Daniel Leblanc lists the key issues and players in the current trial of former CBC/CTV television reporter and journalist, Senator Mike Duffy. Mr. Duffy is facing 31 criminal charges related to questionable expense claims as a senator.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, history, current events

Key Questions to Explore:

  • Who are the key players and what are the issues related to the ongoing trial of Senator Mike Duffy?

New Terminology:

Partisan, fraud, plausible, ambiguous, PMO

Materials Needed:

  • Globe article, the Internet

Time required:

  • Fifteen minutes plus a homework assignment
Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Suspended senator Mike Duffy is now being tried on 31 charges related to his expense claims since 2008 when he was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Harper. If the current media fixation on the trial continues, students will likely be exposed to regular reports, in which case they would benefit from some background on the situation, all of which can help educate them about the workings of the “Chamber of Sober Second Thought,” as the Senate is sometimes called.

In this lesson students will use part of a CBC video to learn some of the background to the story. As part of their homework assignment, they will finish watching the video, review the article by Daniel Leblanc and submit a written report in which they demonstrate a broad, general understanding of the key players and issues.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Start with a brief discussion about the current trial of Senator Mike Duffy. Most students will likely not likely know much about Mr. Duffy’s career as a television journalist, so consider showing the last minute or so of this short video of Mr. Duffy in his former career. In this case, he is reporting on the North American Free Trade Agreement, in 1987.

Next, ensure that students are aware of the background to Mr. Duffy’s ongoing trial by showing the first 10 minutes of the following CBC Fifth Estate program. Note that students will be required to view the balance of the program as part of their homework assignment.

Provide students with the article by Mr. Leblanc along with this homework assignment:

Produce a one-page report on Senator Mike Duffy, entitled, “Guide to following the trial of Senator Mike Duffy.” Complete the following tasks and include answers to the following questions as part of your report.

  • Review Mr. Duffy’s official government biography at this link:
  • Other senators, such as Marjorie LeBreton, are listed by their affiliation to a political party. In her case, the Conservative Party of Canada. How is Mr. Duffy listed? Why might this be unusual? (You may wish to complete the balance of the assignment, first, before attempting to answer this)
  • How is Mr. Duffy’s career in broadcasting described in his official bio, relative to how Canadians had come to know him?
  • How many years was Mr. Duffy employed as a TV journalist?
  • Finish viewing the Fifth Estate video:
  • What might be considered ironic about the CBC reporting on Mike Duffy?
  • Read the article by Daniel Leblanc.

Using the information from the two main sources, above:

  • Explain the importance to this trial of the location of Mr. Duffy’s principal residence;
  • Explain, as far as can be known, why Mr. Wright wrote Mr. Duffy a cheque for $90,000;
  • If Mr. Duffy is facing bribery charges for receiving this payment, how is it that Mr. Wright is not facing charges for providing the payment?
  • Using your preferred Internet source, how many directorates exist within the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and to whom do they report?
  • What key role did/does Marjory Lebreton play in this story?
  • What kinds of issues define each of the “four investigational avenues” on which the RCMP have based their 31 charges against Senator Duffy?
  • Mr. Duffy claims that he is a victim of a “set-up planned by the Senate leadership, under the direction of the PMO, and designed to destroy my credibility with Canadians.” Given what you have learned about the case, do you believe him or not? Give reasons.
  • In your opinion, how do you think this story will end? Will Mr. Duffy be found guilty or innocent? Will the Prime Minister be pulled into the case? Will Mr. Wright’s testimony tarnish the reputation of the PMO?
  • Finally, how might the trial of Mike Duffy affect the outcomes of this year’s federal election, if at all?

When you have read and graded students’ reports, engage them in a follow-up discussion about the case. Encourage them to follow the trial in the media and report to class on developments.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Preparation of a report on the trial of Mike Duffy.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students deliver thoughtful and complete written reports.

Confirming Activity:

  • Students become engaged with the ongoing trial and report regularly to class on new developments.