Sunday, June 17, 2007

Privacy Commissioner subpoenaed to appear before Air India Inquiry

This is a bit odd. Jennifer Stoddart has been ordered to appear before the Air India Inquiry. Apparently she had informed the Commission of Inquiry that she had nothing further to say but subsequently gave a media interview that was critical of the Government's no-fly list.

It all sounds a little snarky:

Privacy chief called on carpet over no-fly list

Air India inquiry head John Major has ordered Canada's privacy commissioner to appear before him after she publicly criticized a no-fly list being implemented next week.

Mr. Major said yesterday that his Ottawa inquiry was earlier informed by the office of Jennifer Stoddart that she had nothing more to say related to the mandate of his commission into the June 23, 1985, Air India bombing and subsequent investigation.

But Mr. Major said Ms. Stoddart then gave a "free-wheeling" media interview in which she commented on testimony at the inquiry last week about the introduction on June 18 of a Canadian no-fly list.

Mr. Major said Ms. Stoddart should have made her comments in evidence at the Air India inquiry and not to a reporter. He issued a subpoena for her to appear today.

A lawyer for Ms. Stoddart responded by telling inquiry counsel later yesterday that the privacy commissioner would be happy to appear "willingly" but is on her way to Beijing.

An appearance date is expected to be determined this afternoon.

Ms. Stoddart's views on the controversial no-fly list appeared on June 8.

She said the list could become "quite a nightmare" for ordinary Canadians.

"Every time we go to the airport, do we expect to be challenged? That may be the new world," she said.

Ms. Stoddart also said she was surprised when an Transport Canada official testified before Mr. Major that the list could end up in the hands of foreign governments if their state-owned airlines pass it on to them.

"The commission could have benefited in preparing recommendations on air security from hearing from informed points of view with respect to that," she said.

Mr. Major said of Ms. Stoddart's comments: "She apparently had no hesitation in giving information to the public and the press that should have properly been given to this commission when the opportunity presented itself."

Mr. Major has expressed impatience several times during the inquiry when agencies or companies have expressed reluctance or declined entirely to testify.

He said yesterday that some people do not understand what a royal commission is and that he has the power to compel their testimony.

As for the subpoena for Ms. Stoddart, Mr. Major said: "This should not cause her much inconvenience as she appeared to have no difficulty last Friday in expressing publicly those thoughts to the press."

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