Truth Before Punishment: A Defence of Public Inquiries
Queen’s Law Journal, Vol. 29, pp. 242-82, 2003
41 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2010
Date Written: 2003
Although the contributions made by public inquiries to the Canadian political process have been widely recognized, they have also received substantial criticism. In this paper, the author and, second, that they risk infringing the rights of inquiry witness who subsequently face criminal charges. Both of these criticisms relate to the exercise of coercive power by inquiries. The first criticism asserts that the elaborate procedures that accompany the exercise of coercive powers by an inquiry have become so extensive and ‘court-like’ as to make inquiries unwieldy. In response to the first criticism, the author argues that public inquiries have a continuing role to play in the Canadian political process. This is because an inquiry can deliver a level of thoroughness and independence that other public investigative processes cannot. The exercise of coercive powers, in particular, is an integral part of an inquiry’s capacity for credible fact-finding and forceful recommendations. This does not mean that an inquiry should be established whenever there is a political controversy. On the contrary, inquiries should be reserved for matters of grave public concern about an event that has had tragic or scandalous consequences.
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