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James Parker - Jim Pankiw

Summary trial recommended for lawsuit

Jim Pankiw

A different judge will need more information before ruling on the defamation lawsuit brought by former StarPhoenix reporter James Parker against former MP Jim Pankiw (right), a Saskatoon judge has ruled.

The suit raises important questions about the freedom of journalists to speak frankly about important issues of the day and about a citizen's protection from unfair and improper attacks in the news and other media, Queen's Bench Justice David Wright ruled this week.

It also raises the question of whether the exchanges between individuals who are routinely in the public eye are subject to a different test than would apply to private citizens, Wright said.

Parker accuses Pankiw, the former Saskatoon-Humboldt MP, of defaming him in a mailout distributed to Saskatoon households last year. The mailout contends that Parker's senior communications job with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) is a reward for years of praising the government's race-based agenda while at The StarPhoenix.

Having dealt with the pretrial issues, Wright instructed lawyers for the parties to ask the chief justice to assign another judge to the case to ensure it proceeds quickly to a summary trial, where the parties can be cross-examined.

A hearing in chambers this week was supposed to be a quick way to resolve the matter because it skips the usual pretrial stages, such as cross-examination, but Wright suggested that procedure shouldn't be used where there might be significant differences in evidence.

Parker's lawsuit claims the mailout discredited him by suggesting he lacks integrity and professionalism for accepting the job and contends Pankiw abused his parliamentary allowance by using taxpayers' money to pay for the mailout.

Parker seeks monetary compensation that does not exceed $50,000.

Parker's lawyer, Ron Piche, sent Pankiw a letter asking for an apology and retraction circulated as widely as the initial mailout. Pankiw then distributed another e-mail announcing his intention to counter-sue for being the victim of a smear job.

A mandatory mediation between the two parties in October last year failed.

Police seek advice on charges

Saskatoon police haven't decided if charges will be laid against former Saskatoon-Humboldt MP Jim Pankiw in connection with an incident at the provincial mediation office last month.

The investigation to this point has been completed and the file was forwarded to the prosecutor's office for an opinion as to whether or not any criminal charges should be laid, said Saskatoon police Insp. Jeff Bent.

It's not uncommon for police to seek an opinion from a prosecutor regarding charges, he says.

On Oct.15, Pankiw was to meet with former StarPhoenix reporter James Parker and a mediator. Pankiw is being sued by Parker, who claims the former MP defamed him earlier this year in a mailout.

According to Parker's lawyer, Ron Piche, Pankiw threatened Parker. Pankiw has denied the allegation.

Bent isn't sure when a decision regarding charges will be made. The file was forwarded to prosecutors earlier this month.

Police called to meeting between Pankiw, Parker

Saskatoon police are investigating an incident at the provincial mediation office Friday afternoon when a meeting was scheduled between former StarPhoenix reporter James Parker, former Saskatoon-Humboldt MP Jim Pankiw and a mediator.

We were dispatched there in regards to some type of disturbance, confirmed Saskatoon Police Staff Sgt. Neal Wylie in an interview.

Wylie would provide no other details about the incident at the office located in the Sturdy Stone Building.

Parker's lawyer would only give a brief account of the afternoon's events.

A complaint's been filed with the police with respect to allegations of a threat against James (Parker) by Mr. Pankiw that was made in the waiting room, said Ron Piche in an interview.

Pankiw is being sued by Parker, who claims the former MP defamed him earlier this year in a mail-out entitled, SP Hack Takes Paid Indian Lobbyist Job. In the leaflet, Pankiw contends that Parker's new job as a communications officer for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is a payoff and a reward for years of praising the government's race-based agenda while at The StarPhoenix.

Pankiw is countersuing, calling the defamation claim an unprincipled drive-by smear.

As required by the provincial justice system, the two parties with their lawyers must attend a mediation session designed to bring the two sides to a mutually acceptable agreement to avoid further court proceedings.

I was required to go to some kind of mandatory mediation thing and, quite frankly, I had better things to do with my day and I didn't want to be there, said Pankiw in an interview after the incident.

Parker and his lawyer were meeting with the mediator when they heard yelling, according to Piche.

We heard some words spoken, some shouting, some yelling and then emerged from the office and he (Pankiw) was gone (from the office reception area).

We saw him for probably two seconds and, I think, we both were a little bit concerned about what we saw and we didn't want to expose ourselves to any potential confrontation, said Piche who wouldn't say who said what during the incident.

It was not a pleasant experience for James or anybody who was in attendance.

Pankiw denied he threatened Parker and said he wasn't aware of anyone yelling in the office.

Not that I heard. There might have been. I wouldn't have been surprised if that . . . James Parker yelled at somebody. Whatever. That's up to him, said Pankiw.

I made them an offer to settle and they rejected it, he added.

When asked to whom did he make the offer, Pankiw replied, I don't know. Some mediation specialist of some kind.

Pankiw wouldn't divulge the details of his offer.

During the telephone interview with The StarPhoenix, Pankiw viciously attacked Parker, Piche and The StarPhoenix in a profanity-laced rant.

I've got a question for you. Why do you work for a tabloid sleazy crap, just, you know, (the) editorial board is a piece of dirt that you work for. How do you tolerate even knowing those people? They're just disgusting individuals with no morals or values whatsoever. Do you not see that?

He said the reporter should write about the bias and the innuendo and the selective omissions and the socialist bent of The StarKleenex. That should be your story. You're not going to put that in the paper though are you? And if you tried to, they'd probably fire you, wouldn't they? Tell me I'm wrong. I know I'm right.

And he said he shouldn't have bothered returning The StarPhoenix telephone call.

I just thought I'd let you know what I think of you people. I don't think much of you. I think you're a bunch of scum bags and a bunch of losers and a bunch of socialists and you promote communism and the NDP and all that crap and garbage.

You go tell those socialist pricks that you work for that I don't like them and that The StarKleenex is a useless tabloid, sleazy rag that does nothing to promote the goodness or health of our nation or our collective well-being, he said.

With the mediation session over, the civil suit proceeds to the trial.

Piche expects a Court of Queen's Bench judge to hear the case in chambers within the next couple of months.

Parker's statement of claim does not state the exact amount of monetary compensation he is seeking but that it does not exceed $50,000.

Pankiw mailouts may face tribunal
Human rights investigator flags 'blatant untruth'

Pamphlets distributed by Saskatoon-Humboldt MP Jim Pankiw used crassly manipulative strategies and blatant untruth, wrote an expert who analysed them for the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC).

Commission investigator Richard Warman has recommended a Canadian human rights tribunal be called as a result of the report's findings.

The pamphlets, titled Stop Indian Crime and It's Clear who the Racists are discriminate against aboriginal peoples and incite others to discriminate, wrote Derek Smith, a sociology professor from Carleton University who specializes in aboriginal affairs.

Smith was commissioned to analyse the pamphlets for Warman's investigation into nine complaints about the two pamphlets, which were distributed in the Saskatoon area in 2002 and 2003.

The tribunal is similar to a court of law but is less formal and deals only with cases of discrimination referred to it by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The commission can be compared to the police, which receives and investigates complaints.

If a tribunal finds a complaint is substantiated, it could order Pankiw to cease the discriminatory practice and pay as much as $20,000 in compensation for pain and suffering caused by the discrimination.

That amount could, theoretically, be doubled, if the tribunal found Pankiw to have discriminated willfully or recklessly.

John Melenchuk, a Metis activist in Saskatoon, complained in February 2003 about the Indian Crime pamphlet, alleging that he and other aboriginal people had been discriminated against through adverse differential treatment and harassment in the provision of a public service. He alleged the pamphlets incited others to discriminate too.

Quebec Oka crisis

That pamphlet bore a red stop sign above the words Indian Crime. On the back was a well-known photograph of a Canadian soldier and a Mohawk protester facing each other during the 1990 Oka crisis. The pamphlet identifies the masked Mohawk as a terrorist.

Melenchuk complained that his eight-year-old son had asked him if he is a terrorist as he handed his father the pamphlet.

Melenchuk said Sunday that while the commission decision is good news, he's disappointed that Pankiw has continued to distribute pamphlets in the 16 months since Melenchuk filed his complaint.

In the meantime, he put out two more householders and poisoned a whole other generation of non-Native youth, Melenchuk said.

The CHRC will decide whether to request a tribunal at its next meeting, probably in summer, Melenchuk said. Such a tribunal hearing would probably not happen before fall, he added.

Pankiw laughed repeatedly Sunday when contacted for an interview about the report.

You have a government tribunal, an extension of government, taking on an elected official? How preposterous, outrageous and ridiculous.

All I'm doing is my job, exposing wasteful mismanagement in government.

Pankiw denied any inaccuracies in his pamphlets, choosing instead to criticize a reporter repeatedly as a useless, slimy piece of dirt.

In his 19-page report, Smith found the Oka photograph did not have a single thing to do with the context of the pamphlet and was so gratuitous and so provocative as to constitute a blatant untruth.

Pankiw's letter to constituents in the pamphlet asserts that the federal government and Indian lobbyists have ignored evidence that explains why there is a greater percentage of aboriginal people incarcerated than of the general public.

Smith calls that statement a gross untruth, saying the issue is one of the most discussed and debated issues within government departments that deal with aboriginal peoples.

Pankiw misquoted the Criminal Code in the pamphlet, according to the investigation, creating the impression that judges consider sanctions other than prison for aboriginals only. The code says non-prison sanctions should be considered for all offenders.

A second pamphlet analysed by Smith bore a photograph of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau with former Indian leader David Ahenakew, who was censured in 2002 for praising Hitler's slaying of Jews. The photograph does not have anything to do with the discussion of policy in the pamphlet; it simply exploits negative views and attitudes about aboriginals to gain support for Pankiw's heavily racialized view.

Pankiw's negative comments about race-based hiring quotas have nothing to do with the rest of the pamphlet and are likely an attempt to exploit the negative effects of the photograph and offensive remarks quoted in the pamphlet, Smith wrote.

This is yet another example of the crassly manipulative strategies, of the pamphlet, Smith wrote.

Pankiw's claim that Indians are exempt from paying taxes is a gross oversimplification and overgeneralization, Smith wrote.

Pankiw responded to the commission that it doesn't have jurisdiction over him as a member of Parliament. But if it did have jurisdiction, Pankiw said, he was doing his duty as an MP, not providing a service.

Pankiw also wrote in his response to the complaint that his opinions derived from government publications already in the public domain and did not discriminate or harass.

Smith found Pankiw's letter of defence to be inflammatory, immoderate, uncivil, overstated and (amounting) to a rant saturated with the same sorts of racialized epithets and ideas as the second pamphlet.

The CHRC does have jurisdiction, said Joseph Maingot, a former Clerk of the House of Commons and author of the work, Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, who was consulted by the commission.

The pamphlet was issued by Pankiw as an individual MP and thus was not protected by immunity provided to Parliament as a whole, Maingot wrote.