Jessica Leeder and Bill Curry, Toronto and Ottawa (Globe and Mail) – A former RCMP officer who ordered an investigator to be removed from the probe into the Mountie pension scandal said the wrong person was punished Thursday when the House of Commons cited a Deputy Commissioner for contempt of Parliament.
Dave Gork, who was an assistant commissioner overseeing RCMP members assisting Ottawa police with the investigation, said he was “disgusted” with the rare use of Parliament’s harshest punishment.
“Really what they should be doing is sanctioning me,” Mr. Gork told The Globe and Mail.
With no debate or recorded vote, and only a few dozen MPs in attendance, the House began its workday Thursday by passing a motion citing RCMP Deputy Commissioner Barbara George for contempt.
They were acting on a unanimous recommendation from the all-party public accounts committee whose members decided that Deputy Commissioner George lied when she testified she had “nothing whatsoever” to do with the removal of the pension scandal investigator who was probing her department.
Mr. Gork, who left the force in September, said he alone made the controversial decision to order Staff Sergeant Mike Frizzell to stop working on the investigation in June of 2005 after harassment allegations were made against him.
“Nobody influenced me,” said Mr. Gork, who made the same point to the House public accounts committee in March of 2007. “She had nothing to do with the removal of [Staff Sgt.] Frizzell. I did it. I told Parliament that,” he said.
Mr. Gork was on assignment in Lyon, France, for the RCMP when the complaints were made about Staff Sgt. Frizzell. He asked a colleague to deliver a cease-and-desist order to the sergeant on his behalf.
E-mails tabled before the public accounts committee last year show that Deputy Commissioner George spoke with Mr. Gork in the days prior to June 20, 2005, when Staff Sgt. Frizzell was served with the order. However, both Deputy Commissioner George and Mr. Gork deny that she had anything to do with the order. While they both say the order was justified, Staff Sgt. Frizzell said that to him, it amounted to improper interference in his investigation.
The House of Commons plans no further action against Deputy Commissioner George, but the RCMP said Commissioner William Elliott would take a serious look at the contempt finding and decide on an appropriate response.
“We’ve never had an employee or a member of the RCMP being held in contempt of Parliament in recent history,” RCMP Constable Pat Flood said. “Their findings are unprecedented.”
Deputy Commissioner George has said repeatedly that the MPs on the committee were too cozy with those accusing her of wrongdoing.
Her lawyer, Bruce Carr-Harris, interpreted the ruling as a message to the RCMP.
“The House has said that they don’t want any further action taken on this finding,” he said.
“The Mounties, if they’re concerned about this, the House of Commons is telling them that’s enough.”
Deputy Commissioner George, who was recovering from dental surgery yesterday, told The Globe and Mail last week that if she were cited for contempt she would continue to lobby against what she perceives as the unchecked powers of the parliamentary committee system. Her husband, retired CSIS agent Tom Maybee, affirmed his wife’s plan to continue fighting for due process.
“Barbara’s objective now is to try and have this system changed so every Canadian has rights we certainly don’t have at this point,” he said. “We are a Third World country when it comes to rights.”
MPs on the public accounts committee said yesterday they received private briefings from parliamentary experts on how to proceed with the contempt proceedings and decided, for example, not to require her presence in the chamber Thursday.
“We didn’t feel that a public debate on the issue was warranted. That would have been further embarrassment to Ms. George,” said Conservative MP John Williams, a veteran member of the public accounts committee.
“You can imagine a deputy commissioner of the RCMP being called to the bar [the entrance to the House], the optics, the videotape, the embarrassment. All that stuff. There was no animosity here. It was a case of Parliament protecting its rights and sending a signal to anybody else who comes to Parliament that we expect a fairly simple standard of ‘Tell the truth.’”
In a recent interview with The Globe, Deputy Commissioner George acknowledged that she took actions toward Staff Sgt. Frizzell.
“I didn’t actually ask for his head on a platter,” she said. “I just wanted to have him taken aside, respectfully, quietly, to say ‘can you tone it down?’”
But in spite of the clarifications, Deputy Commissioner George refused to retract her original statement, which ultimately led to Thursday’s finding.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, who has a foot on both sides as the minister responsible for the RCMP and a member of Parliament, issued a diplomatic statement Thursday.
“The standing committee reported that a finding in this matter was appropriate,” the statement read. “The House of Commons has now taken a position and I am confident that the Commissioner of the RCMP will take an appropriate course of action.”