Bellemare should testify or retract

Commission Bastarache

Having splashed mud over Premier Jean Charest, the Liberal government, and anyand all judges appointed to the bench between 2000 and 2004, former Liberaljustice minister Marc Bellemare continues to refuse to back up his claims in any meaningful way.

Specifically, he still says he will not appear before the inquiry that the premier has called to look into his allegations. First he said that he was muzzled by his oath of secrecy about cabinet matters while he was Quebec's justice minister in 2003-04. But after the Charest government lifted the oath of secrecy, Bellemare fell back to a prepared reserve position: the inquiry, headed by former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache, is a sucker trap, and he will have nothing to do with it.
This is getting ridiculous. Bellemare is not doing his cause -which he says is exposing the "sale" of judgeships -any good by refusing to testify. Some suspect that Bellemare's other, or ultimate, purpose is to pay Charest back for real or imagined slights. Either way, Bellemare is convincing no one of anything with his prima donna tactics.
If he can't back up the serious claims he has made, he had no business making them in the first place. By leaving his allegations to stand in the absence of any proof, he is doing irreparable harm to the reputations of judges -who because they are unnamed cannot even fight back -and also to the reputation, not spotless to begin with, of the whole political class.
If Bellemare has a case to make, he should make it. Nothing stands in the path of his testifying. The idea that judgeships can be bought is a terrible smear against the province's judicial system. In any jurisdiction, the judicial system is rightly seen as the last, best defender of the common person. Citizens must be able to rely on the integrity and probity of their court system.
We can agree that Bastarache should not have appointed as the commission's chief lawyer a financial supporter of the Liberal Party. But the man has since resigned. Bastarache also should not have denied the Parti Quebecois standing before his hearing. But neither of those mistakes by Bastarache gets Bellemare off the hook.
His latest ploy is to wait for Charest's $700,000 defamation suit against him to get under way -under the pretext that the courts are a far less biased forum than a commission of inquiry. The inquiry should call Bellemare's bluff and subpoena him.

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