The illegal financing of the NO campaign by Ottawa during the referendum of October 30, 1995, in defiance of democracy and Quebec’s electoral laws, is still shrouded in mystery today, in 2020.
With Robin Philpot1, I published in 2006 The secrets of Option Canada which revealed the illegal referendum expenses of this propaganda agency operated by the liberal parties of Canada and Quebec under the official cover of the Council for Canadian Unity. I had obtained all of the Option Canada accounting documents that everyone believed had been destroyed since 19972. Following the revelations in our book, the Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec mandated Judge Bernard Grenier to conduct an investigation.
In his report on the activities of Option Canada, Justice Grenier estimated at $ 500,000 the expenses that had not been authorized or declared for the single month preceding the referendum. This is only a tiny fraction of the gigantic sums that the federal government has spent illegally and clandestinely to ensure the undemocratic triumph of the NO camp.
I had already discovered in the fall of 1997 that in addition to Option-Canada, the Council for Canadian Unity had multiplied its social names to better conceal its propaganda and fundraising activities: Quebec Council, Coalition of Partners, Impact 95, Quebec Business People’s Council for Canada, Generation 18-35. All these independent pseudo-organizations shared the staff and premises of the CUC.
The Grenier commission was unable to investigate all the illegalities committed by the non camp during the referendum period, only those relating to Option Canada and still had to not affect the constitutional jurisdiction of Ottawa. A federal government lawyer, exceptionally authorized to attend the hearing of witnesses, has repeatedly demanded that the commission’s counsel withdraw questions posed because she found them to be beyond the Commissioner’s constitutional jurisdiction.
Justice Grenier nevertheless made discoveries which are still secret at the present time: what the 90 witnesses told him during the closed hearings and more than 4,500 documents that they filed in evidence are an order of non-distribution, non-communication and non-publication without time limits. To my knowledge, only the greatest Canadian state secrets enjoy such a privilege of eternity. What better clue that they must contain revelations extraordinarily damaging to the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien and to the federalist cause.
After establishing the sums spent in violation of Quebec’s electoral laws, Commissioner Grenier writes: “This amount does not, however, take into account unauthorized and unreported expenses that we were not able to assess.”
For example, the sums illegally spent on Love-in at Place du Canada did not come from Option Canada: “The evidence presented to me did not allow us to determine the source of the funding for the October 27 rally in the city center. from Montreal.”
Commissioner Grenier had mandated forensic accountants St-Laurent Faucher to carry out verifications. Some of their findings had to be removed from Justice Grenier’s report because they went beyond the Commissioner’s constitutional jurisdiction.
Another clue that Option Canada was serving as a screen to cover up shameful operations: the person appointed by the Minister of Canadian Heritage Sheila Copps to supervise Option-Canada came from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and had, as an executive of the secret services , the security clearance of “Très secret / Top secret”.
Option Canada records indicate, without giving further details, that one of the organization’s more sophisticated “special” projects was codenamed “Project # 4 LD”, LD being the initials of the lead.
In fact, she was not only involved with Option Canada. The report of the Kroll forensic accountants, Linquist Avey (Who is responsible? Forensic audit), published as an appendix to Judge Gomery’s report this time, indicates that, in addition to the 5 million allocated to the post “Unity – The referendum in Quebec”, LD supervised the allocation of $ 8 million to “Canadian Identity”, $ 3 million to “Unit – Communications” and $ 3.5 million to “Canadian Identity, Phase II”, for a total of $ 19.5 million. All this money was taken from “The Unity Reserve”, the source of funding for the sponsorship scandal, the libero-political-financial scheme to counter the resurgence of the independence movement after the failed referendum.
In his report, Justice Grenier finds that LD has complied with the “hierarchical and ethical rules” of the Government of Canada and that his behavior as a federal public servant is beyond reproach. I’m convinced. She just followed orders. She deserves the Order of Canada (if she hasn’t received it yet)! Bene merenti de patria.
Twenty-five years later, the Parti Québécois must demand from the Legault government not only to make public the entire archives of the Grenier commission, but also to shed light on all the manipulations that sullied the referendum campaign of 1995. I know, I dream in color. Once again. Those who perpetrated these crimes against the people of Quebec can sleep in peace. Like the RCMP officers who committed crimes against the independence movement in the 1970s, they will go unpunished forever.
1Robin Philpot published in 2015 a revised and enriched edition (Le Référendum volé – 20 ans later) of his study from the early 2000s.
2After analyzing these documents, we made them available to the Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec and to the Auditor General of Canada.