|Jump to full article: Eye on the Trials (ASPQ) (ca), 2012-04-30|
Author: Posted by Cynthia Callard at 22:30
After an week's break, the trial of the two Quebec class actions against tobacco companies resumed this morning without missing a beat. Lawyers for all 3 sides (the two plaintiffs, the three defendant tobacco companies and the federal government as defendant in warranty) were at the ready when Justice Riordan entered the room at 9:30.
The lawyers took up where they had left off eleven days ago: squabbling about witness scheduling and document exchange.
After listening to complaints from both sides - "mish mash!" "pell mell!" "midnight e-mails!" - Justice Riordan underscored his strong preference to have witnesses from each company scheduled following one another, and not interspersed with witnesses from other companies. In doing so, he dropped another hint about his approach to the case, saying that he would not be writing his judgement by theme, but would do so by company. "The policies were not the same for each company," he said.
. . .
Mr. Bédard traced his involvement in the Smokers' Freedom Society to a suggestion from Pierre Lemieux, whom he described as a 'somewhat notorious' libertarian. After reflecting on the proposal and his feelings as a smoker of being under seige, he met with Mr. Lemieux and with Mr. Descoteaux, who was acting on behalf of the CTMC to discuss how this might be done.
Before long, an understanding had been reached and a formal approach was made to meet with the senior management of the then four member companies of the CTMC (Exhibit 197). Chief among Mr. Bédard's concerns at the time, the letter would suggest, was the issue of money. Of the seven items identified for discussion, five involve the need for financial guarantees. Eventually, Mr. Bédard reached an agreement with the companies that included financial protection for 5 years. (Exhibit 198A).
The Society's dependence on the industry, and Mr. Bédard's attempts to match the work of the Society to the interests of the industry were shown in semi-annual and annual reports. In the 56 pages of the first half-year report in March 1987 (Exhibit 202), Mr. Bédard warns that the organization faces and uphill battle and recommends expanding its work. He notes that the only members of the organization are "associated, in one way or another, with the tobacco industry."
His second annual report, made in November 1988, (Exhibit 203), after federal legislation to curb tobacco advertising and smoking in public places had passed, reports on the work of the Society during these eventful times to slow down these events.
The Society was active in virtually all of the challenges the industry was facing: it appeared before parliament to speak against legislation, (Exhibit 206, Exhibit 204) recruited test cases to challenge smoke-free laws, commissioned studies to dispute claims about second hand smoke, and helped "spontaneously-formed groups of smokers" push back local bylaws.
Out of this rich document, Mr. Lespérance drew Mr. Bédard's particular attention to what he had written about the relationship between the activities of the Smokers Freedom Society and the tobacco companies:
One element which frequently crops up in contacts between the SFS and the industry and which was publicly referred to at the last Infotab Workshop is the fact that organizations such as the SFS, FOREST, etc. can say or do things which the industry, for various reasons, cannot allow itself to do.
Mr. Lespérance questioned Mr. Bédard about ways in which activities of the Smokers Freedom Society had been aligned to the interests of the tobacco companies. These included the commissioning of a report (by Dr. Dollard Cormier) to counter conclusions of the Surgeon General and the Royal Society of Canada that nicotine is addictive, and an economic analysis (by André Raynauld) of the net economic benefit from smoking. (Exhibit 209)
To each example, Mr. Bédard provided a similar reply: he had wanted to study these issues in order to find out for himself whether the claims tobacco use faced were justified. "If your acts have consequences on third parties, you have to take them into consideration," he said.
It was in order to protect the Society's integrity that these actions were taken, he suggested.
If nicotine truly were addictive, then the concept of the freedom to smoke would be called into question. Similarly, if second hand smoke truly were unhealthy, then the right of smokers would have to be balanced against the impact on others. If smokers truly were a drain on the economy, then the freedom to smoke woul be weighed against the externalized costs.
As it turned out, all of the studies that Mr. Bédard commissioned came to the conclusions that supported the continuation of his work: the conclusions were that cigarettes were not addictive, second hand smoke was not harmful, smoking did not harm the economy.
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