WINNIPEG — The Canadian Judicial Council has rejected complaints that former federal cabinet minister Vic Toews, who is now a Manitoba judge, is unfit to remain on the bench after violating the Conflict of Interest Act.
The council said Thursday the two complaints were reviewed by Justice Christopher Hinkson, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, who found nothing that would warrant Toews' removal.
"Chief Justice Hinkson notes that the (federal ethics) commissioner did not make any findings that put into question the integrity, good faith or credibility of Justice Toews," the council said in a media release.
"Upon a full review of all the relevant information, Chief Justice Hinkson found an absence of any information that would suggest an attempt to mislead or reveal conduct incompatible with the duties of judicial office."
Federal ethics commissioner Mary Dawson ruled in April that Toews violated the Conflict of Interest Act when he received money from two Manitoba First Nations for consulting services shortly after leaving federal office in 2013.
Toews was appointed to the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench in 2014.
Dawson said Toews broke a two-year cooling-off period required under law in one case involving the Norway House Cree Nation.
In the other, she said Toews provided strategic advice for the Peguis First Nation about the transfer of military land, even though he had been involved with the same file as a minister.
Toews filed an appeal of Dawson's decision. He said his dealings with Norway House Cree Nation during his final year in office were very limited, and his advice to Peguis was not related to the land-transfer negotiations.
The commissioner's findings prompted the two complaints to the judicial council, alleging Toews' actions impaired his ability to be a judge. Toews' lawyer said Thursday he is happy the matter is finished.
"I thought the (ethics) commissioner's process was badly, badly flawed and unfair, and so I'm happy that everything's over," Robert Tapper said.
Toews dropped his appeal of the ethics commissioner's ruling last week to allow the judicial council probe to be completed. As such, the ethics commissioner's findings stand, although they carry no penalty.
Democracy Watch, an ethics advocacy group that had criticized Toews' actions, expressed disappointment Thursday that the council found Toews did nothing that would call into question his integrity.
"I don't know how they reached that finding when he was found guilty of violating a conflict of interest law," co-founder Duff Conacher said. "To face no penalty at all, or sanction, is a questionable ruling."