Hatfield challenges his accusers

Chris Wood February 25 1985

Hatfield challenges his accusers

Chris Wood February 25 1985

Hatfield challenges his accusers

Chris Wood

After nine days of official silence Richard Hatfield stated his case dramatically last week. New Brunswick’s unconventional premier read a carefully worded 20-minute statement to reporters in Fredericton denying that he supplied drugs to three teenage university students at a 1981 party in his home. He added that the accusations had been “orchestrated . .. to force my removal from office.” Then, in an interview with a Toronto reporter on a plane bound for the First Ministers Conference in Regina, Hatfield identified the alleged conspirators. “The RCMP has been spreading rumors and innuendo about mé for years,” declared the premier.

Hatfield, who leaves for a one-week vacation this week, made his remarks the day after Justice Minister John Crosbie announced that the Crown would not appeal the premier’s acquittal on a possession of marijuana charge. But the premier’s determined defence actually intensified the attacks on Solicitor General Elmer MacKay’s role in the case and led to renewed demands from opposition MPs for a public inquiry on the RCMP’s handling of the affair. Throughout the week opposition MPs called for MacKay’s resignation and for a full explanation of the substance of an unusual meeting he held with the premier, at Hatfield’s request, on Oct. 7, just 12 days after a small quantity of marijuana was found in Hatfield’s suitcase by the RCMP.

The premier’s television appearance satisfied members of his own party who demanded that he respond publicly to vivid accounts given by two former students of an all-night 1981 drug party. Hatfield acknowledged before live television cameras that he had invited four “strangers” to his home in January, 1981. But he denied allegations made by Michael Kyte of Toronto and Peter Daigle of Halifax, two of the students who say they were invited to his home, that he supplied them with cocaine and marijuana after a chance meeting at Fredericton’s Diplomat Motel.

Still, gaps in the premier’s version of events left many of his opponents dissatisfied. Provincial Conservative caucus chairman Beverly Harrison, for one, charged, “He hasn’t dealt with some of the central themes of the allegations.” And New Brunswick Liberal interim Opposition Leader Ray Frenette urged Hatfield to follow the example set earlier by federal Defence Minister Robert Coates and resign rather than “let this cloud hang over New Brunswick.”

The statement did meet a midweek deadline set by Tory dissidents, who said that they would consider leaving the party if the premier did not speak out. “I asked for a statement, and I got a statement. He’s addressed the

issue,” said MLA Keith Dow, among Hatfield’s most vocal caucus critics.

Hatfield’s version of the 1981 events, however, did not deal with all aspects of the affair. He made no reference to the former students’ claim that the premier invited them to join him on a trip to Montreal aboard a government aircraft the day after the drug party, apparently at taxpayers’ expense. The omission was notable because the trip is one part of the account confirmed by other students who witnessed the youths’ departure in the premier’s company. As well, the statement said only that Hatfield had not supplied drugs to the students; it did not specify whether the bachelor premier used drugs himself.

Hatfield noted that all those who were aware of the discovery of marijuana in his suitcase on Sept. 25 “swore under oath that no one outside the RCMP was told.” But within a matter of days, he said, at least two other people were aware a narcotic had been found. And later this year, Hatfield added, a justice department official confirmed to federal Liberal justice critic John Nunziata that there were affidavits by two students describing the 1981 party. Declared Hatfield: “At the same time, certain representatives of the media throughout the country received unmarked brown envelopes containing the two statements [by Kyte and Daigle]. Who sent these envelopes? Why were they sent?”

The suggestion of an unauthorized RCMP or justice department disclosure of the statements was first raised earlier in the week by former federal Tory president and Hatfield confidant Dalton Camp, whose advice appears to have shaped Hatfield’s statement. But Maclean ’s, in a cross-country check of major newspapers, failed to locate any media representative who received “brown — envelopes” containing the two statements. Nick Hills, general manager of Southam News service, which broke the story on the students’ allegations, dismissed the suggestion as “a total red herring.” Said Hills: “The business of the media wanting to ‘get Hatfield’ is a lot of nonsense.”

Still, Hatfield later in the week left no doubt about his feelings con* cerning the RCMP. “They

1 were telling things that z should not have been told

2 and they were not telling

things that were true,” he said. Then, in an interview with The Toronto Sun, his acting justice minister, John Baxter, declared: “[The RCMP] shouldn’t have as one of its goals a plan to bring down an elected government, but that’s what they’re doing in New Brunswick.”

Relations between the premier’s 15year-old government and the RCMP have been traditionally uncomfortable. In the 1970s the RCMP investigated whether Hatfield and several of his cabinet ministers had played a role in a fund-raising operation for the New Brunswick Conservative party between 1972 and 1974, that involved kickbacks extracted from government contractors.

In 1978 a public inquiry exonerated Baxter of Liberal opposition charges that he tried to deflect RCMP officers who were investigating the kickback scheme. That confrontation may have contributed to the New Brunswick government’s decision to set up its own Highway Patrol and to the patrol’s steady expansion ever since to replace RCMP detachments in much of the province.

Hatfield’s current difficulties began when RCMP investigators discovered marijuana in the premier’s luggage during Queen Elizabeth Il’s visit to New Brunswick last autumn. Within minutes of the Sept. 25 seizure a staff sergeant contacted the commanding officer of

New Brunswick’s J Division, Chief Supt. Denis Ling, for directions on how to proceed. Less than 24 hours later the story reached the media, when a woman caller told a local television station about the discovery.

Days after the seizure, the RCMP had also traced rumors of the 1981 partyrumors that were current for the past four years on Fredericton’s two university campuses—to one of the students involved. Michael Kyte’s lawyer, Gary Joseph, says that his client gave his first statement to the RCMP before Kyte first called him for legal advice “sometime after Oct. 4 or 5.”

At that time the first of a series of unusual meetings took place. On Oct. 3 MacKay, already aware that Hatfield was suspected of marijuana possession, met television reporter Ryan in Halifax airport to discuss the case. Four days later MacKay met Hatfield in a room at the Chateau Laurier hotel in Ottawa, where both men were accompanied by their personal lawyers. Hatfield says that he requested the meeting to complain about the way in which the RCMP was conducting the investigation, and last week MacKay confirmed the premier’s claim that only “procedures and practices” were discussed.

On Oct. 23, three days after the marijuana seizure became public, Hatfield travelled again to Ottawa following a

meeting in Toronto with criminal lawyer J. J. Robinette. It is not known whom, if anyone, the premier met in Ottawa on that visit. Two days later the RCMP laid charges against the premier.

On Jan. 28 Hatfield’s long-delayed trial finally began before Chief New Brunswick Provincial Court Judge Andrew Harrigan. At the end of the twoday trial Hatfield was found not guilty. Daigle was present throughout the trial, ready to testify for the Crown, but he was not called. According to Fredericton criminal lawyer Danny Waters the prosecution would have called Daigle to testify only to weaken the credibility of any testimony offered by Hatfield.

Then, Daigle’s and Kyte’s allegations became public. On Saturday Feb. 2 a federal justice department lawyer confirmed the existence of affidavits signed by the two men to Nunziata. The following Monday, in a story based partly on an interview with Nunziata, Southam News revealed the details of the former students’ accounts.

Hatfield’s statements and accusations against the RCMP may well lead to even more intense scrutiny of a case already under internal review by the RCMP. But on one matter, at least, Hatfield made his intentions clear. “I received the office I hold as a result of a free election,” he said. “This is the only process which will remove