(This column was published in the North Shore News on Oct. 11, 2000)


Valuing Canada's sovereignty

By Leo Knight

WHAT price do you put on the independence and sovereignty of this country?  


What is the integrity of our government worth to you, as a Canadian? If the answer to these questions isn't "priceless," then I truly despair for the state of our nation.  


Over the course of the past year, I have been trying to bring you information detailing the apparent interference of the Prime Minister's Office with the joint CSIS/RCMP Project Sidewinder and perhaps some of the reasons why such interference might have taken place. The story, in and of itself, is far too complicated to explain in a single column or indeed, in a newspaper story.  


In the past few weeks, I told you that the SIRC committee's report into the demise of Sidewinder was compromised. I explained the relationships between the prime minister's son-in-law, Andre Desmarais and the China International Trade and Investment Corporation (CITIC).  


Two weeks ago we looked at Bob Rae, former NDP premier of Ontario. A man leading a party in power which accepted political contributions from the Canadian companies owned by the very people being investigated by the Sidewinder project and a man whose brother, John, is the campaign manager for the Prime Minister and a senior executive for Power Corp, Desmarais' company. And how he was now a part of SIRC, charged with deciding whether or not there was political interference by the Prime Minister's Office.  


In fact, Sidewinder was, in part, about the very activity of political contributions. In Canada, it is illegal for foreign nationals to give contributions to our politicians. But, what happens when they own businesses in Canada and through the companies, give substantial donations? Does that somehow make it OK?  


When I wrote that the SIRC report had been compromised, tainted by the appearance of conflict of interest, no information on the report had been made public. And, to a degree, that is still the case. But, in the House of Commons two weeks ago, Lynn Myers, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General, answered Alliance member Jim Abbott's question on Sidewinder by saying that SIRC has established that there was no political interference resulting in the conclusion of the investigation.  


Considering that the Chairman of SIRC stated a week earlier that the report wouldn't be completed until late in the year, it is interesting how Myers could even make such a statement. Myers tried to contain the damage a few days later by raising a Point of Order in the House.  


He said, "I would like to emphasize that I was not reading from or directly quoting the SIRC report, which is a classified report as this House knows, during question period. But I can advise the House that the solicitor general has asked the Security Intelligence Review Committee to make as much of that report available as possible, subject of course to any national security concerns.  


"The solicitor general has advised me that he will be tabling the resulting report as reviewed by the Security Intelligence Review Committee once that is available," Myers concluded.  


So Myers has already used the "conclusions" of the report as a defense to Abbott's allegations yet he says that the report is not yet available. How does that work? It would appear this is further evidence that the fix is in.  


The original Sidewinder report was ordered buried with all related documents shredded. Who made that order is not clear. Why, is equally unclear. Over four years of investigation done with the investigators calling for an increased probe and some bureaucrat orders a whole file destroyed?  


The destruction of documents to a bureaucrat is sacrilegious. This becomes even more so when the bureaucratic organization is CSIS, whose very business is information gathering, not information destroying.  


What is clear is that Sidewinder was all about Asian organized crime, political corruption and influence peddling. The publication by various news outlets of excerpts of the original report establishes that without question. The government and the brass at CSIS have been falling all over themselves trying to convince you that there was no undue influence exerted by the Prime Minister's Office and that the Sidewinder investigation was little more than rumour and innuendo.  


To prove it, SIRC, in their role as civilian watchdog of CSIS, announced a review. That report, which is supposedly not yet complete, has been referred to in the House of Commons by a junior member of cabinet. In fact, he stated the SIRC report cleared the PMO.  


Then, a few days later, he backs off and says the report isn't complete and the Solicitor General will tell us as much as he can when the report is done.  


And what's with the Canadian Alliance in all of this? This could be a lethal political blow to the Chretien government. Yet, on the day the matter is raised in the House, it is way down the list and gets dealt with by a junior cabinet minister. If the Alliance doesn't raise the temperature on the government in this matter, you can rest assured the government will skate on this much the same as they did on the HRDC scandal of last winter.  


The Sidewinder investigation and its ordered collapse is the metaphoric "smoking gun" for the Alliance. The trail appears to lead right to the PMO. Yet, it was for them the fifth question on the list.  


At the top of this column, I asked what price you place on the sovereignty of our country and the integrity of our government. To do and say nothing about all of this tells me the price is very low indeed.  






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