OTTAWA – RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson says it “shouldn’t be very long” before the public finds out why Mounties didn’t lay criminal charges against Nigel Wright.
In a letter written in response to NDP MP Charlie Angus and made public Wednesday, Paulson says the force has documented “very precisely” why they didn’t charge Wright.
He agrees the public should be informed – just not yet.
“I am confident they will be informed since we have documented very precisely why and on what basis we have elected not to bring criminal charges against Mr. Wright,” Paulson writes.
“Unfortunately this cannot happen now, when other work remains to be done. l can’t tell you precisely when it will be except to say that it shouldn’t be very long.”
Paulson also defended the RCMP’s independence, hitting back at “some quarters of the media who have questioned – unfairly and unjustifiably in my view – the independence of the RCMP.”
“Nobody screens or approves my correspondence just as no one screens or approves what I do during the course of my duties. This ongoing questioning of our operational independence is quite confounding for me, l have to tell you,” Paulson wrote.
Paulson pointed out that the RCMP never dropped charges against Wright, as he was being investigated but was never charged with any offence.
READ: RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson’s letter to NDP MP Charlie Angus
Paulson was responding to a letter from Angus, the NDP’s ethics critic, requesting “clarification” as to why Wright wasn’t charged after it was revealed he secretly gave suspended Senator Mike Duffy $90,000 to repay ineligible expenses.
Sources say it’s likely Duffy will be charged next month. He was being investigated for bribery, breach of trust and frauds on the government.
Angus suggested Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff, potentially breached Section 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act, which says it is an indictable offence to offer compensation to a member of the Senate in regard to any claim or controversy before the upper chamber.
“Like many Canadians, I do not understand how it can be that writing a secret personal payment out of the Prime Minister’s Office to a sitting senator doesn’t contravene the law,” Angus wrote in a letter dated last Thursday.
“If Mr. Wright’s actions did not cross this line, the average Canadian is justifiably left wondering where exactly the legal and ethical line is in Ottawa today.”
On Wednesday, Angus said he was satisfied with Paulson’s response.
“He’s responded saying that they will be at some point responding in a transparent and accountable way, so I’m pleased,” Angus said.
He added he did not question the operational independence of the RCMP in his letter, but only asked the force to tell the public why they decided not to charge Wright under the Parliament of Canada Act.
“If laws were broken, the RCMP should explain to us why they decided not to follow through on charges with Mr. Nigel Wright,” he said.
On Monday, RCMP investigator Cpl. Greg Horton told Global News “nothing will be hidden” about why charges weren’t laid against Wright and the reasons will be revealed either in court or through an access to information request.
There was some confusion as to whether the RCMP had leaked the letter to CTV before sending it to the NDP. Angus chalked it up to “a mixup with our fax machine.”