Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Court gives 'break' to former Tory MP

Cocaine, drunk-driving charges withdrawn

  • Print
ORANGEVILLE, Ont. -- A former Conservative MP once known for his tough stance on drugs received a "break" when cocaine possession and drunk-driving charges were withdrawn in a plea bargain, an Ontario judge said Tuesday.

The deal, in which Rahim Jaffer pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of careless driving, sparked an angry exchange in the House of Commons after the opposition Liberals accused the government of hypocrisy.

In convicting Jaffer and fining him $500, the Ontario court judge said he would not interfere with the joint submission by Crown and defence.

"I'm sure you can recognize a break when you see one," Justice Doug Maund told Jaffer.

Prosecutor Marie Balogh told the court there was no reasonable prospect of conviction on the more serious charges, saying there would be "significant legal issues" with proceeding on those.

"The matter was carefully reviewed," Balogh told Maund. She would not comment afterwards.

Jaffer, 38, later told reporters he was relieved the case was over.

"I know that I should have been more careful," he said. "Once again I apologize for that, and I take full responsibility for my careless driving."

Jaffer, who is married to junior federal cabinet minister Helena Guergis, was arrested last Sept. 10 after police stopped him for driving at 90 kilometres an hour in a 50 km/h zone in Palgrave, Ont., north of Toronto.

Court heard that Jaffer told police he had two beers before heading home to Angus, Ont., from Toronto. He failed a breath test and was arrested.

In the Commons, Winnipeg Liberal MP Anita Neville called on the Conservative government to condemn the plea arrangement, saying Jaffer had got off with a "slap on the wrist."

"The Conservatives are conspicuously silent only when the law's being flouted by one of their own," Neville said. "Does this government really believe that the punishment fits the crime?"

"This is about as low as you can go," retorted Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

Craig Jones, head of the John Howard society, a prisoner advocacy group, suggested the sentence was appropriate.

Society would gain little by making an example of him, Jones said.

"The guy's been publicly humiliated... If this is a first offence, it's a very costly first offence for a guy who aspires to be in public service."

As an MP, Jaffer was well known for his tough stance on drug abuse and dealing. He was the face of several Conservative public-service announcements on radio that called for a sentencing crackdown on drug dealers.

University of Alberta law professor Steven Penney said that two things could've occurred to prompt the Crown to drop the criminal charges and allow Jaffer to plead a lesser provincial offence.

He said Jaffer's rights could've been violated if police had wrongfully stopped him, asked him to take a breathalyzer, detained him or denied his right to counsel, thus making the evidence obtained not admissible in court.

Or, said Penney, the Crown may have decided that the evidence was not strong enough to proceed to trial. "We may never know what the reasons are," he said from Edmonton.

Jaffer was first elected as an Edmonton-area Conservative MP in 1997 -- becoming Canada's first Muslim MP -- but lost his riding in 2008.

Guergis, who represents Simcoe-Grey for the Conservatives, has faced problems of her own recently after a meltdown at Charlottetown airport for which she apologized.

-- The Canadian Press, with files from Canwest

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 10, 2010 A11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Étienne Gaboury: Manitoba "shining light" of architecture

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A gosling stares near water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A Great Horned Owl that was caught up in some soccer nets in Shamrock Park in Southdale on November 16th was rehabilitated and returned to the the city park behind Shamrock School and released this afternoon. Sequence of the release. December 4, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think Judy Wasylycia-Leis will greatly benefit from the endorsement by Winnipeg's firefighters?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google