On Wednesday, Senator Pamela Wallin spoke to the Senate to defend herself from a motion that would suspend her and two others from the Red Chamber without pay because of an expenses scandal. Below are her prepared remarks. For audio of Ms. Wallin's speech, go here.
I rise to comment on Senator Cowan’s motion for special hearings.
I have long called for an open, fair, transparent process.
But I want to make it very clear that I need to be sure that the protections afforded me are the same as a proceeding before a court – the right to counsel who would be permitted to speak on my behalf; the right of my counsel to call or subpoena witnesses and to cross-examine witnesses; the right to have my counsel question me to outline my evidence before any cross examination; the right of my counsel to object to irrelevant or inflammatory questions; the right to make final submissions … and of course the right to an open-minded jury.
These protections are necessary given the palpable apprehension of bias in what I contend is a purely politically motivated set of charges in a chamber that has not demonstrated it is prepared to rise above party politics.
My very real concern remains the nature of the sanctions the Government intends to impose – suspension – or more accurately expulsion – without pay, no resources or benefits, including no health benefits – and that is a troubling prospect for a cancer survivor – so any hearing or process undertaken must provide the same procedural safeguards as a court of law.
The motion to suspend me is baseless and premature, and likely beyond the scope of this chamber.
The Internal Economy and Deloitte reports have not yet been tabled here and the language of the motion is neither justified nor accurate – you cannot concoct false charges on a whim.
The Government, through Senator Carignan, has truly put the cart before the horse – the sentencing before the trial – and that is why it would be both unfair and troubling if his motion proceeds.
If it does, each and every one of you will seriously have to consider whether this is a place of sober second thought, or a place where anyone who enters must blindly follow a political master’s dictates.
The rule of law would have to be ignored by each and every one of you who decides to vote for the motion.
Some have suggested that some day I will get my day in court.
Everyone knows the RCMP has been called in to investigate.
So why try and convict me here and now.
Why would we not await the outcome of that process – you are the ones that called the RCMP in in the first place – you even sent them your report – you won’t even wait for the investigation to conclude.
Why is the Senate acting as accuser, judge, jury and executioner before I’ve had that day in court?
That is exactly why this whole process is flawed.
And if this chamber can take this extreme action with regard to a sitting senator, imagine what it could do to an ordinary citizen who crosses the government of the day.
We live in a nation that has a Charter or Rights and Freedoms that applies to every law and every citizen.
For the Senate of Canada, itself a creation of our Constitution, to decide that the constitutional protections afforded to each and every Canadian are to be disregarded here is to bring the Senate itself into disrepute.
We have spent centuries evolving away from the divine rule of kings. Due process and the rule of law are all we have to protect us from the tyranny of those with power and from the passion of the mob.
When a government chooses to flout due process to go after a perceived enemy, it’s very hard to fight it.
And for this chamber to attempt to impose a legal sanction is beyond your constitutional powers – surely you must know that.
“Gross negligence”, as any lawyer will tell you, is a very specific legal term with a very specific and serious meaning.