Democracy Watch is calling on the Federal Court to overturn former lobbying commissioner Karen Shepherd's decision not to investigate the Aga Khan in connection with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's visit to his private island in the Bahamas.The group is arguing that Shepherd erred in law when she ruled in September 2017 that the Aga Khan didn't violate the lobbying rules because he is not paid to lobby on behalf of the foundation that bears his name."Democracy Watch is challenging the Lobbying Commissioner's ruling in court, because it is legally incorrect, violates the spirit and purpose of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct and opens up a huge loophole that big businesses and other organizations will exploit by having their unregistered board members or staff do favours for, and give gifts to, government officials they are lobbying as a way of unethically influencing their policy making decisions," Democracy Watch co-founder Duff Conacher said in a statement.Democracy Watch also alleges in court documents that there is "a reasonable apprehension of bias" on Shepherd's part, because her mandate was temporarily renewed by Trudeau's government.*Shepherd's decision not to investigate the Aga Khan was obtained by CBC News in December. She has since finished her term and was replaced by Nancy Bélanger in December.The Aga Khan, believed to be one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, is the spiritual leader of millions of Ismaili Muslims and is listed as a member of the board of directors of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada.The foundation, which has received millions of dollars in federal government development aid over the years, is registered to lobby several federal government departments, including the prime minister's office.A search of the lobbyist registry shows the foundation has filed 132 reports since 2011 outlining its meetings with government decision makers. However, none of those reports list any meetings with Trudeau — despite the meetings the prime minister has had with the Aga Khan and his officials.Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson ruled in December that Trudeau violated federal ethics rules when he accepted the vacation on the Aga Khan's private island.In December, Manon Dion, spokeswoman for the lobbying commissioner's office, said the commissioner is free to open or reopen files at any time.Tuesday, she was tight-lipped when asked for reaction."The Lobbyists' Code of Conduct applies to individuals who engage in activity requiring registration under the Lobbying Act; that is, they are paid or employed to communicate with public office holders on behalf of their client or employer with respect to subjects specified in the Lobbying Act," she wrote in an e-mailed response."As the matter is before the courts, we will not comment further."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says using the word "peoplekind" instead of "mankind" during a town hall in Edmonton last week was his failed attempt at humour.Trudeau has been mocked on social media and talk shows since using the word.Before holding a Liberal caucus meeting on Parliament Hill today, Trudeau told reporters he doesn't necessarily have the best track record on jokes."I made a dumb joke a few days ago that seems to have gone a little viral in the room, on the peoplekind comment," he said. "It played well in the room and in context. Out of context it doesn't play so well, and it's a little reminder that I shouldn't be making jokes even when I think they're funny."