Monday, September 25, 2006
Knowingly, deliberately kept in the dark
They gathered in B.C. Supreme Court: Basi, Basi, Virk, their lawyers, and the Special Prosecutor (on behalf of the people of B.C.) for a significant pre-trial hearing. A CanWest reporter was in the courtroom. Something must have happened, we know not what. The general public heard not a syllable about it.
This Sept. 18 hearing was intended to grapple with evidentiary readiness. At least, we think so. That's what the Attorney-General's office told me. But we don't really know because the event was knowingly and deliberately not reported in British Columbia's news media.
This was the hearing which would have -- should have -- told Canada that "We're finally ready to take Basi, Virk, and Basi to trial!" Either that, or they aren't ready. We simply don't know ... not even now, a week after the pre-trial decision.
Sept. 18 and 19, I searched every newspaper as well as CBC News and CKNW for this information, and found nothing, although this is a trial which could shake the very foundations of our governments.
That's why I e.mailed the Times Colonist. You saw the response kindly sent by the Editor-in-Chief confirming the hearing but providing no details. Why on earth not? Why not inform the people?
Either the defence and prosecution have gathered all the evidence they need and are ready to proceed to trial; or they still don't have all the evidence they need, and they requested a further delay. Which is it?
British Columbians have a need and a right to know 1) what is the trial date; or, 2) if delayed, until what date?
Unbelievably, we do not know at this point whether the Trial of the Century is on, or off, or sent to Syria via New York and Jordan. The entire B.C. Legislature remains under a cloud. We desperately need to clear the air.
In a Theocracy or a Dictatorship, such things might happen. But not in a Parliamentary Democracy. Not in Canada. Surely not.
Some things did happen on 18 Sept. '06
CanWest editors have decided that the trial of Basi, Virk and Basi isn't news. You saw the letter.
If absolutely nothing happened in that B.C. Supreme court room on Sept 18, that's news. But something did. Bet your boots, some things did happen.
After her initial response, I wrote a 2nd e.mail to Ms Chodan. Here it is, and this one upset her:
Thank you, I am immensely grateful for the information in your reply.
I sincerely believe that you would find many, many British Columbian readers of TC who feel a need to know what steps are being taken toward some resolution of the Basi, Virk affair.
If, as RCMP Staff Sergeant John Ward said on 29 Dec. 2003, organized crime has reached critical mass in our province, and has found its way into all levels of society, then it's no small matter for the general public to come to grips with the serious nature of the charges against Basi, Virk, and Basi.
Having found so little news coverage on such an important subject, I undertook to maintain a blog for this purpose (The Legislature Raids, at http://bctrialofbasi-virk.blogspot.com/ ). And I can say that there is scarcely a detail concerning this issue, including the pretrial appearance of Basi, Virk et al in BC Supreme Court yesterday, which would not be read and considered.
Not a lot of hard news was expected from yesterday's pretrial hearing. But the very important basic questions were expected to be answered: was there agreement that both defense and prosecution have the documents they need? If so, are they ready to proceed to trial now? On 4 December? Or?
It seems a great pity to me, that a reporter attended this latest hearing, but wasn't able to give the public those much-awaited scraps of information.
Is it possible that your reporter could do so now? I would be most grateful, if so. Again, thank you for your response.
Ms Chodan did apparently visit this blog and seemed angry that the news she had provided was allowed to be news. Possibly she was upset at having handed me the scoop on her own newspaper so that I was publishing news which she, as Editor-in-Chief of Victoria Times Colonist, had refused to publish.
I am ordered not to show you her second message. She did not answer my question about allowing the reporter to fulfill his duties.
So the people of British Columbia still do not know what was decided in that court room with a staff reporter right there, on duty, supposedly to keep the public informed. And so far as CanWest is concerned, that's where it ends.
It demonstrates that CanWest understood that it's big news when Basi, Virk and Basi go into a B.C. courtroom.
It demonstrates that CanWest itself is certainly interested when Basi, Virk and Basi go into a B.C. courtroom.
It demonstrates that CanWest decides that they'll try to keep the public in the dark about The Trial of the Century.
It wasn't a figment of imagination that there was news on 18 September in B.C. Supreme Court. The fact is: CanWest's Times Colonist decided to ignore it. They didn't just slip up or forget ... their editors met and decided to ignore it.
Is that a free press, in the service of a functioning democratic society?
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
From the Editor-in-chief, Times Colonist
Date: Tue, 19 Sep 2006 11:38:50 -0500
To: "Edit (Times-Colonist)"
Conversation: Basi, Virk, Basi in court yesterday?
Is it too much to ask, that a daily newspaper should report on the
appearance in BC Supreme Court yesterday (Sept. 18) of Basi, Virk,
Basi, their lawyers, the Special Prosecutor (on behalf of the people of
BC, presumably) and Judge Elizabeth Bennett concerning a matter of
serious significance to this province and this country?
Did the trial take place, as forecast, to discuss the status of
evidence and to confirm the trial date? If so, what was the decision?
If not, was the trial delayed? postponed? stayed? what?
Too often, the public is accused of being apathetic. But it's
difficult to keep informed of such an important matter as Basi, Virk,
and BC Rail ... if the news isn't published in the mainstream press.
and then she said:
From: "Chodan, Lucinda (Times-Colonist)"
Date: Tue Sep 19, 2006 1:31:32 PM Canada/Eastern
Cc: "Helm, Denise (Times-Colonist)"
Subject: Re: Basi, Virk, Basi in court yesterday?
Dear Ms. Mary:
There was indeed a pretrial appearance by Basi, Virk et al yesterday. Our
reporter staffed the appearance, and nothing of note happened. As is the
case in such instances, the reporter consulted with his editor and did not
write a story. When there is news, we plan to report it.
Victoria Times Colonist
2621 Douglas St.
Victoria, B.C. V8T 4M2
Monday, September 18, 2006
It's September 18, 2006 and ... ?
Has anyone seen anything about lawyers arguing the need for more disclosure in the case of The Crown (on behalf of you & me) against Dave Basi, Aneal Basi, and Bob Virk, who are facing corruption charges?
Remember Bill Tieleman's comment from 2 years ago: " ... But we do know that there are connections between a police investigation into drugs, money-laundering, and organized crime, two privatization deals worth more than $1 billion, and allegations of breach of trust and fraud by top provincial government officials who have extensive connections with the federal Liberal party and the campaign to make Paul Martin leader and prime minister.
It doesn't get much bigger than that."
No mistake, this is an important legal case. If you find out something ... anything! ... please let us know here.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Basi my landlord close to Ottawa Liberals
(by Bernard Schulmann)
As many of you know, Dave Basi is my landlord and has been so since July 1 2004. I have known him since the mid 1990s. We do not agree politically - I am western populist, he is a classic Canadian Liberal. Whereas the BC Liberals were a total home for him, for me it has been an awkward fit at times. I remain very uncomfortable with the simple fact that many BC Liberals are so close to the Ottawa Liberals.
Dave and I have been friendly for years and cooperated politically, though I never took him up on his offer to become a federal Liberal. Given that at the time I was living in rural riding in BC that had almost no federal Liberals, I was courted by all the leadership camps in the late 1990s so Dave's request was only one of about a half dozen overtures made to me at the time. I will admit to supporting Keith Martin for the leadership, but that was for the Canadian Alliance and before he decamped to the federal Liberals.
On many levels I trust Dave completely. This trust comes because we are not insync politically on many issues, I spent many years wary of him but over the years a trust was built. In over 10 years of knowing him I have never known Dave Basi not be a man of his word.
Political success comes from being smart, charming and having access to the information you need. Dave is smart. Dave is a master of playing political nuances for the information he needed. And Dave is one of the most outgoing and charming people I have ever met.
From 2001 to the end of 2003 Dave and I traded information back and for[th] that would help each one of us have a better success in what we were doing. All of it above board and quite acceptable to be talking about. As an example, I warned him when actions of government were going to cause problems politically in the interior, or Dave would help me get the meetings I needed with MLAs. This relationship allowed Dave to serve his minister and government better and in my case ensuring that the interests of rural communities and First Nations were considered in the government.
And then his offices were raided and he has been since charged with taking a bribe. The whole case seems odd to me for a number of reasons:
Why are the people claiming to have bribed him not charged with anything? No one can explain to me why not charging them would make any sense. If the crime is that they offered him a bribe, did they not instigate the alleged crime?
How did they manage to continue working in the government relations field after the investigation started?
Dave is smart, it just does not strike me as credible that if what he did accept a bribe that he would have left evidence of it.
In reading the search warrant details, I am left with a "Is that it?" feeling
Why is it taking so long for the Crown to get into court? Based on what the search warrants seem to be about, I am wondering why they could not be in court much faster? It makes me wonder if they have enough evidence to forward, or is there some other shoe to drop?
What ever happened to the orginal drug case that stumbled onto this case?
The crux of the issue seems to be that one company was being offered information in the BC Rail bidding process so that they could be successful. What information would have helped them? Given the stage the bids were at, how would Dave Basi have had access to useful information? As far as I can tell, someone else must have provided it to him when they should not have - and Bob Virk does not seem to me someone that would have had the information.
Finally, on this new ALR thing - OK this is one that I do not get at all. How could it have been beneficial for someone to pay Dave to get land out of the ALR? This is close to my day to day working world and I have offered clients advice on ALR issues. It would have never have occurred to me to think that the MA to the Minister Finance could influence any ALR decisions. This strikes as making as much sense as briding the Archbishop of Cantebury to get an annulment for a Catholic marriage - it just does not work.
How much power does an MA have? At the end of the day very little. They are the political aides of the Minister and have real control over a budget that is smaller than what my business deals with. The MA is there to give partisan political advice to the minister. They are, as Frank Magazine called them, fartcatchers.
posted by Bernard Schulmann @ 11:33 AM 0 comments links to this post
And here's another bit ... also puzzlingly intriguing, because "Public Eye On-Line" is one of my favourite news sources.
Return to the airwaves
Illahee (by Bernard Schulmann)
6 Feb 2006
Back in the 1980s I worked at CFUV. Then in the late 1990s I helped start CHLS in Lillooet BC.
I love radio, unfortunately there is no money in it. But I am making a small comeback in the Victoria area. On February 26th I will be guest hosting Sean Holman's program Public Eye on CFAX AM 1070 from 6 pm to 9 pm. Sean will be off celebrating his birthday.
I will [be] looking to focus on the issues that I think are crucial and core to BC. The things that effect the 95% of the province that produces most of our wealth, the places where trees and mountains define the land.
posted by Bernard Schulmann @ 10:59 PM 0 comments links to this post
Friday, September 15, 2006
All the fudging, sleight-of-hand and obfuscation ... blather, even!
So the Winter Olympics in 2010 are liable to cost us $2.5 billion rather than the $600 million Premier Gordon Campbell has assured us, the acting auditor general says.
We're not surprised. We're not even all that upset, which says more about the importance we attach to the Games than it does about our opinion of Campbell and his government:We think he was right to bid for them, and having succeeded, we wish the Games themselves much success.
What we don't like is all the fudging, sleight-of-hand and obfuscation that has surrounded the Winter Olympics from the start. Not many of us were convinced when Campbell swore in November 2001 that "the Games will pay for themselves." Not many of us bought all that blather about long-term economic impacts for the province or lasting legacies, although we did hope the Games would inspire some young British Columbians to ski, skate or slide higher, faster and stronger.
And as Olympic fever sets in, more of us will be willing to make up any shortfall. Acting Auditor General Arn van Iersel has assured us we'll have to.
He said provincial taxpayers, on whose behalf the provincial government has agreed to cover any shortfall, could bear extra costs if Vanoc, the organizing committee, can't meet its expense and revenue targets and hasn't built in contingencies to cover such things as inflation, exchange-rate fluctuations, the state of the economy, "world threats" and the ever-unpredictable weather.
Taxpayers, van Iersel says, will also indemnify the city of Vancouver for its losses and for Vancouver's agreement to indemnify the International Olympic Committee for revenue losses or damages it has to pay to, among others, Olympic sponsors and broadcasters, if those losses can be blamed on Vanoc or Vancouver.
They will have to contribute more to Vanoc if necessary to get venues completed on time, and will have to top up the $76 million left in the provincial contingency fund for items outside the Games budget for things such as security and medical costs.
Van Iersel said there are even risks in not being able, under IOC rules, to begin marketing for the much-touted economic benefits until after the Beijing Summer Games in 2008. He also questioned whether the benefits in the business plan can be realized.
A lot of us think a couple of weeks of top-class athletes competing here while the world watches is worth at least part of the risk. But what is really galling is the apparent feeling in government and Vanoc that it's none of our business what the total costs might be.
We want to know what costs are Olympic costs, we want to know what other guarantees have been made on our behalf by Crown corporations and other ministries, and we want to see Vanoc's secret budget.
We can't wait until 2010. We need to know all this before 2009, election year.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2006
It has a nice ring to it: "We want to know ..." and "We need to know" ... and "We can't wait until 2010 ..."
Will this wholesome attitude prevail into September 18, 2006 and 4 December 2006 and beyond?
Monday, September 11, 2006
B.C. tells an odd story ...
B.C. tells an odd story in a young man's death
Editorial: The Globe and Mail, 11 Sept. 2006
Wally Oppal the judge would have been deeply suspicious of the story that Wally Oppal the B.C. Attorney-General is telling Canadians.
A young B.C. man with no criminal record is taken to an RCMP station on a misdemeanour. Twenty minutes later, he is dead from a bullet to the back of the head. Wally Oppal the Attorney-General says the young man was choking the arresting officer, who had no choice but to kill in self-defence. Wally Oppal the appeal court judge would have wondered whether a young man with a clean record would try to choke a police officer to death within 20 minutes of being taken into custody.
Mr. Oppal has never seen the file on the Ian Bush case. He was briefed by Crown counsel on it. The facts available to the Crown came from the RCMP investigation into the shooting by its own officer. Mr. Oppal cannot be certain, without looking at the file, whether that investigation of the death was thorough.
As Attorney-General, Mr. Oppal is ultimately responsible for ensuring that this deadly shooting in virtually unheard-of circumstances is properly investigated and resolved in a just manner. But when Wally Oppal the Attorney-General offers his legal analysis, attached to it is the credibility he earned when he was Wally Oppal the judge -- initially on the B.C. Supreme Court, beginning in 1985, and then on the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2003. (He resigned from the bench last year to enter politics.) But Wally Oppal the appeal court judge would not have given a legal opinion on the basis of a summary of facts. There is nothing at all judicial in the analysis Mr. Oppal is offering.
Mr. Oppal's version of events is an abbreviated form of the description that the officer, Constable Paul Koester, gave in his statement of defence in a civil suit filed by the parents of the dead young man, 22-year-old Ian Bush of Houston, B.C.
Constable Koester says he gave Mr. Bush a paper to sign promising he would appear in court. Mr. Bush began punching him in the face and head. Constable Koester then, while fighting back, told Mr. Bush he could leave without signing the paper. Mr. Bush began choking him from behind. (The statement does not say whether it was with his hands, his shoulder or twine.) Constable Koester felt he was passing out. He withdrew his revolver. He struck Mr. Bush with the butt of the revolver several times, but failed to break the hold. Finally he shot him, he said, because he had a reasonable belief that would be killed or grievously harmed if he did not.
Wally Oppal the appeal court judge would have asked (as anyone would who ponders the official/Constable Koester version of events): Did the officer provoke the young man's assault? Was the young man, if he was choking the officer, acting in self-defence himself?
Under the law of self-defence, "it's not sufficient to consider a choke in the abstract," says Greg DelBigio, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia law school. "It's necessary to consider what precisely occurred at that time, in those circumstances, and what were the reasons that the police officer acted in the way that he did."
Would Constable Koester offer to waive the promise-to-appear note from a man who had just battered him? This is the same Constable Koester who arrested Mr. Bush for giving a false name when asked about an open beer he was holding. If he was offering to set Mr. Bush free immediately, why would Mr. Bush try to choke him to death? These men were roughly the same size; Mr. Bush was a bit stockier. How did their training in physical battle compare?
With few facts in the public domain, there is little reason for the public to accept that Constable Koester acted in self-defence.
About cancellation of the fall session, here's what that well-known former B.C. Liberal, David Mitchell, now a vice president at the University of Ottawa, said about it on 08/09/06 [Petti Fong, Globe and Mail], "Unfortunately, the legislature in B.C. has not been as relevant as it could be and should be in the lives of British Columbians. The legislature exists to keep the government accountable and if it's only in session for a few months a year, it's hard to make them accountable."
Well, yeah David, that would be my opinion too. I'd even go a step farther by remembering that the spring session was also cut short ... before the budget was properly debated. I'd actually go so far as to say that it was a reflexive cut-and-run decision, like, to get outa town before the anticipated court appearances of Basi and Virk in June. And now in September. That's what I'm thinking.
I'm thinking that no government should be allowed to get away with highjacking the democratic process. I'm even thinking that we owe thanks to the grand old lady of the MSM, The Globe and Mail, for audacious innovation: honouring the normal commitment to publish the real news.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
The day to watch: 18 September 2006
The trial is scheduled for 4 December 2006, a full 3 years after police made their shocking raid on the B.C. Legislature.
Dave (Udhe) Basi and Bob Virk face several charges, including accepting a bribe, influence peddling, fraud, and breach of trust. Aneal Basi faces two charges of money laundering.
Judge: Elizabeth Bennett (presided at the famous Back Porch trial)
Special Prosecutor: Bill Berardino
Defence Lawyers: Michael Bolton, Kevin Doyle, Kevin McCullough.
It is expected that two witnesses will testify for the prosecution: Erik Bornman and Brian Kierans.
It is not known at this time whether the former Cabinet Ministers for whom the accused worked, will be called to testify.