Dalhousie Law Journal


commission of inquiry, public inquiry, Canada, rights, obligations, critique


There are questions raised from time to time as to the desirability of continued utilization of the public inquiry as we know it. These questions ordinarily arise in the context of a consideration of the issues outlined in this paper, that is to say, the rights and obligations of those subject to inquiry. In a classic description of the public inquiry Mr. Justice Middleton observed as follows: It must not be forgotten that this is an inquiry directed by the government into the affairs of its own creature, a Children's Aid Society, with the view of ascertaining if it is discharging its true function in the public service. Suspicion of wrong-doing and maladministration exist. Is there any foundation? It is in no sense a trial of any one. It is an inquiry not governed by the same rules as are applicable to the trial of an accused person. The public, for whose service this Society was formed, is entitled to full knowledge of what has been done by it and by those who are its agents and officers and manage its affairs. What has been done in the exercise of its power and in discharge of its duties is that which the Commissioner is to find out; so that any abuse, if abuse exist, may be remedied and misconduct, if misconduct exist, may be put an end to and be punished, not by the Commissioner, but by appropriate proceedings against any individual. This is a matter in which the fullest inquiry should be permitted. All documents should be produced, and all witnesses should be heard, and the fullest right to cross-examine should be permitted. Only in this way can the truth be disclosed.