Toews remains a judge while judicial council reviews conduct

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Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Judge Vic Toews will remain on the job while a national tribunal looks into his past conduct.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/04/2017 (1983 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Judge Vic Toews will remain on the job while a national tribunal looks into his past conduct.

On Monday, the Canadian Judicial Council said it is investigating a complaint against Toews following a report Friday from the federal conflict of interest and ethics commissioner stating that he broke conflict of interest rules before becoming a judge.

Johanna Laporte, spokeswoman for the council, said the oversight body is not identifying the complainant because they have not publicly revealed themselves.

A tribunal that oversees the conduct of judges has decided to investigate Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Judge Vic Toews. (Justin Tang / The Canadian Press files)

“We will be opening an official file, and we will be reviewing the conduct of Justice Toews,” Laporte said from Ottawa.

Chief Justice Glenn Joyal of Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench clarified Toews’ status Monday after receiving numerous media calls.

“The very specific and distinct jurisdiction and process of the Ethics Commissioner, whose jurisdiction, processes and related conclusions may be challenged by Justice Toews, are separate from the jurisdiction and focus of the Canadian Judicial Council,” Joyal said in a statement.

“That separate Canadian Judicial Council process, to the extent that it will unfold in respect of Justice Toews, must be respected. Accordingly, he remains a sitting judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench.”

A spokesman for Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said the province will monitor the CJC’s investigation, “await the result and consider whether there is an effect on the administration of justice in Manitoba.”

Federal conflict of interest and ethics commissioner Mary Dawson found that Toews, a former Conservative cabinet minister, had violated the Conflict of Interest Act after leaving politics in 2013.

She ruled that Toews ran afoul of the act by providing consulting services to two different Manitoba First Nations before he was appointed to the bench in 2014.

In one case, he received a retainer from Norway House Cree Nation, an organization he had dealt with while in cabinet, before a two-year cooling off period expired. In a second case, he acted on behalf of Peguis First Nation in its quest to acquire Kapyong Barracks land, after representing the federal government on the issue, Dawson ruled.

Toews’ lawyer Robert Tapper denied any wrongdoing on the part of his client over the weekend. He even accused Dawson of acting unethically in her handling of the case, saying she had directed witnesses not to speak to him or Toews.

Asked for comment on the CJC decision to review the judge’s conduct, Tapper said, via email, that Dawson’s report was the product of “a flawed process and flawed findings. I fervently hope the CJC sees it for what it is.”

A spokeswoman for the ethics commissioner said Dawson would not comment on the matter except to say that she stands behind her report.

Toews is a federally appointed judge. A spokesman for federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said Monday the minister had no comment on the matter at this time.

Laporte said the investigation won’t follow a strict timeline.

The organization’s executive director, Norman Sabourin, will do a quick review of the complaint and send it to a member of the CJC’s judicial conduct committee, she said. That person could refer the matter to a panel, which would decide whether the matter, if proven, would be so serious as to warrant Toews’ removal from the bench.

“If they decide ‘yes,’ then the matter goes to a public inquiry,” Laporte said. “If they decide ‘no,’ then it could be closed with remedial measures being proposed for the judge.”

Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, said his organization also plans to file a complaint against Toews with the judicial council.

He said his group will file a submission “setting out our legal argument as to why his (Toews’) violation is serious enough to warrant a recommendation that he be removed from the bench.”

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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Updated on Monday, April 24, 2017 12:44 PM CDT: Update

Updated on Monday, April 24, 2017 2:40 PM CDT: Tweaks headline.

Updated on Monday, April 24, 2017 5:46 PM CDT: Updates

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