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I saw an interesting story in the Canadian media the other day. Several federal cabinet ministers and some prominent members of Parliament have allegedly given tax money to a Canadian charity that is a branch of an international charity that has allegedly given money in turn to well-known terrorist organizations. Various other countries and some major banks have already broken all ties with the aforementioned international charity. Also, the prime minister himself has appeared in videos urging people to give money to the Canadian branch of the charity. Giving money to terrorist organizations is against Canadian law.

If these claims are potentially true - and I don't know they are, not having seen the evidence, just heard it paraphrased by an alleged former intelligence agent - is there anything I can do as a concerned citizen to ensure that the claims are duly investigated by the relevant authorities? If so, what?

I've lived in Canada all my life but I have had very little to do with the legal system and do not know which occurrences get investigated and who initiates the investigation. Do I need to contact the RCMP (federal police) and direct them to this story? Or contact a Crown attorney (prosecutor)? Or can I count on the relevant agencies to initiate an investigation themselves because they monitor the media?

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    I'm sure, from a political perspective, there will be an investigation. But you can call your elected MP and urge them to look into it. The Mounties will tell you to do that, as will the Crown prosecutor. – BlueDogRanch Oct 29 '18 at 3:59
  • Are you asking if you can get the RCMP to do something? – David Thornley Oct 29 '18 at 18:16
  • David Thornley - Yes. Or a Crown attorney. Or local police. Or the OPP (I'm in Ontario.) Basically, whoever has the authority to investigate and verify that it is or isn't true. If it is true, then charges need to be laid to (hopefully) put this to an end. – Henry Oct 29 '18 at 19:01
  • When it comes to investigating a potential crime, rather than initiating an actual criminal prosecution, this is really more an issue of politics than law, although this isn't an obvious conclusion if you don't know the answer and the process. I outline the basically non-legal approach one would take in my answer. BlueDogRanch is correct that contacting an MP (ideally, your MP) is probably the right step to take. – ohwilleke Oct 30 '18 at 0:35
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In a nutshell:

Anyone can initiate a prosecution in Canada by laying evidence of each element of the alleged crime before a Justice of the Peace. the Justice sets up a hearing with a Judge who will rule if the accused has a case to answer. If there is a case to answer then the State has the right to intervene by either taking over the prosecution or terminating it. If the State does not intervene then the private prosecutor follows the matter through.

In more detail:

http://lawjournal.mcgill.ca/userfiles/other/8090603-burns.pdf

Things to note

  • The state has immunity from being sued if the prosecution is without foundation - a private prosecutor doesn't.
  • On the facts you state, you can't initiate a prosecution - having "heard it paraphrased by an alleged former intelligence agent" is not evidence of anything.

Investigation

Anyone can investigate anything they want for whatever reason they want so long as they act within the law. This is what journalists and private investigators do for a living.

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    The question was about an investigation, not a prosecution. – Stig Hemmer Oct 29 '18 at 9:04
  • Interesting. Finding a Justice of the Peace should be easy enough. But beyond showing the Justice the same report I saw, which contained a video in which a former intelligence officer made these allegations, what would I need to produce? The intelligence officer in person? Proof that he was an intelligence officer? The financial statements he saw that showed the money going to Hamas? – Henry Oct 29 '18 at 19:08
  • You need to find out the elements that must be proven beyond reasonable doubt to prove the crime and then provide evidence that does that en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_Evidence_Act – Dale M Oct 29 '18 at 21:57
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    @DaleM I think that Stig Hemmer is correct that the intent is not to commence a prosecution of a crime but to alert someone who is in charge of such things of the new to conduct an inquiry. So, while I think that your answer is accurate, I'm not sure that it is really responsive. – ohwilleke Oct 30 '18 at 0:25
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is there anything I can do as a concerned citizen to ensure that the claims are duly investigated by the relevant authorities? If so, what?

I've lived in Canada all my life but I have had very little to do with the legal system and do not know which occurrences get investigated and who initiates the investigation. Do I need to contact the RCMP (federal police) and direct them to this story? Or contact a Crown attorney (prosecutor)? Or can I count on the relevant agencies to initiate an investigation themselves because they monitor the media?

Someone Contacts The Official In Charge Of Enforcing That Law

To merely call a potential violation of a law to the governments attention for the purposes of an investigation, as opposed to initiating legal proceedings, in this fact pattern, the proper step would generally be for somebody to contact a suitable official in a ministry of the national government that has responsibility for enforcing the law in question, and then to provide that person with your tip or complaint.

As I explore below, however, figuring out just how the right person is in the Canadian national government (this is clearly not a provincial or local issue) is non-obvious, and you might not be the best person to provide that tip or complaint.

"White collar" offenses by government officials are typically handled by specialized government officials who work at desks (and may or may not be badge carrying, gun toting law enforcement officers), rather than by uniformed police officers who drive around in police cars for most of their day.

But, there are multiple ministries that might have jurisdiction to initiate an investigation.

The most obvious would be the Minister of Justice and Attorney General for Canada, or the Minister of Public Safety. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Defence would also be plausible agencies. So would the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction could conceivably be an appropriate person as terrorism response is part of that ministry's portfolio.

In the U.S., a lot of regulation of charitable contributions and anti-terrorism funding is vested in our counterpart to the Minister of National Revenue or the Minister of Finance, but I don't know if the Canadian version is charged with enforcing this law. The allocation of responsibility to that agency in the U.S. is something of a historical accident.

Naively, one might think that the Minster of Democratic Institutions might have responsibility for handling governmental ethics issues, but, in fact, this ministry is strictly an R&D operation suggesting governmental reforms with no active law enforcement responsibilities.

Of course, in each case, you wouldn't just contact the minister of the entire department personally. You'd have to figure out which department was in charge of enforcing the law in question (it would help to figure out precisely which law this was) and then locate contact information to allow you to contact an official at the relevant bureau or office within the proper ministry, who handles communications with the general public.

The need to contact someone his isn't the figurehead of the agency isn't just a matter of not bothering someone who is too busy to attend to complaints and tips for ordinary citizens with no specialized knowledge of the case. It is also because mid-level government officials in an agency, unlike the minister and the minister's senior deputies, are civil servants with secure tenure and a fair amount of autonomy from elected officials, rather than being intimately apart of the cabinet, some of whose members may be implicated. Cabinet members, by convention in Canadian style parliamentary systems, are prohibited of criticizing the cabinet publicly even if they strongly disagree with something being done by it or its prominent members.

If I thought that directly contacting a sub-minister yourself were the right approach for you to take personally, I'd research the question of who that person is more closely, but as I explain below, this is probably not the right approach for you to take.

You Should Contact An MP or Senator

Realistically, the better course would be for you to air your concerns with your local MP (member of parliament), at the national level, who is vastly more familiar with who has jurisdiction over which laws, what is the politically effective way of getting things done, and who is responsible in addition to legislating, with serving as a liaison between generally concerns citizens with no particular personal interest in public affairs and the government.

If the MP felt that there was any merit to your concerns (which he would be in a position to communicate was shared by many of your fellow citizens if that was so), the MP could refer that problem on to the proper sub-minister and would be far more likely to be taken seriously in doing so than an individual citizen (typically via a formal letter, but sometimes through private back channels of communication).

Alternately, the MP might raise the issue at "question time" on the floor of the parliament, challenging the cabinet to decide who within its ranks should address that issue and how.

The "question time" and formal letter approaches are often preferred by MPs who want to take public credit for addressing an issue for their own political advantage. The back channel approach is often preferred by MPs who do not believe it is to their political advantage to be seen to address it publicly, but are nonetheless concerned and want something to get done (often this is actually more effective than formal channels).

If you doubt that your own MP is likely to take action (perhaps your own MP is implicated personally), then locate an opposition MP or a non-conflicted MP to take up your concern, ideally either from the same province or an MP that has shown an interest in the past in similar concerns.

This could also be a situation where the appointment of an ad hoc special prosecutor of some sort is the only way to get to the bottom of the situation, and an MP is better suited to making that happen than someone who is in a direct chain of command from the Prime Minister.

Another possibility is to contact someone in the Canadian Senate.

Usually Canadian Senators are ignored politically because they have almost no formal legislative power that can't be overridden by the House of Commons. But, this situation is unusual. Senators in Canada have little voting power, but are appointed for life, so they can intervene to take action in cases of scandal or liberty issues without putting their own political futures at risk. And, they have connections and a knowledge of how to properly interface with the system that is comparable to that of an MP.

Also, because Canadian Senators aren't to tied to a particular constituency, you have more freedom to locate a Canadian Senator to make the case for a concern you have than a conflicted MP who is your MP or a non-conflicted MP who may be disinclined to be responsive to and listen to someone who isn't from their constituency.

Doing Nothing Is Also Fine

If an issue is on the news and lots of people know about it, then there will be influential people, in Non-Governmental Organizations or political organizations, who are well aware of the issue.

Those people will be using their considerable expertise and connections to raise that issue with the right people in government in a more credible way than you would ever be able to manage. Indeed, they were probably hard at work on the issue, and trying to generate public support for their concerns in order to get politicians to take them more seriously, by acting as the source for the news story before anyone else in the general public knew about it. The media is mostly responsive to tips rather than pro-active in discovering potential scandals that no one else but them knew about before they looked into it.

The odds that this issue isn't being taken up by anyone because no one is stepping up to the plate to take action in this context are low.

It is far more likely that, for example, someone very concerned about the terrorist organization in question will be part of an NGO organized to deal with that concern and similar concerns, and that the director or counsel or government relations official in that NGO is already bringing up the issue with the right people.

So, if you do nothing, you shouldn't feel concerned that the issue, which has been aired on national media and made widely known to the general public, will not be addressed by anyone as a result of your inaction.

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    I’m not familiar with the Canadian system either, but given that Canada has an apolitical federal police force, I would have thought it was more appropriate to contact them in the first instance, rather than a politician. The RCMP’s website indicates that their role includes ‘terrorist financing investigations’. If the RCMP was neglecting its duties then perhaps it would be appropriate to complain to the responsible Minister (of Public Safety). – sjy Oct 30 '18 at 1:12
  • @sjy Even so, you wouldn't contact your "friendly neighborhood" mountie" at the their closet available office, you'd have to figure out who handled intake at the right office at a national level, probably in Ottawa, and what kind of information they needed to be effective in requesting an investigation (and they might very well have an investigation underway already which given the sensitivity of it would surely be on the QT). – ohwilleke Oct 30 '18 at 1:28

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