Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.
Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee. Good afternoon.
I am a law partner at the law firm of Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP. It is a matter of public record that I have been retained by Conservative Fund Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada to act as its legal counsel and provide legal advice and direction to its various governing bodies, its employees, and its leader, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper.
I recognize that there has been a significant amount of public comments regarding the events of April 8 and 9 and my involvement in those events. To date I have declined to make any public comment on these matters or on any of the events that transpired following that date.
Declining to make any previous public comment was necessary to respect the various investigations that have been undertaken, or that may be undertaken, by legal authorities. Further, it is important that I respect the legal privilege that I owe to my clients--Conservative Fund Canada, the Conservative Party of Canada, its various governing bodies, its employees, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
I appear today at the request of this committee, and I will answer your questions while at the same time ensuring that the legal privilege belonging to those clients is respected.
There is one item I wish to specifically address in this opening statement. In media reports during the week of April 12 and subsequently, Ms. Guergis suggested she had no idea what she may have done. Her lawyer, Howard Rubel, stated, “She is ready to respond and co-operate but it's important that she not respond until she knows what the allegations are.”
I confirm that Ms. Guergis and I had two separate telephone conversations in the morning of April 9. At that time I detailed the allegations that were being made, not only against her but also against her husband, Mr. Jaffer. These allegations also spoke to a number of matters that involved Mr. Jaffer's business partner, Mr. Gillani.
It is now well known that following my two conversations with Ms. Guergis on April 9, she considered herself to be in a position to deliver an e-mail to the Canadian Press on Sunday, April 11, that stated the accusations against her were “baseless” and “unfounded”.
The fact of this e-mail from Ms. Guergis was subsequently reported by CBC news on April 13. What no one knew, until today, is that on the afternoon of April 9, I was contacted by Mr. Jaime Watt, the chairman of Navigator Ltd.
I understood that Mr. Watt was contacting me on behalf of Ms. Guergis. When Mr. Watt and I spoke, two things became clear: first, he had recently spoken to Ms. Guergis, Mr. Jaffer, or both of them; second, he knew the allegations that I had explained to Ms. Guergis.
Ms. Guergis still maintains that she does not know the allegations. As I have said, I explained them to her at length. Moreover, clearly Ms. Guergis remembered enough of the allegations to brief Mr. Watt, or to brief somebody who then briefed Mr. Watt.
During my testimony today, I do not intend to speculate as to why Ms. Guergis or her counsel have chosen to deny that she received a detailed briefing of these allegations against her by me on April 9. However, any suggestion that Ms. Guergis does not know the details of the allegations that were made against her is not accurate. To the contrary; not only was she briefed fully on those allegations by me, but I also spoke in detail about them with Mr. Watt when he called on the afternoon of April 9.
Madam Chair, committee members, thank you for permitting me the opportunity to deliver this opening statement.
Yes. And I appreciate that questioners have limited time, so I will synthesize.
The basis of the allegations, as Mr. Snowdy has already testified before this committee, is this: there is a significant attempt by Mr. Gillani and Mr. Jaffer to defraud potential investors as they hold themselves out as venture capitalists.
We can go into all the reasons why this scheme was questionable at best, but that's the base.
The more difficult part of the conversation was when Mr. Snowdy advised me that Ms. Guergis was assisting Mr. Jaffer in this enterprise.
Mr. Jaffer was creating the illusion that he was ultra-connected with the Conservative government and that he could make funds available and effectively open doors to potential investors. Ms. Guergis assisted and amplified that aura of connectedness that Mr. Jaffer was presenting.
Yes. And Mr. Snowdy was clear on two things. Mr. Jaffer was certainly pushing that angle, that this was the value he brought to the partnership with Mr. Gillani, but at the same time, Mr. Snowdy's investigation, as he told me, could find no evidence of any success in tapping even one government dollar.
I guess what I'm getting at is that when Mr. Snowdy testified before committee, he said, “I have nothing, no evidence or information, with respect to the conduct of Madam Guergis in my possession or knowledge.” He didn't provide any documentation.
I'm hearing from you that he said he had something or that he alluded to the fact that Madam Guergis was involved in something. I'm hearing that from you. That's not what we heard from Mr. Snowdy. Can you tell me where the discrepancy lies?
I think the disconnect might be in this. At no time in our phone call that night, or in fact the next day when we met at my office, did I ask him to enumerate statutes that had been violated, or Criminal Code offences. Frankly, as a lawyer, when I'm trying to understand a factual matrix, I'm not interested in somebody else's subjective interpretations of events.
Well, I think this is interesting. If you're looking for the factual matrixes, what I'm understanding...and this is from the Ethics Commissioner. She confirmed that Mr. Snowdy was the sole source of the information about Madam Guergis, and that was told by you, is what we understand from the Ethics Commissioner. I have her testimony here.
Who was the other source? If you're looking at the factual matrix, you've taken--as we understand it--the comments by one individual. You've said there were more allegations; from whom, and how did they come about?
I'd like to ask you for your notes on calls, meetings, perhaps e-mails that you have between you and Mr. Snowdy. This is around April 8, April 9. That's the first time you met with Mr. Snowdy, is it not, the April 8 phone conversation?
I tracked Mr. Snowdy down by doing a Google search and then found him through one of his existing companies and their answering service. I reached one of his night supervisors, who I implored to have Mr. Snowdy call me back.
So you had this conversation with Mr. Snowdy on April 8, April 9. You had a conversation with Madam Guergis, who you said also gave you some kind of factual information, and then you spoke to the Prime Minister's Office. Who did you speak with in the Prime Minister's Office--the Prime Minister himself?
If I may, Madam Chair, on a point of order, I'd like to have a ruling on this very issue. He talked about the lawyer's work product, and in this particular instance he's invoking attorney-client privilege.
I'd like to hear from the law clerk, if I may, please.
I'm Melanie Mortensen. I'm the parliamentary legal counsel in the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel.
In regard to solicitor-client privilege or work product privilege, these kinds of privileges do not limit the ability of a lawyer as witness to be able to reply. Nonetheless, the committee may take into consideration the privilege that is claimed in determining how or whether to address the witness, whether to limit the question somewhat in order to safeguard the nature of the information that is privileged, or whether to go in camera.
I think this is best summed up by Mr. Walsh, the law clerk, in his appearance at a different committee. I'll simply read his opinion.
On November 4, 2009, there was another lawyer appearing who claimed solicitor-client privilege. I realize that in this case a work product privilege is being claimed. But in my view, it would be the same answer.
Mr. Walsh said the following:
What he's saying relative to the obligation on lawyers as lawyers, in the usual context in which lawyers operate, is true.
Solicitor-client privilege, in my view, is an important privilege. It is one the committee obviously should respect but not necessarily be governed by. It is a principle that relates to the legal rights of people who are in that solicitor-client relationship. It's all designed for the benefit of the client, not the lawyer. It is to protect the client's rights from being prejudiced by the wrongful disclosure of information exchanged with a lawyer.
But that's in the context of legal rights, legal proceedings. There are no legal rights at issue here. These are not legal proceedings. These are parliamentary proceedings. It is, in my view, open to the committee to seek answers from a lawyer appearing as a witness, notwithstanding this principle, although I do believe that it is a principle of some importance and that the committee should not tread needlessly upon that principle in seeking information from a witness who is a lawyer.
Let me just respond, because there are at least two principles at play here. There's the positive and the negative of the privilege. If you ask me if I've spoken to ten people in a client's office and I've only spoken to three of them, I won't tell you about those three but I'll confirm that I haven't spoken to the other seven. That is in and of itself its own waiver of privilege. So whether you consider that the negative or the positive of privilege, those types of questions should not be answered either.
I'm happy for my friend to rephrase the question, but when we're drilling down to things like me producing my notes that are in my personal solicitor's brief, I don't see how that could be rephrased and it become an acceptable question that doesn't trench on privilege.
I'm not sure of the case that Mr. Walsh was referring to in the information that Ms. Mortensen read, but I believe Mr. Hamilton is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and is therefore bound by the rules of professional conduct of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Subsection 2.03(1) states: “A lawyer at all times shall hold”--
Madam Chair, I'm pointing out, as a rule of order, that what should apply here are the rules of professional conduct of a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada. That's not what Mr. Walsh was quoting from.
Subsection 2.03(1) of the rules of professional conduct that govern the actions of all members of the Law Society of Upper Canada states:
A lawyer at all times shall hold in strict confidence all information concerning the business and affairs of the client acquired in the course of the professional relationship and shall not divulge any such information unless expressly or impliedly authorized by the client or required by law to do so.
My point of order, Madam Chair, if I may, is that the ruling that was read has nothing to do with the rules of professional conduct that govern the members of the Law Society of Upper Canada. That is exactly what is at stake here.
I think they're trying to be obstructionist again today. I just asked for an opinion.
I'm assuming now, Mr. Hamilton, that the Prime Minister has not authorized you to speak. Mr. Snowdy had his client authorize him to speak. I'm now hearing that the Prime Minister has not authorized you to speak.
The conflict of interest commissioner did talk about Mr. Snowdy as the sole source. Did you actually write the letter to the Ethics Commissioner? Were you at all involved in that letter to the Ethics Commissioner? It was signed off by the chief of staff to the Prime Minister, but were you involved in the writing of that letter?
Madam Chair, we heard a minute ago from Ms. Mortensen. Whatever the ruling she was referring to that was made by Mr. Walsh on another occasion, in another committee, in another context, I didn't hear her say anything about the rules of professional conduct, which are what apply here.
You know, it's wonderful to hear that statement by Mr. Walsh, but it was taken in a different context, which we don't know and wasn't explained to us. I don't think it should stand as any kind of ruling on the question of what this witness should or shouldn't have to disclose to this committee. I was simply trying to—
Mr. Dechert, I am now going to suggest to you that you may be a lawyer, but in terms of parliamentary procedures, Parliament is supreme. I do not want to get into this contention between Parliament, the law society--
—that Mr. Hamilton has witness protection under parliamentary privilege. In the sponsorship scandal, we heard from witnesses who were subject to criminal proceedings. There was a long list of proceedings. Nevertheless, they received the committee's protection. So my Conservative colleague's argument does not hold water. The witness is fully protected in terms of his professional corporation. Therefore he can answer all the questions we put to him in a free and informed manner.
You are aware that Mr. Snowdy testified under oath before the committee and that he attributed certain remarks to you. He said you asked him the following question: “Is it possible that someone can produce a photograph or a record whereby the minister, her husband [Rahim Jaffer], and his business partner [Mr. Gillani], who is awaiting trial on fraud-related materials—there is a warrant for his arrest for a handgun possession issue [...]—are dining together?”
Did you ask him that? Could a photo have been taken when they were dining together? Is there such a record out there? Was that one of your concerns?
I want to address another area of concern regarding your clients—you partly answered the question earlier. Some of your clients, Conservative ministers or the Prime Minister, allegedly met with Mr. Gillani and Mr. Jaffer. You also allegedly asked Mr. Snowdy that question.
I didn't ask him that question, no. He offered, as part of an answer to me, that he could find no evidence of any contact or any money flowing from the government as a result of Mr. Jaffer's activities.
I'm not in the position to answer the question of what I did with the information. But if it helps, sir, you can understand that I understood the information Mr. Snowdy was giving me to be highly material to my clients.
I don't want to play with words. In the week leading up to April 9, I spoke several times with Ms. Guergis on a number of subjects. The telephone call on April 9 was obviously the first time I had a chance to explain to her the allegations that were surfacing.
Former minister Guergis keeps telling the media, at every opportunity, that she was not told why she was ousted from the government and the caucus. You were being polite earlier, referring to Ms. Guergis's “resignation”. It could be said that Ms. Guergis resigned involuntarily. She was pushed into it—I think it is obvious she did not do so happily. So she does not know the reasons why she was thrown out.
Is that right? Is she lying, or do you think, deep down inside, she knows full well the reasons why she was thrown out of the Conservative government and caucus?
As I said in my opening statement, I am confident that I took her through all of the allegations, which were repeated to me by Mr. Snowdy, in our phone calls on April 9.
I'm not going to get into somebody disregarding an oath, or lying, but if somebody says that Ms. Guergis was not told by me, on April 9, of the allegations that were surfacing, the person saying that would be incorrect.
Mr. Snowdy told the committee that, in his opinion, the information he gave you did not justify Ms. Guergis being thrown out of the Conservative government and caucus.
We here in the committee are trying to get to the bottom of the situation, to understand what happened. He told us that, in his opinion, there was no evidence or information regarding Ms. Guergis's conduct.
So is she the victim of an injustice? Or is she not telling the whole story? Or, according to him, do you have other information that Mr. Snowdy revealed to you?
I don't agree with all the propositions you built into the speech before your question, sir, but be that as it may, as I said to your colleague already, people have subjective impressions of what they may have thought they said, etc. And if Mr. Snowdy has testified that he doesn't believe he made any allegations against Ms. Guergis, that's his belief; I can only tell you what I heard from my side of the conversation.
When Mr. Snowdy made it clear to me that there was information available that Minister Guergis was assisting Mr. Jaffer to create the aura that he was connected, to advance a commercial purpose that he was pursuing, that was the information I received. And that is material, sir, not only to Ms. Guergis but obviously to Mr. Jaffer and anyone else involved in that enterprise.
The first call was placed to me by Ms. Guergis. She was clearly emotional. I believe when I answered the phone--I customarily answer “Arthur Hamilton”--without her introducing herself, I could hear she was, if not crying, very emotional: Arthur, what's going on?
I believe that is almost a direct quote.
I asked her: Where are you? What are you asking me, exactly?
She proceeded to lay out...and this is when she made the two statements: first, that she had resigned from cabinet, and second, that she was stepping away from caucus, as I explained before.
At that point, I asked her: Let me get off the line for a moment. I want to verify something, and then I'll call you back.
When I called her back, I think I got her message, or I couldn't get through, on her cellphone. I believe I sent her an e-mail. She phoned me back again.
The second phone call was longer. I took her through the allegations as Mr. Snowdy had presented them to me.
The reason that phone call took appreciably longer, obviously, is that she was interjecting at points. She kept saying, almost to every point I would lay out: That's not true. That's ridiculous. That's not true.
For context, just so the committee understands, I was speaking with Ms. Guergis the day before, on April 8, in respect of another matter. For chronology purposes, people might remember that was the day of the first story in the Toronto Star about the night of Mr. Jaffer's arrest. And even in the context of discussing things with Ms. Guergis that day, she was on the defensive--i.e., Could you believe the lies they printed in the Toronto Star?--and so on.
The second call I had with her on April 9 took that same defensive tone, as I was laying out the allegations, as did the call on April 8.
In a 20-minute conversation, or if the two conversations were approximately 20 minutes combined, what did you speak about? That would be my first question. Did you only go over the allegations? How much detail did you lay out for her, during that period of time, about the allegations? I guess that's my question.
I gave her the detail that I had from Mr. Snowdy, as I have described here today. The call also talked about other related items, if you want to call them that. We talked about why it was proper that she resign from cabinet.
I think this is an important point for everyone in this committee to understand. Nobody, as of April 9, as far as I'm concerned, was making an assessment that these allegations against Ms. Guergis were true. No one was dispatching them as being untruthful. It was the fact that the allegations existed. That was the reason she quite correctly resigned from cabinet and was stepping away from caucus.
We talked about her not being burdened with the responsibility she would owe to caucus members, as she had to focus her time now on defending these charges. So part of the discussion was about going forward and her sitting as an independent, and I believe it was she who identified in that call that she would be sitting as an independent.
Her reaction was emotional. Almost on every point, when I was laying out the allegations, she had a response as to the untruthfulness of that allegation.
Just so you understand, this wasn't a debate. I wasn't arguing with her. I wasn't suggesting that it was true. It was the fact that those allegations were out there.
The last thing I remember speaking with Ms. Guergis about was that one thing Mr. Snowdy had told me was that the worst was yet to come, that the first article in the Toronto Star was not the last. When I pointed out that information to Ms. Guergis, I think she understood that.... Well, I shouldn't say what she understood, but she was on notice that this wasn't going to be a one-day story. Things were going to incrementally continue to roll out.
As it happens, there is another point on which Mr. Snowdy proved prescient, because the article in the Toronto Star the next week, which connected Ms. Guergis to Mr. Jaffer's commercial enterprises, was by far a more serious situation, one that I had not heard about as of April 9.
There's been quite a bit of talk in the media about the letter that was sent from the Prime Minister's Office to the Ethics Commissioner, Mary Dawson, at this committee as well as at the ethics committee.
Do you have anything more to add to the discussion that has been taking place in the media with regard to that letter?
I spoke to the Ethics Commissioner's office on April 9 and followed up with a subsequent call one day the next week. I don't have it at hand, to be specific.
I am aware of the contents of the letter from Mr. Giorno based on those communications. I can say without a doubt that all the information I received from Mr. Snowdy fully supported the content of the letter that Mr. Giorno sent to the Ethics Commissioner. It is accurate, and I don't want anybody to be mistaken about that. The letter that Mr. Giorno sent is accurate and appropriate given the circumstances.
Mr. Arthur Hamilton: I'm also aware that Ms. Dawson testified before the ethics committee about that letter as well, and I think it's fair to say that Ms. Dawson's recollections of the letter and the way she presented them during her testimony were by far more accurate because she had seen the letter. Mr. Snowdy, in his testimony, obviously was reporting what he had heard, but he's never seen the letter. So Ms. Dawson's testimony is by far the better guidepost for this committee.
I don't really know how to best use my eight minutes now. My mood keeps changing on this.
One of my questions was going to be whether you spoke to the Ethics Commissioner's office. So to what extent did you talk about what you knew, or what you believed to be true, with her or with her office?
The first call, I believe, was in advance of when the Ethics Commissioner's office called Mr. Snowdy. I wanted to make sure that the Ethics Commissioner's office was not hung out to dry and did not know where to go to source the information, which was the subject of the letter.
My first call was...I don't want to say it was a courtesy call, but it was a call of assistance to the general counsel at the Ethics Commissioner's office. I know Ms. Bélanger. I've worked with her on other matters, obviously—
Would you agree that if you did divulge to them anything that you refused to divulge to us, you would have voluntarily forgone your solicitor-client privilege? You can't apply it in a selective fashion, right? You can't invoke it with this party and share information with that party, or you--
Navigator has raised its ugly head here again. What was Jaime Watt's role? Is he representing Ms. Guergis from a public relations point of view? Is that what you understand? Why would she go to Navigator?
From my call with Mr. Watt, I understood that he had been approached to assist them, and he wanted to better understand the situation in making his determination as to whether he would take that retainer.
Based on the information Mr. Snowdy gave you, were your concerns that you passed along to your client, the party, more of an ethical nature or did they encroach on the possibility that there was criminal activity? In other words, were you worried that what Mr. Jaffer and Mr. Gillani were doing may constitute influence peddling, which is a violation of the Criminal Code, and more than just illegal lobbying, which is just an affront to our rules around here?
Perhaps I can answer this way. As the information was coming forward from Mr. Snowdy, I recognized that it was all material, and it raised the basis for the need for an investigation, an investigation, frankly, that I could not conduct.
In truth, Mr. Martin, I didn't start parsing out what was criminal or what could have been regulatory in nature. I simply knew that it was information that I could not keep to myself. It had legs, and it had credibility, and it was reliable such that further investigation was warranted.
Interestingly enough, Dr. Chen did not come up in my first discussion with Mr. Snowdy. It was Ms. Guergis who mentioned Dr. Chen to me, and that's when I answered one of your colleague's questions about her being a source that raised concern.
She didn't use the word “regularly”, but she did indicate, in what turned out to be an inconsistent statement, that the only time she'd had a business dinner to assist or be with Rahim was when she met Dr. Chen.
Where was I? Oh, yes, the connection with Dr. Chen.
So we know that at least one of Mr. Jaffer's clients had met with Ms. Guergis. That's where the crossover may have occurred: Ms. Guergis possibly helping out Rahim Jaffer's private sector clients to advance them.
Certainly, when Rahim Jaffer can produce a cabinet minister for a business dinner, it creates the impression that he can bring the help of the government to the table. Is that the impression that you're concerned about, that Rahim Jaffer was peddling his influence with the government of the day and demonstrating that influence by producing a cabinet minister to dine with prospective clients?
Mr. Snowdy I think cast it correctly to me, that Mr. Jaffer was creating the aura that he was ultimately connected with the government in Canada, and part of that shtick, if I can use that word, was to point to a cabinet minister who happened to be his wife. That was Mr. Snowdy's assertion, yes.
I'm not going to get into legal characterization, but you can well appreciate, Mr. Martin, that this warranted further investigation. It was not for us to sit on this information. That would have been inappropriate.
I appreciate that you're sharing with us what you can. Speaking candidly, then, or as candidly as you can, do you think Mr. Jaffer and Mr. Gillani were being honest with this committee in their testimony?
I haven't reviewed their testimony in detail, but it seems to me that at one point Mr. Gillani went to the trouble of impeaching Mr. Jaffer, so you probably don't need my characterization. It looks like there's a clear impeachment on the record with two partners, one turning on the other.
The Prime Minister and you, just now, have called the allegations serious and credible. And yet you or your clients...if you are not passing judgment, how do you explain that Ms. Guergis was thrown out of caucus? How does that fit into it? If you believe that the allegations were credible and serious, and at the same time you say that, you know, you're not passing judgment, how does that fit?
Again, I'm not certain that she was, to use your phrase, “thrown out of caucus”. I explained to you the way Ms. Guergis explained it to me, and it was an ambiguous statement. I've never traced that down to see which way the ambiguity is resolved.
The previous statement was that she had only had one business dinner, ever, with Rahim; that was the way she put it.
I had assumed that this was the Dr. Chen dinner. As it happens, we now know, and it's verified, that she attended at least one other function with Mr. Jaffer at Sassafraz during the Toronto International Film Festival.
--finding the facts, but when, as a lawyer, somebody makes an inconsistent statement such as that.... There are a number of reasons why somebody would be making an inconsistent statement. Some of them are quite innocent. Some are not so innocent. It's not for me to make that determination and decide what we do with it.
In terms of the allegations, I only spoke to what Mr. Snowdy had told me. We did, in the context of the second and longer conversation on the morning of April 9, talk about the mounting pressure that was on her.
Remember the backdrop against which that week comes to us. She was under siege literally every day that week for something. You may recall that she was being hit by press stories that she was trying to get expenses, for jogging outfits or what have you, into her campaign budget. Frankly, it was your party that attacked her and Mr. Jaffer on the mortgage they had secured for their property.
So we were talking about other sources of pressure, but in terms of the allegations, it was Mr. Snowdy's allegations that I was reporting to her.
I just want some clarification. On April 8 you spoke on the phone to Mr. Snowdy. You said it was new information. On April 9 Madam Guergis resigned, or was removed, from cabinet. You had several other meetings with Mr. Snowdy.
You also said that you took her through the allegation that was presented by Mr. Snowdy, yet in earlier testimony you said there were other sources of information.
Okay. So you're telling me that we had new information on the 8th, 9th, and the next day Madam Guergis resigned. The letter to the Ethics Commissioner talks about Mr. Snowdy as being the only source of the information, yet you're saying there are other sources of information.
The purpose of this entire study is to determine whether Mr. Jaffer, among others, engaged in lobbying. It centres around that.
Based on the allegations that you received, in all the cases that you have handled regarding this matter, which is quite unfortunate.... In your opinion, was Mr. Jaffer lobbying with respect to companies in order to obtain information that could benefit those companies?
So the whole thing would collapse under its own weight. Why would you pay somebody a fee to access their funds when they don't have any funds? What they were effectively paying a fee for was, “Now Mr. Jaffer is going to open up government to me and I'll get the funds from government”? Why would you pay Mr. Jaffer for that service? You could go anywhere and achieve the same result.
So, quite frankly, as Mr. Snowdy was outlining, this whole part of the scheme--speaking as somebody who practises in this area, in the regulatory and security litigations area--was just pure nonsense, on its face, if that's what Mr. Jaffer and Mr. Gillani were presenting to people.
Mr. Jaffer still gave presentations: he sent a certain number of emails to—if I am not mistaken—seven departments, or at least people in this government in public office, to gather information, according to Mr. Glémaud and Mr. Jaffer.
Given what you have just told us about the partnership between Mr. Gillani and Mr. Jaffer, I want to ask you this: Did Mr. Jaffer's practices lead Ms. Guergis—in an incriminating, naive or other manner—down a path that was, at the very least, unfortunate for her, in terms of her position as a minister?
I'm not able to characterize his conduct as criminal or naive or what have you. I'd simply repeat my last answer: anyone holding themselves out as a venture capitalist when they have no venture capital in back of them--that's highly questionable conduct.
I hope no one in this room would disagree with that.
Was there a point to your meetings and discussions with Mr. Snowdy? There must have been an interest on your end, since you listened to him, and Mr. Snowdy wanted to meet with you, as well. There was a purpose behind all that.
Was it to learn more about Ms. Guergis's conduct as a minister?
I don't believe I gave him that timeframe. He was asking questions to the effect of why certain things had not been done about demoting her, etc., earlier. I certainly was not in a position to answer those questions. That's not a decision the legal counsel of my client would presume to make.
I'll start with finishing the discussion on the rules of professional conduct, which, for some bizarre reason, the chair didn't want the members to hear earlier, probably for partisan reasons.
I stated the general rule. There's further commentary on that point, which states that this rule “must be distinguished from the evidentiary rule” of lawyer and client privilege, which I believe is what the law clerk was referring to, concerning oral or documentary communications “passing between the client and the lawyer”. The ethical rule is “wider and applies without regard to the nature or source of the information or to the fact that others may share the knowledge”. As well, “The lawyer owes a duty of confidentiality to every client without exception, regardless of whether it is a continuing or casual client”. The duty “survives the professional relationship and continues indefinitely after the lawyer has ceased to act for the client, whether or not differences have arisen between them”.
I just think the committee should understand that.
You mentioned earlier that you were familiar with Mr. Snowdy's testimony with respect to the letter sent by the Prime Minister's Office to the Ethics Commissioner, Ms. Dawson.
If I just follow it, to be clear, Mr. Snowdy made certain allegations. You reported those to Ms. Guergis. A few hours after you spoke to her, Mr. Watt called you on her behalf and essentially repeated those allegations.
I believe it was more in the line of strict denial without giving any commentary. Once in a while she would say something like this: That can't be true, because I was doing something else at that point.
So it was something of that nature, but nothing specific. She never had a specific alibi that would impeach Mr. Snowdy's assertion.
I guess what I'm trying to find out is that if she knew what these allegations were, as you're saying that you disclosed to her, I'm wondering if the conversation also entailed, in her mind, why they were not true and what the motives for these accusations were.
Again, I'm having some confusion here. On one hand you're saying that Mr. Snowdy's testimony and the allegations were enough for you to call Madam Guergis and cause whatever was caused, either her resignation or her removal from caucus and from cabinet; and then, on the other hand, his testimony is not.
It's a little bit confusing there. I don't know if you want to make a comment about that.
No; on one hand you said the allegations were enough that you brought them forward to the Prime Minister, and that caused a chain reaction over April 8 to 9. Now--just in previous testimony--you're saying that perhaps it's not enough...but in his testimony to the committee.
I understand he testified to that. That's not what I told him. By the time he got to my office on April 9, the press were already reporting that she was resigning from cabinet. Mr. Snowdy asked me about that, and I told him all I could tell him was that I thought the Prime Minister was at the Vimy memorial that morning, so nothing was going to happen before that memorial was done. I believe that's the way I expressed it to him.
Mr. Snowdy stated that you said this: I've spoken about these issues with the Prime Minister. Obviously the minister has been under other scrutiny for the last 18 months with respect to her other conduct issues.
What were the other issues you discussed with Mr. Snowdy around that?
I didn't discuss them with Mr. Snowdy at that point, but in conversations with Mr. Snowdy, we did talk about her difficulties in the week leading up to April 9, that I just explained: the person from her office writing letters under a pseudonym, or anonymously, or whatever was done; the problems with her Elections Canada filing; and then obviously the mortgage issue and the way that, frankly, the Liberal Party jumped on that, quite likely inappropriately. Even Tom Clark from Power Play had to jump in and--
You had several other conversations with Mr. Snowdy post-April 9 when he came to your office, including a couple of days right before his testimony here. Can you tell us about those conversations, please?
I think it was more for Mr. Groot's benefit. He wanted the benefit of my understanding of the way committees work, and so I answered Mr. Groot's questions. And then Mr. Snowdy, of course, had some new information for me at that meeting.
Now, all during this while, the Prime Minister was saying that Madam Guergis was doing a good job. I remember it, as I was in the House that day, a couple of days prior to her being removed or resigning from cabinet. Yet these concerns that you raise were going on prior to that. Could you speak to that? Could you add anything to that?
Mr. Martin, I know that you have a question, or a point of order, but can I release Mr. Hamilton first? It doesn't concern him.
Mr. Hamilton, I thank you for being here.
I thank Mr. Dechert for his intervention, but he has to read a lot of parliamentary procedures...like Erskine May, Beauchesne’s, and O'Brien and Bosc.
We could, if we wanted to, have asked you to answer, but we decided not to. I think we have to reinforce that this is a parliamentary committee, a committee of the House, and it has a different procedure to follow.
But I thank you, and I thank my colleagues for keeping their questions such that you didn't have to violate any client-solicitor privilege.
I'd like to use one moment to ask that the committee agree that we give the chair the authority to issue the necessary summons to compel Mr. Jaffer to attend. I believe the logical date would be June 16, Wednesday next week, for a full meeting. We need him here as well for the full period of time.
So I think we would be back to the situation where Madam Guergis and Mr. Jaffer would be here at the same time. That would be my recommendation. But either way there has to be a summons, because I don't trust that he will come; even if he leads us to believe that he will come, I don't think he will come unless he's compelled to.
On that, we're waiting for the documents to be translated, and I think they might be germane to the conversation we want to have. Do you have a report that tells us when those documents might be available to us? If we're summoning Mr. Jaffer, I think they might be germane to that conversation.
Secondly, I'm just worried that we.... I know that Mr. Jaffer has more documents.
That was in that letter. I think we should be asking for those as well.
The date, to me, whether it's next Wednesday or some time before we conclude for summer recess, I think is important. I would like to have some documents, so that's why I'm asking the chair when we might expect those documents.
So I have the authority. If we want, we will issue the summons.
On the date, if you just quickly go to Mr. Jaffer's letter, I want something from him. He is in contempt because he has not provided us with documents. He was supposed to have provided us with everything. If you go to the last sentence, his lawyer says he has more documents.
I would like to see those documents, and I think the best way we can do that is to send a letter to Mr. Jaffer's lawyer and tell him to provide us with the documents and ask him to come on the 16th or the 23rd.