MPs choose not to investigate ‘obstruction of justice’ allegation against Mendicino – Reuters

Members of the House of Commons Immigration Committee voted on Wednesday not to investigate allegations of obstruction of justice against Marco Mendicino, who was previously in charge of the case.

The Deputy Minister of the Department of Immigration claims that human error led to an error in court records regarding the coming into force of a law creating a new college to regulate immigration consultants.

The governor general signed an executive order to put the law into effect on November 20, 2020, the same day as a trademark infringement hearing involving the new college.

Government lawyers told a Federal Court judge handling the case that the legislation went into effect that day. And the Immigration Department issued a press release a few days later, in which Mendicino said the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act had gone into effect.

But it didn’t really come into effect until more than two weeks later, when the decree was officially registered.

A report by independent outlet Blacklock’s Reporter last week suggested that Mendicino had backdated government documents in an “apparent attempt to mislead a federal judge.”

Mendicino, who became public safety minister in October 2021, denied the allegations Sunday in a statement from his communications director, Alex Cohen.

The deputy minister told the immigration committee that it was a simple human error that was quickly corrected.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff mistakenly believed that the day of the order was the effective date of the law, Deputy Minister Christiane Fox explained in a letter to the committee chair.

The courts were notified of the error on December 9, 2020, she wrote, and the press release has been corrected.

“I sincerely hope this gives you the necessary assurance that all appropriate steps have been taken to correct the effective date error once discovered,” Fox wrote.

Committee members called an urgent meeting following the media report and debated whether to investigate the error, but the idea was defeated by a five-to-six vote.

Conservative members of the committee argued in favor of the inquiry, saying they feared government lawyers had been given the green light to say the law had come into force before the governor-general signed the document.

‘We have not one, but in fact several different cases… of wrongdoing or multiple overlapping errors here,’ said Tory MP Garnett Genuis.

Liberal MPs described the mistake as an honest mistake and voted against the inquiry.

“We know public servants are human. We are all human. We can all be wrong, even if we try our best,” Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi told the committee.

Blacklock’s report was based on emails obtained through freedom of information legislation. Mendicino’s office released the 730-page dossier the report cited to committee members ahead of the meeting.

The file includes several messages between ministry officials and communications staff in which they repeatedly confirm the incorrect effective date of the legislation.

The week after the press release was issued, the exchanges show that the department’s legal team flagged the error, and on December 1, 2020, department officials discussed the need for “corrective action.”

Denise W. Whigham