Lawyers vs. justice in Ottawa


National Post, Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Re: A Decade Of Torment, four authors, March 17.

At the core of the issue about the government tormenting a whistle-blower like Joanna Gualtieri is the question asked by the authors: "Why do government lawyers feel the need to resort to such practices when they already enjoy the overwhelming advantage of unlimited time and resources -- in a case against an individual with serious health problems and no financial support (e.g., from a union) to cover her mounting legal costs?"

The answer is quite obvious to me, thanks to my experience working in a senior position in Ottawa for four years. The Department of Justice has more lawyers than a mid-sized Toronto legal firm. These lawyers are there to defend government officials from legal issues which arise from dealings with citizenry. Most are underemployed and in a desperate need of a case, with their performance measured by "billing" time to other departments.

It is surprising that David Kilgour, himself an Ottawa insider, does not see this "elephant in the room." The Department of Justice and its lawyers have dragged many claims into protracted legal wars of attrition, which the citizenry pays for but rarely wins.

Unless the rules of the game are changed, getting things done in Ottawa will always be a lawyers' game, where time is limitless and justice measured in billable hours.

Alec M. Bialski, Calgary.

Copyright National Post 2008