There’s something inherently weird about the former chief justice of Canada deciding to investigate an expense-account scandal in the B.C. legislature.
Not disturbingly, negatively weird. More like crazy, fun weird.
Getting Beverley McLachlin to take on the misconduct case against the suspended clerk and sergeant-at-arms is like hiring Oprah to read the weather on the late local news.
She has been operating on a plane so far above the mundane matters in play at the legislature, it’s hard to picture her pinning on a “special investigator” badge and sweating witnesses. For a legislature that has spent three months groping and flailing for a way out of a mess, she’s the ultimate catch.
Even more so because her name was briefly in play as someone who might be needed to delve into the circumstances of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s departure from the federal cabinet.
McLachlin had a choice of possible cases and she picked ours. It points to her sense of adventure. B.C. should be proud.
Maybe her B.C. roots were a factor. She lives in Vancouver part time.
She was raised an Alberta girl, but practised law in the early days in northern B.C. and started her judicial career in B.C. county court. She was on the B.C. Supreme Court by her mid-40s and made chief judge briefly before being named to the Supreme Court of Canada.
She spent decades pondering the finer points of constitutional law from the highest judicial pinnacle in the land.
Here’s a bare sampling of some complex issues for which she was on the court that had the final say:
• Was anti-Semitic hater Jim Keegstra protected by free speech? (She was in the minority that said yes.)
• Did terminally ill Sue Rodriguez have the right to end her life? (McLachlin was again in the minority that said yes.)
• Did the Tsilhqot’in Nation have title to its ancestral lands? (Her entire court said yes.)
• Should the federal government shut down a supervised-injection site that was preventing overdose deaths? (She ruled the Harper government should butt out.)
Now she’s going to delve into the perp walk that the suspended officers made. She’s going to track down that truckload of booze that was taken from the legislature under mysterious circumstances. What’s the deal with that ridiculous legislature log splitter?
McLachlin will figure it out.
The legislature’s terms of reference for her “confidential, impartial and independent investigation” give her free rein. She can compel witnesses and order evidence produced. The terms also state that she reports to the three party house leaders, not the legislature committee chaired by Speaker Darryl Plecas.
That’s where the story to date has taken some strange turns. Whether McLachlin wrote her own ticket or whether the house leaders did, it looks as if the line of authority has been drawn as directly as possible to the legislature, rather than the Speaker’s committee.
It’s shaping up to be a fascinating exercise, even if it is all confidential. The fact it’s being undertaken by the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada makes it compelling.
One of her retirement hobbies might hint at why she decided to take this gig. Last spring, she published a potboiler crime novel that shows she’s still very grounded in the nitty-gritty legal world.
Full Disclosure is a legal procedural in which the heroine is a tough-as-nails young Vancouver lawyer with her own issues who defends a big shot on a charge of murdering his wife.
“When everyone has something to hide, the truth is the only defence,” goes the publisher’s blurb.
It’s got lots of Vancouver settings, legal intrigue and a kicker ending.
Random sample: “ ‘The funeral is for her — for Laura. For those who loved her.’
Once more, he fixes his eyes on mine. ‘For me.’
I consider the optics. Grieving husband at wife’s funeral. Not bad.
‘Fine,’ I say. ‘Just wear black and keep your head down.’”
Just So You Know: Her book is getting generally good reviews. Some of them demand a sequel. Maybe that’s why she signed on as a special investigator.
She could be collecting material for her next book.
It has the makings of a thriller.