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NDP Leader Jack Layton waits for his introduction at a campaign rally in Kamloops, B.C. on Friday, April 29, 2011. (Andrew Vaughan/ The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan/ The Canadian Press)
NDP Leader Jack Layton waits for his introduction at a campaign rally in Kamloops, B.C. on Friday, April 29, 2011. (Andrew Vaughan/ The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan/ The Canadian Press)

Layton confident voters will dismiss massage parlour 'smear campaign' Add to ...

Jack Layton says voters will dismiss a report that he was once found in a massage parlour by police in 1996 as a non-issue, because there was "no wrongdoing" in the incident, for which the NDP leader was not arrested or charged.



The SUN TV network broke a story Friday night that Mr. Layton was interviewed by police at the Toronto massage parlour they raided in 1996.

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Mr. Layton said he booked an appointment for a massage one evening, but had no idea that the place he was visiting for the first time was used for illicit purposes.



"I went for a massage at a community clinic. The police advised that it wasn't the greatest place to be, and I left and I never went back," Mr. Layton told reporters after a campaign rally in Burnaby, B.C. Saturday.



Mr. Layton, who has referred to the story as a "smear campaign", said he doesn't see it as an issue on the campaign trail in the last hours before an election.



"Well, there was no wrongdoing at all, so it's not an issue. I think what people are concerned about is what's facing their families," he said.



"I think Canadians prefer that we don't talk about innuendos from the past, from 15 years ago. They prefer we speak about the issues that are facing them right now."



The SUN TV story, which attributed the information to the notes taken in 1996 by an unnamed former police officer, has now sparked an investigation into the leak of police officer's notes, which are usually treated as confidential in cases where no arrest is made or no charge is laid.



The Ontario Provincial Police were asked by the Toronto force to determine if notes taken by officers at the time of the raid on the establishment were the source of the leak, OPP Insp. Dave Ross said Saturday.



"Toronto police has requested us to conduct a criminal breach of trust investigation into the disclosure of information in that matter," Insp. Ross said in an interview.



Insp. Ross said it's hard to predict how long the investigation will take.



And although Mr. Layton's spokesman hinted Friday night that the party was considering legal action over the story, the NDP leader suggested Saturday that's not likely.



"We'll deal with all that after the election," Mr. Layton said. "I don't anticipate anything like that."





The story surfaced at the critical closing spurt of the federal election campaign, where polls show the surging New Democrats have rocketed into second place behind the Conservatives.



Insp. Ross said it's hard to predict how long the investigation will take.

"It's been assigned to our criminal investigations branch. The request was made today [Saturday] so the investigation began today."



The NDP's lawyer issued a statement Friday indicating that Mr. Layton was told by police he did nothing wrong and nothing further happened.

"The facts are that Mr. Layton had obtained a massage from a massage therapist, but had no knowledge whatsoever that the therapist's location may have been used for illicit purposes," Brian Iler said in the statement.

"Any statement or inference that Mr. Layton's actions or behaviour was other than the facts stated above would be without any factual basis, would clearly [be]made with malice, and ought not to be published."

Mr. Iler's statement added that Mr. Layton was told by police he did nothing wrong but that the location was questionable.

It said Mr. Layton gave police his name and address and nothing further happened.

Mr. Layton's wife, Olivia Chow - who is also seeking re-election - said her husband told her of the incident after it happened.

"Any insinuation of wrongdoing on the part of my husband is completely and utterly false," she said in a statement Friday.

Selwyn Pieters, a Toronto lawyer who has represented both police officers and those with grievances against them, filed a complaint to the Toronto Police Services Board over the leak.

Releasing information on the incident "challenges the presumption of innocence and stigmatizes the person in a way that is totally unacceptable," Mr. Pieters wrote in a letter addressed to the board's chair, Alok Mukherjee, and copied to Blair.

Mr. Pieters added the probe should be conducted by an independent body such as a law firm, rather than provincial police.

"I don't think the OPP can be trusted to launch a criminal investigation into this," because they are too close to Toronto police, he said in an interview.

The source of the leak "is apparently not a serving member of our service," Toronto police chief Bill Blair wrote in an e-mail to Mr. Pieters obtained by The Canadian Press.

Breach of trust is a criminal offence that can lead to a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

With a file from The Canadian Press

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