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Somalia Cover Up: A Commissioner's Journal [Hardcover]

Peter Desbarats


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Book Description

Nov. 15 1997
After forty years of watching politicians up close, veteran newspaperman Peter Desbarats reckoned he was as hardened an observer as any; but the effrontery of the Chrétien government in shutting down its own commission of inquiry because, apparently, its deliberations were becoming embarrassing, amazed even him. It was unprecedented, it was an attack on judicial independence and the effectiveness of democratic institutions in Canada, and it was wrong.

Somalia Cover-up is the record, in journal form, of Peter Desbarat’s observations as one of three commissioners presiding over the Somalia Inquiry, set up in the spring of 1995. It begins with his surprise at having been chosen for the job. It includes notes he made following visits to military bases and the mixed impressions he formed of the character of the personnel he encountered there. He describes, too, his fellow commissioners, and many of the witnesses who appeared before them. His appraisals are spontaneous and frank. Only gradually does he become aware of the forces stirring against the Inquiry. The possibility that the lack of cooperation from the Department of National Defence (which supplied doctored documents to the press and persistently found itself unable to produce material requested by commissioners) may be part of a larger pattern begins to take root, bit by bit. Negative statements by Minister of Defence Doug Young and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien come as a shock, as political interference in the work of a commission of inquiry is unthinkable. The sudden closure of the inquiry comes as more than a shock: it is shattering.

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About the Author

Writer, broadcaster, journalist, and educator, Peter Desbarats was dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of Western Ontario when he was asked to join the Somalia Inquiry in 1995. Before that, he had spent three decades as a journalist in Montreal, London (U.K.), Winnipeg, and the Ottawa Press Gallery with the Montreal Gazette, Reuters, the Winnipeg Tribune, the Montreal Star, the CBC, the Toronto Star, and Global Television. A frequently quoted expert on media, he has written extensively on this topic and lectured in Canada, the United States, and overseas. His eleven books include a best-selling biography of René Lévesque, the authoritative Guide to Canadian News Media, as well as several volumes of stories and verses for children.

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