Public Inquiries in Canada: Law and Practice

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Public inquiries have significantly shaped public policy in Canada. In recent years, we have had inquiries into the safety of drinking water, the use of tasers by police, breast cancer screening, the pediatric forensic pathology system, public contracts in the construction industry, and wrongful convictions. Inquiries continue to proliferate; take a look at the media in Canada in any given week and you'll find calls for the creation of public inquiries, discussions of the efficacy of ongoing inquiries, and comments about the recommendations from inquiries recently concluded.

Public Inquiries in Canada: Law and Practice gives a full picture of the workings of an inquiry. Not only does it provide a comprehensive legal overview of an inquiry, it also offers practical guidance through each of the steps in the inquiry process. Through the voices and perspectives of those involved in every aspect of public inquiries, this book serves as a catalogue of the best practices in the conduct of a public inquiry, regardless of the mandate or terms of reference of the inquiry.

The book is national in scope and the authors have included information that will be useful in all aspects of the inquiry process, and at all levels: federal, provincial/ territorial, and municipal.

Among the many contributors and interviewees in the book, you'll hear from:

  • Commissioners
  • Commission counsel
  • Investigators
  • Journalists
  • Counsellors
  • Witnesses

In addition to personal and accessible voices, this publication provides examples of the templates, documents, and legislation that can be relied upon by those involved.

Public Inquiries in Canada: A Guide to Law and Practice is organized in chronological fashion, from the calling of an inquiry by a government, to the submission of the commissioner's report, and to the aftermath. By providing guidance, suggestions, and reflections, the authors have assembled a thorough review of the elements of an inquiry and the various roles of those involved. Legal rights and duties are discussed, and relevant cases and statutes are included and analyzed. With practical checklists, and precedents, legal analysis and first-hand descriptions from all sides of an inquiry, the book can be used as a legal text, a guidebook, a reference text, or all three.

The book will prove useful to all those involved in a public inquiry, including:

  • Those appointed commissioners of an inquiry (including judges), commission counsel, and other members of the commission team such as policy analysts, investigators, document reviewers, media spokespersons, and staff persons working on inquiries
  • Lawyers representing parties, and
  • Non-lawyers such as witnesses (including expert witnesses), counselors, journalists, members of the public, and others included in the inquiry process

"Public Inquiries in Canada is useful for all those involved in a public inquiry, from judges and lawyers to witnesses and journalists. With its practical writing and substantive legal analysis, it would be a welcome addition to any law library."
Alexia Loumankis, Reference and Research Librarian, Bora Laskin Law Library, University of Toronto (2019 Canadian Law Library Review, Volume 44, No. 2)

"As co-authors and editors-in-chief of Public Inquiries in Canada: Law and Practice, Ronda Bessner and Susan Lightstone have produced an important how-to guide on running a public inquiry. Informed by the contributions (written and oral) of former commissioners, lawyers, police officers and other key players, this book also serves as a historical record of public inquiries in Canada."
Bay Ryley (The Advocates Journal, Vol. 37, No. 2. - Fall 2018)

"This wonderful book fills a long-standing need. It provides practical advice from those who have been there on the myriad tasks involved from a commission's establishment, through its staffing, evidence gathering and presentation of evidence, to the writing of its report. It should be required reading for anyone involved with creating, running, or working with an inquiry."
Justice Peter K. Doody, Commission Counsel to the Elliot Lake Inquiry and Counsel at the Gomery Inquiry, the Prison for Women Inquiry, and the Sinclair Stevens Inquiry

"A highly informative, comprehensive and accessible work on the how to of public inquiries from the principles to the practical. This publication presents a thorough yet concise examination of issues and includes great observations and insights from those who have conducted public inquiries."
The Honourable Susan E. Lang, Independent Reviewer of the Motherisk Hair Analysis Review

"Public Inquiries in Canada: Law and Practice is a must-read practical guide for governments contemplating establishing an inquiry, Commissioners and their counsel, lawyers for parties with standing and the interested public."
Beth Symes, C.M., LSM

"Public Inquiries in Canada: Law and Practice is an excellent contribution to our knowledge of the law and the practice of public inquiries. It combines legal research with well-conducted interviews of those with practical experience. The volume provides a thorough orientation and handbook for anyone asked to preside over an Inquiry, to serve as counsel to a Commission, or to act as counsel to a party or an intervener. It also presents a fascinating perspective on the inquiry for those who wish to study it as a distinctive part of the machinery of government of Canada."
Mary Eberts, O.C., LSM, Counsel for the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) at the Missing and Murdered Women and Girls National Inquiry

"A tremendous resource and a must read for anyone contemplating becoming involved in a Public Inquiry and a bible for anyone who takes on the role of Commissioner or staff, whether legal or administrative."
Barbara McIsaac, Q.C., Senior Counsel to the Somalia Inquiry and Senior Counsel for the Government of Canada in the Arar Inquiry.


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