Dalhousie Law Journal


royal commission, politics, policy, commission secretary, Ocean Ranger Inquiry


Royal commissions of inquiry are generally set up to address an urgent public concern that is almost certainly politically sensitive. The task that they are given to do is not an easy one, and they are expected to deal with it competently, economically and, above all, expeditiously. Inevitably, some controversy will be generated by their activities as they operate under intense public scrutiny. There are, in fact, two kinds of inquiries: one is the quasijudicial investigation which has as its purpose to establish the facts and to determine whether any act was contrary to the law or the public interest, or in the case of an accident, could amount to negligence; the other is the consultative inquiry which seeks the best informed opinion in a particular area of public concern so that it may analyse the options and make policy recommendations to government. The investigative and the consultative inquiry are organized on rather different lines and operate in different ways. When one commission combines both functions, as did the Royal Commission on the Ocean Ranger Marine Disaster, it faces some interesting problems.