Former federal cabinet minister Vic Toews is challenging a finding he broke federal conflict-of-interest rules before becoming a Court of Queen's Bench judge in Winnipeg.
In an application filed Wednesday with the Federal Court of Canada, Toews says he is seeking to have ethics commissioner Mary Dawson's April ruling thrown out.
Days after her ruling, the Canadian Judicial Council, a tribunal that investigates complaints against judges, announced it had opened a file on Toews and was reviewing his conduct. He continues to sit on the bench while the complaint is investigated. The complainant's identity has not been revealed.
Dawson determined in April that Toews violated the Conflict of Interest Act after he received money from two Manitoba First Nations for consulting services shortly after leaving federal office in July 2013. He became a judge in 2014.
In one case, Toews received a retainer from Norway House Cree Nation, an organization he had dealt with while in cabinet, before a required two-year cooling-off period.
In a second case, he acted on behalf of Peguis First Nation in its bid to acquire Kapyong Barracks land — after representing the federal government on the issue years earlier.
In his court application, Toews says Dawson's findings were "inaccurate" and "inconsistent with the evidence" presented to her.
He also argues he was unable to respond properly to the accusations made against him because witnesses were barred from speaking to him.
Toews says his two meetings with the Norway House Cree were "brief and limited in nature" and therefore he did not have direct and significant dealings with the First Nation during his last year in office.
The former federal justice minister and public safety minister says he did not provide "advice, direction or consultation" to the Peguis First Nation or its counsel regarding settlement of litigation. Rather, he "merely provided strategic planning regarding potential development of the land at issue" should the legal proceedings be settled and the First Nation assume control of the land.
Toews acknowledges he was provided with copies of documents on which the commissioner relied as well as transcripts of interviews with certain witnesses.
However, Toews says all witnesses were bound by a "confidentiality requirement" that prevented them from speaking to him or his lawyer. He argues the prohibition amounted to a denial of procedural fairness and natural justice, and compromised his efforts to respond to the accusations.
Dawson's office has yet to file a response with the court.
In an interview last month, Toews's lawyer, Robert Tapper, accused the ethics commissioner of acting unethically herself because she directed witnesses appearing before her not to speak to him or Toews.
He also argued Dawson's office had "absolutely no jurisdiction over Justice Toews" because he was no longer a parliamentarian when she conducted her probe.
Toews served as a member of Parliament for nearly 13 years and was in Stephen Harper's Conservative cabinet for 7 1/2 years.
Tapper also lamented last month there was nothing Toews could do about Dawson's report and conclusions.
"There is no appeal process because there is no legal process. (Toews is) no longer a parliamentarian. He can't raise it in the House," he said.
-- with files from the Canadian Press