After only six months as the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Justice Harry LaForme has cited "many hurdles and obstacles (that) could not and cannot be overcome" and resigned his position effective Oct. 20.
“I don't think anybody expected (his) resignation. Most people were expecting it would get sorted out that the commissioners would agree among themselves on a single vision and that they would move forward,” said Peter Rehak, spokesperson for LaForme.
In a four-page letter sent to Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl, LaForme said the three-member commission was on the “verge of paralysis.”
That paralysis, said commissioner Claudette Dumont-Smith, came in the interpretation of the commission's mandate, as well as the powers to be wielded by the chair and commissioners.
In his letter of resignation, LaForme said that while he put the priority on reconciliation, commissioners Dumont-Smith and Jane Brewin Morley put their emphasis on truth.
Dumont-Smith said LaForme's allegation took her by surprise.
"I never once expressed the fact that one would have more weight than the other. There was not in my mind one more important than the other. I never indicated a difference in opinion in that."
LaForme said that the "incurable problem" however lay in the structure of the commission, in which the "course and its objectives are to be shaped ultimately through the authority and leadership of its chair."
Not so, said Dumont-Smith, noting that the roles are not spelled out in the document creating the commission and LaForme's take that the commissioners would only offer advice and assistance was his interpretation of the mandate, and not shared by her or Morley.
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