Because of a newspaper article today, my attention was drawn to a feature of the federal government’s proposed Federal Accountability Act I hadn’t really noticed before. Part 3 of Bill C-2 would establish a Director of Public Prosecutions, who, the government feels, would be and be seen to be independent of political pressure in the matter of prosecution of offences. If the Attorney General wished to direct a particular prosecution, he or she would have to issue an order to the DPP in writing and publish it in the Canada Gazette.
The piece in the press today that caught my eye was in the Ottawa Citizen. Former Chief Justice Lamer said yesterday:
that in his 53-year legal career, he can only recall two cases in which there could have been a perception of politicians interfering with criminal proceedings. ”I think as a general proposition, the federal Crown has a healthy culture,” said Lamer, now a lawyer at an Ottawa law firm. ”I have not recently seen the need for a DPP.”
Lamer also said that he wasn’t opposed to the idea, merely that he didn’t see a need for it.
While I can easily understand the value of transparency as a means of keeping things on the straight and narrow, I can also see that the “straight and narrow” isn’t a clear route in some cases, or always a desirable one in a larger context. It has to do with the fact of politics and what that word has come to signify, at least in part. Much as we might like to imagine it, there is no break between “politics” and “justice” — or even “law” for that matter. Difficult choices are political choices, whether the DPP makes them or the Attorney General does, and I’m not so sure that adding a level of bureaucracy will change things much.