and on and on. Surprisingly—or perhaps not—a number of the summaries of earlier inquiries consist of the repeated phrases “Unknown at present,” “Terms of reference not available,” or simply “Unknown.”

Which points up the lack in the Council guide of any hyperlinks to inquiry materials online. As far as federal inquires go, the Privy Council Office and Library and Archives Canada have done a great job of putting a very large number of these reports online, even scanning earlier ones as graphic PDFs. For a semi-relevant blast from the past, you might enjoy looking at the inquiry into Canada’s earlier spy scandal, the Gerda Munsinger affair.

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