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A Commission of Inquiry is established by the Government of Canada to investigate a matter connected with the good government of the country. A Commission of Inquiry is established under the Inquiries Act and assigned a specific mandate in its Terms of Reference.
A Commission of Inquiry 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.
A Commission of Inquiry 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 Procedure and Practice.
The purpose, as set out in paragraph (b)(i-vii) of the Terms of Reference, is to examine the investigation of the bombing of Air India Flight 182, which occurred on June 23, 1985, and to identify ways of improving Canada's counter-terrorist precautions and response to incidents of terrorism.
The Commission will produce a report setting out its findings of fact and its recommendations, for consideration by the Government and the Canadian public. Before preparing its report, the Commission will hear testimony from a range of witnesses, review government documents and other materials, and consider the views of experts. It will also review various studies and analyses, some of them prepared specially for the Commission.
The Commission's most visible activity is a series of public hearings.
The main participants are:
The Commissioner - The Honourable John C. Major
Commission Counsel - lawyers appointed by the Commissioner to assist him and to represent the interests of the Canadian public during the course of the Inquiry.
Witnesses - individuals who provide oral testimony.
Individuals and organizations with standing - usually represented by their own lawyers.
Standing is the right to participate in the Inquiry. This participation may include the opportunity to suggest witnesses and the right to cross-examine witnesses.
Interested individuals and organizations had the opportunity to apply for standing before the Commission in July of 2006. To view the applications, consult Applications for Standing. The Commissioner has discretion to hear additional applications for standing.
Two types of standing have been granted by the Commissioner: Party and Intervenor. 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. Intervenor Standing is accorded 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 are available at Rulings on Standing.
A range of individuals and organizations have been granted Standing. For a complete list, and the names of their legal representatives, please consult Parties and Intervenors. Commission Counsel, with responsibility for representing the interests of the Canadian public at the Inquiry, are automatically a Party before the Commissioner.
On Television or on the Internet
The easiest way to follow the work of the Commission is to watch the public hearings live on the CPAC (Canadian Public Affairs Channel) webcast. Please consult Watch the Hearings for more information. The hearings are also archived on the CPAC website (www.cpac.ca) so that you can watch them when your schedule permits. The CPAC website offers you the option of watching the hearings in either French or English. It is anticipated that this archive will be available until the end of the Commission's hearings.
The hearings are also broadcast on the CPAC television channel. Most of the hearings are not broadcast live. Consult the CPAC website for scheduling information, or contact CPAC viewer services at 1-877-287-2722.
If you would like to purchase a tape of what you have seen on the CPAC television channel, please make a careful note of the date and the time of the broadcast. This is essential information if you decide to place an order through the CPAC website (select Order Tapes from the left vertical menu).
Another option is to attend the hearings in person. The hearings take place in Victoria Hall of the Bytown Pavilion at 111 Sussex Drive (former City Hall) in Ottawa. Please check the Tentative Schedule, and call to confirm that the hearings are in session. You can refer to Contact Us for details.
If you are interested in the testimony of a particular witness, consult the Witness List. Please note that witness lists are posted on a weekly (not daily) basis, usually about 48 hours prior to the beginning of the week in question. The witness list is subject to change.
Limited indoor parking is available at the hearing venue. The entrance to the parking lot is off Sussex Drive.
You can also follow the work of the Commission by monitoring our website.
Following completion of the hearings, the Commissioner will prepare his report which will be presented to the Government. The report will contain both findings and recommendations based on the seven points which are listed under section (b) of the Terms of Reference.