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The Duffy Affair: Former RCMP head sees "strong grounds" for criminal charges

Former RCMP Superintendent Gery Clement told CTV's Question Period Sunday that he sees "strong grounds" for criminal charges, pointing to fraud or, "more appropriately," breach of trust charges under the Criminal Code as possible avenues for investigators looking into the Duffy affair. However, how independent is the RCMP? New government policies oversee its actions.

"If you look at the allegations and you look at the Senate Act and the ways it’s described as housing goes, then I think that’s probably the approach they’ll take," Clement said. "From my read of the Act and from what’s been alleged through the media I think they have pretty strong grounds."

The sensitive and international investigations unit of the RCMP is already looking into the expense claims of senators Mike Duffy, Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau. 

Clement pointed at the Duffy-Wright transaction of $90,172 as something an investigator would want to have details and circumstances of. Nigel Wright has since resigned as since resigned as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff. 

Wright claimed sole responsibility and Harper said he didn't know about the deal.

"Mr. Wright is a lawyer so I would think or hope that he dotted his i's and crossed his t's," Clement said.

Clement pointed at documents illustrating a loan or bailout as the RCMP's primary initial focus on the transaction. He added that any written agreement between Duffy and Wright doesn't necessarily make the secret arrangement lawful.

"The fact it was drafted by legal counsel doesn't necessarily mean it cannot be construed to having breached some law," he said.

The media has since reported a cover-up conducted by the Senate's internal economy chair David Tkachuk and Harper's former communications manager Carolyn Stewart Olsen to clear Duffy's name and instil doubt on clear housing allowance documents. When news originally broke, senate laws were deemed to be broken as gifts of over $500 must be reported within 30 days of receipt - which never happened. 

"If I was investigating or directing the investigation, I'm going to be going back to the auditors, looking for all of the initial reports, including all drafts, and looking for who directed the change to take place," Clement said.

For a scandal that is gaining traction and isn't going away, Former RCMP head Clement paints a bleak picture for the government. However, a supposedly independent law enforcement agency may have also fallen under the Conservatives' realm of political interference.

In 2011, the Conservatives mandated Public Safety Minister Vic Toews oversight over the RCMP's actions and it has disturbed Clement.

"Having been at the RCMP for 30 years, and when I was, I was in the national capital region for the better part of 18 years dealing with all levels of investigations, yeah, I would suggest I don't think I've seen — at least since my relationship with the RCMP started — I don't think I've ever seen the type of control that's been placed on the RCMP, which is a little bit disconcerting from a former member," said Clement.

However, in April, Toews's spokeswoman insisted there was no political interference.

"As you are likely aware, political actors are legally prohibited from involving themselves in investigative matters," Julie Carmichael said in an email. "Our government respects this principle at all times."

Sgt. Greg Cox, a spokesman for the RCMP, also defended its independence in investigations.

"The RCMP has full independence with regards to the investigations it carries out, and how it conducts them within the authorities it has under the RCMP Act and the Criminal Code, as well as other Federal statutes," he said in an email that, under current policy, would have been approved by Toews' office.

"Every member of the RCMP is sworn to uphold the laws of Canada."

However, in an interview with Global's The West Block on April 28, 2013, Toews took full responsibility for the control over the RCMP.

“I'm responsible for the RCMP. I need to know exactly what the RCMP is doing and saying because if I go into the House of Commons and I have no idea what is being said, I'm at a distinct situation where it appears that I'm not carrying out my responsibilities to the House of Commons,” Toews said.

Toews regulates the official communications between MPs and the RCMP.

“Essentially what happens, especially if it’s MPs from my party, they’ll come to me and say, ‘Look I want to talk to the RCMP,’ and I’ll refer them to an individual and that’s the end of it,” he said.

“The RCMP clearly has to communicate as an entity, especially on issues of national and public security.”

On April 25, 2013, a meeting between a parliamentarian and RCMP officials was thwarted by Toews. The reason for the following email , under new policy, is all meetings between RCMP officials and parliamentarians "have to first be approved by the minister's office. This email is to cancel the luncheon."

At the time NDP Public Safety Critic Randy Garrison stated concerns over the government's political interference over the RCMP, saying "these memos raise some very serious concerns about whether the government is interfering in the operations of the RCMP to try and assist in controlling their political message. So I think it's very serious."

It appears that every corner we turn, we find political interference. A Conservative majority in the senate chose to keep its investigations internal so the internal economics committee could sanitize an audit on senators' expense claims. With the opposition calling for an RCMP investigation, we find it is now controlled by Vic Toews's office. What implications will this control have over future investigations? Do you believe the RCMP can still investigate independently with Toews's oversight? Share this article and join the discussion and let us know what you think: Facebook, Twitter, Google+.

Stephen Harper on Integrity: The Duffy Affair

What started as a $90,172 claim of inappropriate expenses seen as an outrage as part of abusive senate behaviour quickly escalated to a scandal with many more questions than answers. Get up to date with the full timeline.
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