Claim of guilt by association shocking: justice critic

James
James McLeod
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Parsons takes King to task for speaking as justice minister

Liberal justice critic Andrew Parsons had a question for Justice Minister Darin King Wednesday afternoon: how far do you go with guilt by association?

The question came a day after NDP MHA Gerry Rogers was thrown out of the House for  refusing to apologize for being a member of a Facebook group.

The Facebook group has been at the centre of controversy, since one of the members — there are currently more than 2,000 — posted violent, threatening comments about Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

“While no one in this House agrees with the disgusting comments against the premier that appeared on the site, it is shocking that the minister made a claim

of guilt by association,” Parsons said.

“I ask the minister: as our justice minister, how can you advocate for a policy of guilt by association, which is fundamentally against the principles of natural law and justice?”

 

King said when he raised the issue Tuesday, he wasn’t speaking as the justice minister, but instead, as the Government House leader — a different legislative role he also holds.

“My role, as the House leader, is to represent government in this House. If I feel, on behalf of government, that there is a break in the rules or someone not following the rules or a question of privilege, I make the case in this House, Mr. Speaker, and the case is made to you, and you have the ultimate decision as to whether the case was made effectively or if, in fact, it was not a case of privilege, as the case was made yesterday,” King said.

But in his argument Tuesday that Rogers should be thrown out of the House for being a member of the Facebook group, King twice identified himself as the justice minister.

“I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that if people have the courage to post those comments in a public forum like Facebook, with such vile and direct and obscene language, then one, as I am advised as the justice minister, one has no alternative but to consider those as threats and to consider that what is said in the comments ought to be taken very seriously, Mr. Speaker,” King said Tuesday.

“As justice minister, I, of course, deal with the police on a regular basis, and I am advised that you do not take any of those things for granted. You assume that they are valid comments and valid threats.”

When King was confronted with that fact in the House, he said that if he identified himself as the justice minister, that was a mistake.

“I will say very clearly for this House that if I misrepresented myself in my capacity as Government House leader yesterday and if Hansard shows that I indicated here that I was acting as the minister of justice, I will gladly withdraw those remarks and apologize because I in no way intended to suggest to this House that I was speaking as the minister of justice. I was speaking in my capacity as a leader of the government in this House.”

King did not address Parsons’ core question of whether somebody should be considered guilty by association for comments made on social media.

Speaker Ross Wiseman ruled Rogers was in contempt of the House, and MHAs can be reprimanded for questioning a Speaker’s ruling, so NDP Leader Lorraine Michael was circumspect when she spoke to reporters Wednesday.

Michael said she respects Wiseman’s ruling, but was shocked King raised the issue in the first place and implicated Rogers for being a member of the group.

“I think it was just a deliberate political move by the government, and I really think that was irresponsible, especially since they were dealing with something so serious in terms of threats to the premier,”  she said.

“That was very serious, and to use that to make political points, or try to make political points, I think that was very irresponsible of the government.”

Parsons, who was a lawyer before he went into politics, said guilt by association wouldn’t hold up in court.

“He is the head of justice in this province,” Parsons said. “If he thinks guilt by association is the right thing, is the proper thing, then that concerns us.”

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

 

 

 

Organizations: Government House

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Recent comments

  • gord
    April 18, 2013 - 23:20

    This is more serious than you realize. Our province is in deep trouble as there are no morals or leadership as the system disintegrates. The fabric is rotting and there's no new material to replace it.

  • Edward Sawdon
    April 18, 2013 - 12:38

    I want to say that I have and I will support my local NDP M.H.A. Gerry Roger. The Speaker of the House of Assembly was too quick to judge and was acting in a too partisan (non-objective) way in having Gerry evicted from the House. The P.C.'s are having their own form of "McCarthyism" - "Guilt by Association." And Yes Gerry was right in refusing to apologize for a comment she didn't make. Really the Tories are using Gerry Rogers incidence to divert the Public's attention from their own unpopular Budgetary Cutbacks! Of anybody who needs to apologize is the P.C.'s who are making life harder for us "Havenot" people in Newfoundland & Labrador! And, King, Dunderdale, Wiseman et al ought to apoligize for the way they acted against Ms. Rogers

  • Robb
    April 18, 2013 - 09:48

    Well, it is not hard to see the liberals and ndp pounding the pavement still with these posts. What is a joke is how rogers looks like the deer in the headlights...put on the puppy face and act dumb. All you ndp are just upset that she got caught with her hand in the cookie jar, and you have got to find a way to spin this. Well, nice try people, but she was on the site of her own accord, and is still there. This is what is despicable. Any political party that takes part in an anti-govt campaign of any sort has no place in govt themselves. This is low ball stuff, but is typical of liberal and ndp tactics lately. Most non-union people see through all the smoke and mirrors you jokers keep prodding at. So if you think gerri rogers is innocent in all this, I have some wonderful land in the everglades that you might be interested in too.

    • holy smokes
      April 18, 2013 - 12:26

      Rob.......Are you a PC.....???? IF you are, by your association with that group...you are guilty of aiding and abetting the squandering of 90 million bucks to a dying company while there are many better uses ......NOw to save face you should quit the PCs and denigrate those who have drawn you into their stupidity.....

  • Rob Taylor
    April 18, 2013 - 09:38

    The sooner this clique is sent to the bleachers the better. King is not, never was or never will be Ministerial material. Maybe he should apply for an appearance on the Gong Show.

  • wavy
    April 18, 2013 - 09:23

    MHAs should be able to voice opposition to ANYTHING going on in the house they do not agree with without fear of repercussion or reprimand from the Speaker. This is not democracy.

  • Maggy Carter
    April 18, 2013 - 09:09

    As disgusting King's behaviour may be in this instance, the greater concern for members of the House and the public is the conduct of the Speaker. Yes, King's attack on Rogers was a sleazy political manoeuvre - particularly given the abuse of his authority as Justice Minister. But that is unfortunately what we have come to expect from partisan politics. The behaviour of the Speaker on the other hand is a far more serious matter. Constitutionally speaking, the Speaker's role is to administer the affairs of the House and to moderate legislative debate in a manner that shows no favour or advantage to any one political party. If members cannot trust the independence and objectivity of the Speaker than the entire legislative process is brought into disrepute. It is clear that Wiseman's decision to expel Roger's from the House was not based on a fair and independent investigation of the facebook allegation, but rather on the insistence of the House Leader/Minister of Justice that he take immediate action. In effect, the Speaker was behaving as if he was under the thumb of the Dunderdale government. This is disturbing and yet not all that surprising considering the track record of this government in dismantling the democratic protections once taken for granted in this province. Opposition parties should give consideration to moving a motion of non confidence in the Speaker. In Britain, such a motion resulted in the resignation of the Speaker of the Commons in 2009.

  • Jay
    April 18, 2013 - 09:08

    The Tories have obviously taken the low road, However, Geri Rogers should now take the high road and disassociate herself from this group and the messages that were sent. If she doesn't she has made a conscious choice to get into the muck with them. All of a sudden, one party doesn't seem any better than the other.

    • jeff
      April 18, 2013 - 10:08

      Why should she disassociate herself with this group? They have every right to exist regardless of whether someone made a stupid comment. Does one poster's ill-advised contribution make a whole site illegitimate ? If that's the case the conservative party's sites would have been down long ago.

  • Ted
    April 18, 2013 - 08:54

    If anything good came from this, it's that the Premier is now off of Twitter. How do we get Steve Kent and the rest of the Tories from spewing their tripe on social media?

  • Chad
    April 18, 2013 - 08:31

    Can the government please start doing what they are paid for, instead of distracting us of how poor a job they are truly doing by accusing Ms. Rogers of this. The fact that this was brought up in the house of assembly or the fact that this is even news is absolutely shameful. I think we have a bunch of overpaid, undereducated, people running our province. If Mr. King was going to raise a point about this, you think he would have been fully educated about how Facebook works before he starts accusing people in the public eye. What a, excuse me for the word choice, moron. If he can blindly throw out these accusations in public without doing the research, it makes you wonder. What other decisions does Mr. King blindly jump into without knowing the whole background, talking as if though he is an expert. Ahh it makes me so annoyed that I had to write on this form, and I usually never touch these. So it shows how much disgust I am feeling, I can imagine the rest of the province is starting to feel the same way. I have much more to say, ie. On how they compared a facebook comment to the Boston bombings, but I will keep those rantings for private conversations.

  • Confused Again
    April 18, 2013 - 08:15

    What are you so confused about now Darin?? and why do you misspell your name?

  • PCer's
    April 18, 2013 - 08:09

    Maybe PC supporters, instead of money this year, send a mirror.

  • Steve P
    April 18, 2013 - 08:04

    I'm happy that this govt thinks guilt by association is acceptable. It will make it much easier to hold this govt accountable for its actions. We can just blame the whole lot of them as being incompetent morons rather than just the handful that we know to be. They all belong to the same group so we may as well lump them altogether and label them based on the actions of a few members of the group. Why don't we just rename they PC party of Newfoundland the Incompetent Party of Newfoundland? It seems most fitting.

  • holy smokes
    April 18, 2013 - 08:04

    King twice identified himself as the justice minister. King said when he raised the issue Tuesday, he wasn’t speaking as the justice minister, OK.......So In what capacity was Rogers thrown out and at what point do YOU as the justice minister infringe the Charter of Rights and Freedoms....Even in a court of law guilt by association would be denied by ANY judge.....Seems you fellas are reaching...too damned far....I would dearly love to see a challenge mounted against the government on this one...They wouldn't stand a chance of a snowball in hell in winning..Even IF she was an MHA she still has the right to be associated with anyone she so wishes......

  • gord pittman
    April 18, 2013 - 07:51

    Darrin King does not have a clue and he deliberately used his position as Justice Minister in this fiasco because he does not have a clue about the law and/or justice. He is a teacher who has been put in a position that is way over his head. This government is a complete joke and it is time for them to go for numerous reasons including this one.

  • Jack
    April 18, 2013 - 07:51

    Due to Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, everyone has Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Association, meaning Parsons is right in saying that "Guilt By Association" will not hold up in court as you can't be punished just because a group member acted immaturely and with no regards for the law. Besides, since almost every single Canadian, including myself, are a member of at least one Facebook Group, then based on King's dimwitted logic, everyone is guilty, meaning he is infringing on our human rights. In light of Darin King's gross disregard for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, future MHAs should be required to undergo Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms training, and any MHA violating the charter will be banished from the House of Assembly indefinitely.

  • Stephen D Redgrave
    Stephen D Redgrave
    April 18, 2013 - 07:42

    Anytime Facebook is used as an information tool in an official capacity is overstepping the realm of reality,. It's FACEBOOK, not a sworn affidavit!! I apologize to Gerry Rogers on behalf of everyone who uses more that 1% of their brain. Looking at this situation from the outside, it's another text book perfect example of "old School" Newfoundland attitudes, making up rules as they go along. Gerry Roger's rights are valid inside and outside of the House of assembly.

  • John
    April 18, 2013 - 07:36

    This whole facebook, twitter, guilty by association thing is too ludicrous to be an issue in the House. I think it's a tactic to divert attention from the bigger issues. One of which is funding private sector to the tune of $90 million while gutting the public sector.

  • Are you now or ever have been
    April 18, 2013 - 07:32

    The fact is that this group doesn't condone violence -- one person made an irresponsible remark. Hang tough, Gerry. I look forward to seeing you as the next Minister of Justice. Aaah, Joe McCarthy would have been proud.

  • Petertwo
    April 18, 2013 - 07:32

    I very much doubt that Gerry Rogers had anything to do with what she has been accused. I thought that people were innocent until proven guilty. If there is proof against this association then surely this would be a very serious case for the courts, why is it not being pursued in the proper place? Threatening people with violence - we read about people charged and convicted all the time - I do not believe the Premier, or any politician, should be exempt from have the same protection, they are people too, and even politics must have it's limitations if we are going to consider ourselves civilised, in the civil sense.