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Oliphant Commission of Inquiry
October 2, 2008

What is a Commission of Inquiry?

A Commission of Inquiry:

  • is established by the Government of Canada under the Inquiries Act and assigned a specific mandate in its Terms of Reference to investigate a matter connected with the good government of the country;

  • is not a court of law; it cannot find anyone guilty or punish anyone. Instead, a Commission is equipped to find out what happened and make recommendations for future improvements;

  • is presided over by a Commissioner, who has powers similar to those of a judge. Under the Terms of Reference set by the Government, the Commissioner is entitled to summon witnesses and require them to testify or provide materials that may be used as evidence. The Commissioner is also able to establish and alter the Commission's Rules of Practice and Procedure.

The Terms of Reference and Draft Rules of Procedure and Practice for the Oliphant Commission are available on its website at

What is “Standing” and how is it obtained?

Standing is the right to participate in the Inquiry and may include the opportunity to suggest witnesses and the right to examine witnesses.

Interested individuals and organizations had the opportunity to apply for standing before the Commission by September 24, 2008. The applications are posted on the Commission website. The standing hearing will be held on October 2 and 3, 2008. The Commissioner has discretion to hear additional applications for standing later in the Inquiry.

Two types of standing can be granted by the Commissioner: Party and Intervenor.

i) Party Standing - either full or partial - is the more extensive of the two types and is reserved for individuals and organizations that are directly and substantially affected by the mandate of the Inquiry or portions of it.

ii) Intervenor Standing is granted to those with clear interests and perspectives which the Commissioner considers essential to the Commission's mandate.

The Commissioner's rulings on the applications for standing will be available on the Commission website.

Can a participant (whether a party or an intervenor) be granted funding?

The Commission’s Terms of Reference authorize the Commissioner to make a recommendation to the Privy Council that funding be provided to a participant at the Inquiry in accordance with terms and conditions approved by the Treasury Board. The purpose of the funding is to ensure that a participant has access to legal counsel. A participant (party or intervenor) who applies for funding must satisfy the Commissioner that he or she does not have sufficient financial resources to participate in the Inquiry without financial assistance for legal counsel. Funding is not intended to indemnify the participant of all costs incurred. The terms and conditions applicable to funding are available on the Commission website.

Does the Commissioner have the power to summons witnesses who may not have applied for standing?

The Inquiries Act gives the Commissioner the authority to summons any person to appear before him as a witness to require the person to give evidence, orally or in writing, and to produce documents that the Commissioner deems necessary for the full investigation of the natters before him. The Commissioner can summons any person to appear before him, even if that person does not have standing as a party or intervenor.

Can an individual represent him or herself before the Commission without counsel?
The Draft Rules of Procedure and Practice provide that any person who appears before the Commission as a witness is entitled, but not required, to have legal counsel present.

When are the public hearings scheduled to take place?

The Commission proceedings will be divided into two parts.

i) The first part, the “Factual Inquiry”, will focus on questions relating to the business and financial dealings between Karlheinz Schreiber and the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney as set out in paragraph (a) sections 1 through 16 of the Terms of Reference. The Part I – Factual Inquiry hearings are tentatively scheduled to start on February 9, 2009.

ii) The second part of the Inquiry is a “Policy Review.” This is directed at making recommendations for ethical rules or guidelines concerning the activities of politicians as they transition from office or after they leave office and regarding procedures followed by the Privy Council Office as specified in paragraph (a) sections 14 and 17 of the Terms of Reference. The Part II – Policy Review hearings are tentatively scheduled to start on April 13, 2009.


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