Public Inquiries and the Legality of Blaming: Truth, Justice and the Canadian Way

Document Type

Book Chapter

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administrative law, commissions of inquiry, accountability, public law, democracy, access to information


Accountability has become one of the major social concerns of the late twentieth century. Wide access to information by telecommunication is fuelling a hunger for knowledge about "what really happened" in relation to major events that cause significant suffering. Access to information has triggered a greater involvement by people in the way their countries and communities are run. Our society has a plethora of mechanisms with which to address individual and institutional accountability, many of them hidden from public view. The commission of inquiry is one mechanism that operates in full public view. The degree of political sophistication of the population means that "who did what to whom?" is no longer the only question that needs answering. Equally important are such related questions as: Who should be accountable to whom? By what standard should people in positions of responsibility be judged? What political and legal mechanisms enable us to best determine what really happened? What is the ultimate goal of any process of accountability? If some goals of an accountability process are incompatible with each other, how will we prioritize?