Canadian judge lifts publication ban on sponsorship scandal testimony

[JURIST] Justice John Gomery Thursday ordered a partial lifting of a publication ban [Gomery Commission ruling] prohibiting the dissemination of testimony provided on a sponsorship scandal that has created significant political problems for Canada's governing Liberal Party. Canadians had previously been barred from reporting any testimony to Gomery's judicial commission of inquiry by Quebec advertising executive Jean Brault so as not to prejudice Brault's upcoming criminal fraud trial. The Gomery Commission is charged with investigating a national unity program that during the prime ministership of Jeam Chretien had resulted in $100 million in contracts being awarded to advertising firms like Brault's with close ties to the Liberal Party, with little return.

Soon after Brault began testifying about his role in the sponsorship program last week a Minnesota-based US conservative blogger defied the publication ban [Gazette report] by posting details on his Captain's Quarters weblog, asserting that "If you have government corruption, it shouldn't be hidden behind a publication ban. It should be out there for Canadians to see." In partially lifting the publication ban [Globe and Mail report] today, Justice Gomery said "It is in the public interest that this evidence with few exceptions be made available to the public remembering that publication bans are a violation of constitutional rights and are to be imposed rarely, particularly in the context of a public inquiry." Before Thursday's reversal, Canada's Public Works Minister said that the government would work to ensure that the publication ban was upheld in Canada, but acknowledged "There's very little that can be done when you speak of international media, particularly the Internet." According to the now officially-released testimony, Brault told the commission [CBC report] that he was repeatedly asked to give cash donations to the Liberal party and put election workers on his payroll in exchange for federal sponsorship contracts. CBC has more.

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