Tory filibuster keeps widow from speakingCan there be anything more contemptible than blocking a grieving widow from speaking out because you don't like what she's going to say?
OTTAWA (CP) — Conservative MPs are thwarting the grieving widow of former Rights and Democracy president Remy Beauregard from testifying at a Commons committee.
Suzanne Trepanier has requested permission to appear at the Foreign Affairs committee to defend her husband’s record and provide her version of events that she believes contributed to Beauregard’s fatal heart attack in January following an agency board meeting.
But Tory MP Jim Abbott’s hour-long filibuster Thursday ran out the clock on a committee decision, and Abbott made of point of reminding the committee chairman that he holds the floor when the group next meets.
Abbott told the committee that hearing from Beauregard’s widow "would be an emotional reaction to a situation over which this committee has absolutely no control."
Rights and Democracy, an arms-length, taxpayer-funded agency, has been in turmoil for months as factions on the government-appointed board battled over three small grants to Middle East rights monitoring groups that are critical of Israel.
They're quite willing to let their own partisan appointees at the center of the scandal speak and expand the witness list to include 'academics', as long as Trepanier or any other actual witnesses who might say something that would embarrass the government are NOT allowed to speak.
Conservatives have agreed to hear from newly appointed president Jacques Gauthier and board chairman Aurel Braun, although both the Conservative appointees cancelled an appearance Thursday for scheduling reasons.UPDATE: Go see Alison's excellent post about the 'honorable' Mr Abbot's sickening display.
"The reason why we want the witness list limited to that is because we see no value in having people who can make their positions clear in public in other fora at this committee," Abbott told The Canadian Press following the committee meeting.
"It doesn't accomplish anything."
Abbott, however, said he was not averse to expanding the witness list — as long as it doesn't include Beauregard's widow and three senior agency employees recently fired by Gauthier.
"We're also completely in favour of people who may have differing points of view — professors, people of knowledge — who may have differing points of view from an academic perspective as to what should be happening."
Conservative disdain for academic expertise has been frequently stated, including a frank assessment last spring by Ian Brodie, Harper's former chief of staff, who told a McGill university forum the government actually benefits politically from such critics.
But first-hand testimony by the widow of a man whose supporters say he was harassed and maligned by stoutly pro-Israel members of the Rights and Democracy board is another matter.
"Given the extraordinary efforts that were made by some people to review Mr. Beauregard's conduct and the impact of that review on Mr. Beauregard, I think she's fully entitled to appear," said Liberal MP and committee member Bob Rae.
"I think they're frankly very concerned about what Suzanne Trepanier would say," NDP Leader Jack Latyon said in an interview.
Jim Abbott :
Telephone: (613) 995-7246
Fax: (613) 996-9923