first resignation at Cohen Commission

Appears the start of summer heat may be getting to the Scientific Advisory Board at the Cohen Commission as Dr. Riddell has resigned from his appointment. Globe and Mail article:

Globe and Mail article photo

Senior scientist quits Cohen Commission panel

The single reason given is: “Salmon specialist has chosen to be a witness instead.”

Vancouver-based Conservative MP John Cummins continues his attack on some members of the Cohen Commission Scientific Advisory Board. A press release from yesterday:

“The resignation of Brian Riddell from the Cohen Inquiry`s scientific advisory panel is a step in the right direction for the judicial inquiry into the decline of Fraser River sockeye”

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I’m not so sure I agree with the suggestion of a “step in the right direction”… I find it troubling and concerning.

What I find troubling, over and above the potential conflict of interest present for many members of the scientific team (see earlier post Cohen Commission — more sticky territory), is that:

He [Dr. Riddell] said he agreed to serve on the panel of the inquiry out of a commitment to studying and sustaining Pacific salmon, “with my initial understanding that panel members could also be called as witnesses.

“However, that understanding has now changed. The commission policy is now that panel members cannot be called as witnesses.”

This certainly begs the question… ummm, why was that “commission policy” not made clear at the beginning?

I’m no legal expert; however, how the hell does someone serve on an advisory panel to a quasi-judicial process and also get to appear as a witness?

That’s a problem.

Would this have been acceptable in the recent Braidwood Inquiry into tasering death of Mr. Dziekanski, or Maher Arar inquiry? Tell you what Mr. Smith (Taser company CEO and cofounder), you can serve on our advisory panel and be called as a witness…

Could one not draw the parallel between being on a jury and also being called a witness?

By no means is the scientific advisory a “jury” per se… but pretty damn close. It’s been made abundantly clear that this Commission is all about the “science” of declining sockeye on the Fraser River. If it’s not, then why the hell would there be six scientific advisers (wait… five, now) AND an “independent” scientific consultant?

I’m just a little flummoxed that “commission policy” appears to be getting made up along the way. Plus now Dr. Riddell, as Cohen Commission P.R. rep suggests:

Carla Shore, a spokeswoman for the inquiry, said it’s “highly likely” Mr. Riddell will be called as a witness, and noted that he had made a “helpful” contribution, to date, to the inquiry process.

If other members of the panel are to be called as witnesses, they will be asked to step down, she said.

Why was this not thought through in the beginning? Why design a “judicial-like” legalese process, then, have these sorts of slip-ups? Why spend a ^*#*load on lawyers, and then let a quasi-legal process run about as tight as a small town school board?

So now, a “highly likely” witness to the process has been on the inside making “helpful” contributions. And, better yet, if other members of the scientific panel are called to be witnesses (e.g. working on the inside of the process) they will have to step down.

Geeee… sure sounds like a water-tight ship.

Meanwhile, some of the legal teams working for organizations granted standing are making participants in those processes sign legal documents of strict confidentiality…

I bet this sort of “here’s the rules… oh no wait… we mean here’s the rules… no, no… sorry, here’s the rules…”-type fumbling makes the legal experts involved a little frazzled.

This is a shmozzle.

I wouldn’t suggest it’s FUBAR yet… but it’s officially a shmozzle (at least in my small book of humble opinion…).

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