Chris Budgell: Newspapers want tax dollars but won’t cover important Canadian Judicial Council story.
Why won’t the establishment news media cover the important story that the Canadian Judicial Council is operating ultra vires to the Judges Act?
To: Bob Cox
Chair, News Media Canada
Publisher, Winnipeg Free Press
Dear Mr. Cox,
If there has ever been a time when society existed without facing serious challenges it isn’t now.
I sympathize with the position you are advancing in your National Post op-ed ‘It’s time to save news‘, but I’ve lived through enough major transitions to see the traditional media’s difficulties in context.
I don’t want to attempt a comprehensive answer or rebuttal to your arguments, but I must note that it seems to me that what you are proposing would simply tighten the bonds between some powerful entities that I think an informed public perceives as already not sufficiently independent from each other.
The Internet is forcing us to redefine many notions, many of them radically. I think the definition of “journalism” is one of them. Such processes are disruptive – to individual lives and institutions.
I’m in favour of finding ways to reduce the disruption to individual lives, but I’m not in favour of preserving institutions that may no longer be viable simply because of claims that they are “pillars of democracy”.
Most media, certainly most newspapers, are first and foremost for-profit business enterprises.
The Internet has facilitated a radical disruption of the economic model. I regret to say I can’t offer any suggestions for preserving that model or creating one that relies on increasing public subsidization.
I’m going to take this opportunity to offer you a challenge. Many Canadian journalists have heard from me over the years (now roughly a decade and a half) that I’ve been challenging the justice system – a set of institutions that are generally held to be collectively an essential “pillar of society”. What I discovered is that the public is being deceived by the claims that those institutions serve the public interest and “the rule of law”. And I think I can explain how that came about, though I won’t attempt to do so in this email.
There was a piece of news last Monday that would not have caught the attention of most Canadians but that I spotted almost the moment it was released. It was the announcement that Canada’s Chief Justice has decided to retire this coming December, i.e., roughly eight or nine months before she was expected to retire. I haven’t seen any comment at all about why she made this decision now. But I think I know why.
Five days before that – on June 7th – I unexpectedly received an email from the Canadian Judicial Council’s Executive Director and Senior General Counsel, Norman Sabourin.
It said, “Your message to Ms Ostrove was provided to me. I will be taking no action, nor responding to your gratuitous and abusive assertions”. That was followed by a copy of what I’d sent to Ms Ostrove, and that included the text of a letter I’d sent on May 5th to the Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Heather J. Forster Smith.
I have absolutely no doubt about the validity of my assertion that the Canadian Judicial Council exceeded the mandate it receives from the Judges Act when it split what had previously been a single set of by-laws into two instruments and added to the one it no longer called “by-laws” a provision that gave the Executive Director a new role as an autonomous and unchallengeable gatekeeper.(Prior to 2003 there was a single set of by-laws. From 2003 onwards the CJC has relied on what it calls its Complaints Procedures and a reduced set of by-laws. You’ll see that the by-laws, but not the Complaint Procedures, are listed at the bottom of this page.The CJC used this opportunity to create what I’ve characterized as a “gatekeeper” device. My claim is that it is an unauthorized sub-delegation of a judicial (or quasi-judicial) function. The Latin term is delegatus non potest delegare. It is therefore also ultra vires the Judges Act.)*
I figured this out several years ago and I’ve communicated it to journalists, politicians and others. Not one person has said I’m wrong.
Why isn’t there in the whole of Canada a single journalist who can deal with that? Surely it isn’t because there are no competent investigative journalists left. The answer I think is obvious.
* From another letter by Chris Budgell, added here for detail.
The National Post credits self represented litigant Chris Budgell with breaking some important news stories: