This afternoon we taped tonight’s edition of TVO’s The Agenda With Steve Paikin. The topic for most of the hour was the recent controversy at Rights and Democracy. (Click the “Rights and Democracy” tag at the bottom of this post and it will take you to everything I’ve written on the agency. There’s a lot.)
As a sort of warm-up, I thought it’d be good to share the correspondence I had with the chairman of the Rights and Democracy board, Aurel Braun, and the interim president, Jacques Gauthier, who is also a board member, before I wrote this article. I think the questions I asked them are still germane, and 10 days after I asked them, perhaps these busy men have managed to come up with some answers. Let’s find out.
The first email I sent, at 12:14 p.m. (all times Eastern) on Feb. 9, was this [I’ve added some comments, in square brackets like this, to help you understand what I’m saying]:
Gentlemen: My name is Paul Wells. I’m the senior columnist at Maclean’s magazine. I am preparing a story on the controversy at Rights and Democracy. My copy deadline is late this afternoon. I have a few specific questions for you, and would appreciate any response you can give.
1. In his written “Response… to the Performance Evaluation and related documents” of June, 2009, Rémy Beauregard writes that he received, from the Department of Foreign Affairs, “a performance evaluation signed by only two members of the Executive Perofrmance Review Committee, Mr. Gauthier and Mr. Tepper,” “a letter signed by Mr. Braun,” and “an additional memorandum from Mr. Gautheir to members of the Executive Performance Review Committee.” He notes that “Ms. Pottie, a member of the Committee, was left out completely.” Is this your recollection too? Why was Ms. Pottie not included in writing the review or any of the annexed documents? [Note: Donica Pottie was the Foreign Affairs official who sat as the government’s representative on the board through mid-2009 before resigning in September. She has not been replaced and did not return my call seeking information.— pw]
2. M. Beauregard notes that M. Gauthier sent an additional memo to committee members asserting that “While attending a conference in Cairo in the fall of 2008, Mr. Beauregard met with representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah.” He calls this assertion patently false. What evidence do you have that M. Beauregard met representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah?
3. M. Beauregard notes his consternation at a passage of the same memo, in which M. Gauthier says: “I was also very surprised to be informed subsequently that there are no Jewish employees in the office of R&D in Montreal.” How did M. Gauthier find this out? How would this be germane to a performance evaluation?
4. M. Beauregard quotes Mr. Braun writing that “this assessment is also very much intended as constructive criticism and it is hoped that it will be viewed in that light by Mr. Beauregard.” How was M. Beauregard supposed to view it in any light when the review committee went to such lengths to keep him from reading it?
5. What qualifies Charles Auger [a freelance office manager hired at the beginning of February to run the Rights and Democracy office while Jacques Gauthier, the designated interim president, spends much of his time in Toronto — pw] to run the office of Rights and Democracy? Are both he and M. Gauthier drawing salaries as, respectively, director general and interim president?
6. How was Claude Sarrazin presented to staff on Jan. 29? Were staff told he is a private investigator?
Those are the questions I have. I am eager to know your response, and to hear or read any other information you believe will help me tell this story well. Thank you for your time.
This led to a response at 3:24 p.m. from Jacques Gauthier:
I have just had the opportunity to review your e-mail and although you have given me very little time to respond to a story that you have you obviously been working on for a while, I intend to send you a reply shortly.
Jacques P. Gauthier, Ph.D.
Barrister & Solicitor / Avocat
I replied at 3:33 p.m.:
Thank you for this. I did send questions as early as I knew what I needed to ask about, but I am sorry for our Tuesday production deadline. Please note that my deadlines aren’t cast in stone, but that every hour after 6 pm makes our task more difficult.
Fifty minutes later, at 4:23 p.m., Aurel Braun replied to my first email:
Dear Mr. Wells,
I am in between classes, and I just received your message. I truly believe that the truth loves light. Unfortunately, you have only attempted to bury the truth. The fact that, here, you have approached us at the very last minute on the afternoon of your deadline with such a barrage of distortions (which would obviously take substantial time to correct), indicates that you do not seek my cooperation in shedding light on the truth, but rather my assistance in helping you write yet another grossly misleading piece against myself and the leadership of Rights & Democracy.
I replied at 4:24 p.m.:
Mr. Braun, I first approached you with a voicemail seeking comment on Jan. 19, and last week gave out my telephone number on national television [On CTV’s Power Play with Tom Clark – pw] inviting you to call me. When Mr. Matas was good enough to contact me with his analysis, I posted what he wrote verbatim and without hesitation on our website. I am sorry you are short of time today. Continued best wishes in your search for the truth. All best pw
At 7:14 p.m., seven hours after I sent the first email, Jacques Gauthier responded again.
Dear Mr. Wells,
I have read your questions. Given my other commitments, it has not been possible in the short time this afternoon you have provided to respond to your questions. The assumptions behind your questions are in large part demonstrably wrong, misleading, incomplete andor distorted and I caution you against publishing an article based on them. You have certainly been interested in this matter on an ongoing basis, and if you wished to be fair and balanced and genuinely wished to hear our perspective, you would have written a few days ago and given me an adequate opportunity to respond. It is wrong that you have not done so.
Jacques Gauthier, Ph.D.
Rights and Democracy
All of this was 10 days ago. My questions still stand.