Chretien wins kickbacks lawsuit

Thu Jun 26, 2008 4:52pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - A federal judge has delivered a scathing rebuke of a 2005 official inquiry that found former Prime Minister Jean Chretien was partly responsible for a kickbacks scandal that helped knock the Liberal government from power.

The inquiry's head, former Judge John Gomery, was biased and was too concerned with keeping media attention on the public hearings to deliver a fair report, Federal Court Judge Max Teitelbaum said on Thursday in a ruling on a lawsuit filed by Chretien.

"This preoccupation with the media outside the hearing room had a detrimental impact on the fairness of the proceedings," Teitelbaum wrote, blasting Gomery for comments he made in interviews and during the hearings.

"The comments made by the commissioner (Gomery), viewed cumulatively, not only indicate that he prejudged issues but also that the commissioner was not impartial toward (Chretien)," Teitelbaum said.

Gomery's report pointed to greed, incompetence, carelessness and venality in a deeply flawed government advertising program that was designed to promote Canadian unity in the French-speaking province of Quebec.

The program ran from 1996 to 2003 and saw millions of dollars improperly channeled to pro-Liberal advertising firms.

Gomery's 2005 report put some of the blame on Chretien and his chief of staff, Jean Pelletier, but also found there was no evidence that either man was directly involved in any kickbacks.

Chretien and Pelletier both rejected the findings and asked the Federal Court to overturn the portions of Gomery's report that blamed them. In a separate ruling on Thursday, Teitelbaum also upheld Pelletier's complaint.

Chretien, while accepting overall responsibility for what happened when he was prime minister, said Gomery had relied on the testimony of people who could not be trusted.   Continued...

 
<p>Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien speaks with journalists after being awarded the rank of Companion in the Order of Canada at Rideau Hall in Ottawa February 22, 2008. A federal judge has delivered a scathing rebuke of the report of a 2005 official inquiry that said Chretien was partly responsible for a kickbacks scandal that helped knock the Liberal government from power. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>