Province can't block Ipperwash affidavits

Reprinted with permission from the the Toronto Star

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Friday, October 26, 2001

Peter Edwards, Harold Levy and Theresa Boyle

Toronto Star 

 

The provincial government has lost its fight to block the release of affidavits from 40 government and police officials including one from Premier Mike Harris about a top-level government-police meeting the day native activist Anthony (Dudley) George was shot dead at Ipperwash Provincial Park.

Lawyers for the government unsuccessfully appealed this week to Tom Mitchinson, assistant commissioner for the Information and Privacy Commission, that he shouldn't allow the release of the affidavits, which government officials were ordered to produce in response to a Freedom of Information request by Liberal MPP Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt).

In an unsuccessful appeal, a lawyer for the government argued Wednesday that release of the affidavits might interfere with a wrongful death lawsuit by the George family against Harris and key government and police officials.

The government lawyer also argued: "No legitimate public interest would be furthered by sharing this information to the appellant (Phillips) who is not a party to the litigation ... The affidavits contain personal information and individual recollections of the event. Moreover, many of these individuals are no longer employed by the Crown and some were never so employed."

Mitchinson dismissed the government arguments against releasing the affidavits as "sketchy at best."

"The Premier has said that he has nothing to hide," Phillips said yesterday. "But behind the scenes, his lawyers are mounting an endless campaign to keep the facts from coming out."

However, Attorney-General David Young said yesterday he thinks each of the 40 people ordered to swear out affidavits should be allowed to determine whether they want their remarks made public.

He insisted the government was being co-operative and that there were no more documents to be found, adding the Premier would give consent to the distribution of his affidavit within a few days.

"But when it comes to people who are no longer in government, we feel out of respect that they should be asked ... by the privacy commissioner or the government," Young said. Phillips said he found Young's comments "bizarre," since privacy legislation is legally binding.

In his written response to Phillips, Mitchinson said he would provide him with the documents no earlier than Nov. 5, which would give the government a week to respond to his decision.

Meanwhile, Toronto city councillors yesterday rejected a plea they weigh in on the George controversy.

NDP Leader Howard Hampton and Phillips trooped down to city hall yesterday with a plea that city council formally request a public inquiry. But council's policy committee voted 7-3 against the idea.

With files from Paul Moloney

 

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