This may seem a little harsh, but when stupid things are done by a cabinet minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, there’s a very good chance they’ll be done by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
This is the same Vic Toews who pronounced that he didn’t care about Canada’s regularly falling crime statistics, he cared about danger. The same one who said scores more Canadians could be locked up for longer, without ever having an effect on the Canadian treasury. The same one who said the provincial government from this province had never contacted him about the dilapidated condition of Her Majesty’s Penitentiary — despite the province’s ability to produce reams of documentation that show he had been directly informed.
The same one who pronounced that, if Canadians didn’t back the federal government’s later-withdrawn Internet espionage act, they had to consider themselves “on the side of the child pornographers.”
In other words, he’s never looked at either one of his feet and not tried to insert it firmly in his mouth.
And now, he’s done it again.
In the federal prison system, wardens of individual institutions get to decide who can speak to the media. News organizations make the requests, wardens consider them based on established policies and determine whether or not a prisoner will be allowed to speak.
But that’s not what happened with Omar Khadr, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.
The Canadian Press (CP) has discovered through access to information legislation that the warden of the maximum-security Millhaven Institution didn’t get to make that decision on his own.
For one thing, Prime Minister Harper’s office asked to be informed of the warden’s decision — a decision that gave the green light for CP to interview Khadr. Fair enough — an interview with Khadr is certainly something the Privy Council Office might want a head’s up on.
After Warden Kevin Snedden then reconsidered the decision and still said yes, regional headquarters backed him up.
CP reports that, 90 minutes later, the message: “This interview is not approved,” came from Julie Carmichael, Toews’ director of communications.
Was Warden Vic Toews behind that particular directive?
Corrections Commissioner Vic Toews?
Once again, the minister of public safety has apparently confused the law with his own personal opinion on a matter. But why let due process get in the way with one man’s opinion?
Maybe you agree with him: maybe you don’t. Maybe you’d like to hear from a young man about his travails in the United States’ offshore prison. Maybe Vic Toews would tell you, “Either you agree with me, or you’re on the side of the terrorists.” (Gotta admit, that sounds a lot like something he’d say.)
Are federal cabinet ministers going to decide for wardens who goes into segregation, and who gets easier time?
Are they going to poke into the judicial system in other ways, and “help” judges with sentencing or verdicts?
There’s a wall between the political and judicial systems for a reason — it’s to prevent the scales of justice being tipped by the weight of political self-interest.
What’s astounding is that a minister responsible for safety of the public would be unable to see how crossing that line threatens the safety of the public itself.
It’s almost as much black comedy as listening to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver take to the road with his pro-pipeline puppet show.
If I could say one thing about the whole continuing, unending fiasco, it would be this: retire, would you, Mr. Toews?
Find your way to whatever the latest sinecure farm is, park your butt there and flap your gums at the neighbours. Maybe throw a stick for your dog.
But not a judgeship — please God, not a judgeship. Because if there’s something that’s clearly missing in the irascible Mr. Toews, it’s anything close to good judgement.
Somewhere, there’s a pasture fit for an old warhorse.
Hopefully, it’s one where he can’t do any damage.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s
editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.