Letter from Maurice Vellacott, MP to J. Paul Vienneau, A/Manager, Customs Investigations
Maurice Vellacott, M.P.
October 2, 2002
J. Paul Vienneau
Re: Mr. Ken Dillen - Notices of Ascertained Forfeitures and subsequent collection efforts
Dear Mr. Vienneau:
I wish now to respond to your letter of December 29, 1997, regarding the above-mentioned subject matter. I regret that it has taken this long to respond but you will understand that for the past five years I have attempted with Mr. Dillen's co-operation to piece together information obtained through the Access to Information Act.
Based on the information received so far, it appears that you have provided misinformation to a Member of Parliament. I take great exception to this serious error in judgment on the part of a public servant. It is bad enough that you misinform me as an individual but when you misinform my office as a Member of Parliament you are in fact attempting to mislead the institution of Parliament as a whole.
I wish first of all to draw your attention to the remarks made by Canadian Wheat Board, Chief Commissioner, Mr. Lorne Hehn as reported by the Western Producer on Feb. 10, 1994, The Canadian Wheat Board is helpless to stop what industry sources say is an increasing number of illegal exports of wheat and barley into the U.S. The board can no longer enforce a provision of the Canadian Wheat Board Act requiring exporters of prairie grain to get a permit from the board, chief Commissioner Lorne Hen said in an interview last week. Specifically, Mr. Hehn also said, "We don't have a vehicle to properly enforce that law."
In your reply to me you state, "The export of wheat and barley from Canada is regulated by both the Canadian Wheat Board Act and the Customs Act." I assume you mean Section 95.1 s5 and s3. I am appalled to learn through the Access to Information Act that you were in attendance at a meeting in the Connaught Building on June 23, 1997 where you were advised by Mike Hadley that "The charge of exporting without a license, is as a result of the Sawatsky decision, no longer valid," and secondly, the report continues, "This is problematic because the s3 (failure to report in writing) actions were added as an afterthought and in many cases have not been pursued i.e., the defendants have not been given an opportunity to answer to these charges. Additionally, warning letters by Customs had not specifically referred to a requirement to report in writing. Consequently there is some question as to whether the s3 charge will stand up to a court challenge. The difficulty with the s3 charge is that exactly what constitutes a report in writing has never been Gazetted or specified." If you had been completely honest with me, you would have been forced to include this, "There was discussion that Revenue Canada might have to discontinue these civil proceedings, either because the defendants had had no chance to respond to the s3 charge, or that s3 was not valid in law."
Mr. Vienneau, you were in attendance at this meeting on June 23, 1997. You wrote to me on December 29, 1997 and failed to disclose that s5 was "no longer valid" and that s3 "was added as an afterthought" and "never gazetted or specified." Do you not think that would have been the more honest response to a Member of Parliament, and therefore Parliament itself? As a public servant, who bestowed the right on your to treat Parliamentarians and Parliament with the contemptuous attitude you display in your letter by failing to be forthright and honest in your reply?
I will be approaching the Chairman of the Agriculture Committee through the agency of the Official Opposition Agriculture critics to request that you appear before the Agriculture Committee of the House.
You also claim in your letter that "information regarding export licenses for wheat and barley products, along with reporting requirements at the time of export, can be found in Customs Memorandum D-19-3-2, which is available to the general public." Perhaps you can explain why this document is never mentioned in any of the Crown's Books of Authority presented to the courts in Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba?
When Mr. Dillen, a former provincial parliamentarian, crossed the border with a load of barley on August 17, 1995, he specifically requested the parliamentary authority Customs was using to seize his truck, and under what statute. The Customs Officer could not cite or produce any statute from any statue book available in the Customs office. Every statute book was opened and every filing cabinet on site was searched. The Customs officer was on the phone constantly, and for seven days Mr. Dillen returned to the Customs office at the Lylton, MB crossing to ask if the proper statue had been found. The answer was always the same, "not yet".
On the seventh day he was given a copy of a directive from Minister Anderson. Mr. Dillen pointed out, quite correctly, that a Minister's directive was not law, but the Ascertained Forfeiture was issued anyways. In your words, Mr. Vienneau, a document D-19-3-2 "which is available to the general public" should have at the very least been available at all Customs offices, which it clearly was not. How then can you say it is available to the general public when it was not even available to your own border crossing staff?
I am continuing my efforts to obtain account numbers for the Departments of Justice, AAFC, and Revenue Canada to determine how many books were purchased from the Canadian Central Communications Agency. From that I hope to determine the truth of your statement that the Memorandum D-19-3-2 was available to the general public.
It may interest you to know that in accordance with our records Memorandum D-19-3-2 never surfaced in Canada until July 7, 1997. The Memorandum D-19-3-2 was only legitimized after Minister Goodale's Order in Council "closing the loop-holes" was passed after the Sawatsky acquittal was upheld by the Court of Appeal on May 17, 1997.
Mr. Dillen retained Mr. Bill Pearson QC , of Brandon, MB to represent him in proceedings before the courts. An appeal was launched against the civil action. The Adjudications Branch gave its reasons for decision and an action was set to proceed in Federal Court. However, Mr. Pearson was advised that he was premature, in that the Minister had not rendered his decision, which was to be given in a "reasonable" time. It has been seven years since the civil proceedings began and the Minister has still not rendered a decision. It is obvious that Revenue Canada has been derelict in their duties in not preparing a reply for the Minister. How else would a Minister know that he is obliged to render a decision? In fact, Mr. Vienneau you may be directly responsible for causing your Minister to stand accused of failing to comply with his own legislation.
Perhaps you could enlighten me, why is it that you can seize Mr. Dillen's income tax return by "set aside" without a Minister's decision, yet before Mr. Dillen can bring the issue before the Federal Court he needs a Minister's decision? It is very important that you provide me an answer to this question.
If you were truly honest with me you would have advised me that no law existed until Mr. Goodale introduced amendments to the Act on May 17, 1997. Any infractions that occurred before that time would fall into your "invalid" category.
You may also wish to explain why Mr. Dillen cannot have the Federal Court determine whether he is liable to the legislation while he awaits a Minister's decision. Meanwhile, farmers in all of the western provinces have been forced to pay the Ascertained Forfeitures in the absence of a Minister's decision.
You also need to explain the letter written by Parrish and Heimbecker who received your "notice to industry" dated September 8, 1994 that the "attached export requirements must be fulfilled," This was the export requirements imposed on western Canada, but since it is a government decree it must be applied to all of Canada. However, P&H in attempting to comply with your directive had this to say: "Our truckers are now reporting that Revenue Canada Customs personnel at Sarnia say that they do not have to, nor do they want, the documentation that you are requesting or demanding in the aforementioned notice to industry." Further, "In fact, some of the personnel in Sarnia are refusing to accept these documents that we are now required to submit."
You may wish to explain why the same enforcement in western Canada did not apply to Ontario and how this year Ontario will be issuing their own export permits.
According to your own reports there are 211 civil cases and 316 criminal cases, either completed or wending their way through the courts. That is 427 farmers, their friends, family and countless sympathizers, who are no longer growing wheat or barley for the Canadian Wheat Board, not even as a rotational crop if it can be avoided.
In recent reports the Canadian Wheat Board is having difficulty filling international orders and is rationing wheat to its preferred customers. There is a very good reason for that and it is not only because of the drought. You will have noticed that no shipments of wheat and barley have been sent tot he prairies. It is only hay that was in short supply. Because of the persecution farmers have been subjected to by your department, more and more farmers are switching to forage and other crops as a preferred crop choice.
Land that once produced wheat and barley is now grazing land for cattle, elk, deer and bison. Where wheat and barley was king, the land base is now producing pulse crops, oilseed, flax, rye, oats, canola, sunflowers and lentils.
The Canadian Wheat Board is the last bastion of socialist thought in western Canada. It is the only instrument remaining that owes its birthright to the Regina Manifesto, and remains an instrument of eastern domination of western agriculture.
I read with interest the congratulatory letter sent to all Revenue Canada staff in western Canada. Your deputy Minister said, On behalf of our Minister and myself, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to all of you for your exemplary efforts with respect to the ongoing wheat and barley investigations... Successful prosecutions, the effective control of unlawful exports at the border, and exceptional two-way communications between Headquarters and regional personnel are measures of your success... Your efforts are greatly appreciated by the Minister and myself and we applaud your accomplishments to date.
Your department, Mr. Vienneau, used the heavy hand of the state, Stalinist style, to suppress legitimate dissent, unlike Ontario where compromise achieved resounding success for the grain producer. The success with which you defended the Canadian Wheat Board may just be its final undoing as less and less wheat and barley is being produced. Your Deputy and Minister may be the author of the Canadian Wheat Board's demise.
I look forward to a response at your earliest convenience.