Accountability is not simply a matter of law, policy or ethics. Yet it contains elements of all of these. Accountability is one feature that distinguishes a democracy from a dictatorship and, in that sense, Canada is an “incomplete” democracy. Nationwide, accountability is elusive in Canada.

I’m Adam Pappin, the principal of Pappin Law. Even before migrating to Canada in 2007, I realized that Canada has an astounding problem with accountability – or rather, the lack of it. This is how I first became aware of the problem:

After mailing documents to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (‘CIC’), I received an alarming letter in return. CIC threatened to cancel my entire immigration application if they did not receive my documents within 30 days. I found this perplexing as I had sent my documents via registered mail and had proof that it had been received.

When I provided CIC with the name and signature of the official who signed for my documents, their response was to again threaten to cancel my application if I didn’t send the same documents again. Inexplicably, CIC acknowledged that they had all of my wife’s documents – mailed to CIC in the very same package as my own documents.

I lived on Maui at the time and had to catch a plane to Honolulu to again obtain original police clearances and consular certificates. After sending them to CIC  they acknowledged having two sets but… CIC then alleged that I had failed to provide my wife’s documents. Yes – the very same documents they had previously confirmed receiving! Pointing this out simply resulted in a new threat from CIC. So my wife too was forced to make an unnecessary trip to Honolulu to obtain documents that CIC already had in their office.

Two plane trips, lost wages, weeks of unnecessary work and thousands of dollars wasted because a federal bureaucrat had misplaced our original documents.

I have lived in many countries and dealt with bureaucrats the world over. Even in the Third World the usual process for those who err when exercising power can be summed up as “Diligence, Disclosure, Damage control” That is:

Use best effort > Acknowledge any mistakes > Apologize and fix the resulting problems.

However, in Canada, the standard process can be summed up as “Delay, Deny, Demand”. That is:

Use minimal effort > Deny all mistakes > Demand that the victim fix all resulting problems.

Because accountability is effectively absent in Canada, there is no need for those with authority to do anything quickly, correctly or courteously, and no need to justify any decision. This is despite Canada having a Charter of Rights, the highest-paid judges on the planet and over-staffed regulatory bodies.

In the Categories section you can learn how Canada achieved the dubious distinction of being the only advanced nation with no system of accountability. You can also read numerous examples of how pervasive the lack of accountability is in Canada and how devastating it can be to the victims of misused power.

On a positive note, Canada now has one law firm willing to take on the task of holding powers to account – Pappin Law.