Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Robin is told that nobody could see the documents!
Everyone knows Robin Mathews -- or should know him -- as a valued poet, playwright, author, political activist, and professor in Canadian academic life. So it should come as no surprise that this passionate British Columbian has taken a keen interest in the B.C. Rail case, having followed the pre-trial conferences and reporting back to us. But BC Mary received this note from Robin on Monday, 26 February, when that pre-trial conference for Basi, Virk, and Basi was expected in B.C. Supreme Court:
Dear Mary. I was there at 9:30, all the postings of cases were up. No [Madam Justice Elizabeth] Bennett, no hearing. And yet you said...you said.... I don't get it. I went to the vpl, sat over a coffee and read for an hour. ta ta, Robin.
I felt terrible. On this blog, I had announced the time and place for that hearing (it was scheduled at their last hearing): Vancouver Supreme Court, 26 Feb. 2007, 9:30 AM, and this busy professor had given his morning to something he thought the public ought to know about.
But I hadn't been able to find the pre-trial conference listed on Court Services OnLine, either. Nor had I received a response from e.mailing the Attorney-General's office. Bill Tieleman was just home from a Mexican holiday and due to broadcast over CKNW in the evening, so he didn't know. All of which left all of us, including Robin, out of the loop because ... much later ... we found out that there had indeed been activity on behalf of Basi, Virk, and Basi.
The first hint came with Jeff Miller's report, sent here as a comment. I couldn't believe it. I didn't know Jeff Miller. He said he was quoting from documents filed on Monday by the defense counsel for Basi, Virk and Basi. He gave a most unusual, colourful summary naming names and naming crimes. Of one thing I was certain: the Supreme Court does not share its documents with the public prior to any trial, and certainly not one as important as the BCRail Trial.
Then the floodgates opened. Every newspaper and radio station in B.C. and even beyond, seemed to be competing to get their own version of the BCRail story out, some of which are posted here on The Legislature Raids. The immediate reaction here was: well, I guess Jeff Miller must have been treated the same as all these other journalists.
But really, what was going on there? Today, another e.mail from Robin. He writes:
I set out today to get to the documents in question on the application for disclosure of the Defence in the Basi, Basi, and Virk case in the hands of Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett. First I telephoned administration to find out the number for trial division. I was given the wrong number and phoned off and on for an hour and a half. Finally I phoned back to administration to be told I'd been given the wrong number. (And a little muttering, I believe, about there being lots of people "here".)
Then I got trial division who told me that I would have to go to Criminal Registry for which they gave me the number. Criminal Registry, you may remember, is the office that refuses to give any information to anyone because Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm has instituted a gag procedure blocking information on criminal trials "to protect the accused". I have managed to get a number of documents by very difficult means after being refused them by Criminal Registry (over the last months) to discover that nothing in them has any relation to protection of the accused. The gag is a dangerous denial of public information, without sufficient reason, and I believe the Dohm "protocol" is unacceptable and a violation.
Following the information of Trial Division, I telephoned to Criminal Registry to ask where I could see the Application for Disclosure to be told I could not see it, and no one could see it. I told the person at Criminal Registry that the press and media were reporting on it and quoting from it, and so it is accessible. The person there said she knew nothing about that and could do nothing for me.
I telephoned back to Trial Division and explained the situation. The person there asked me to hold while she checked. She came back on the line, after some time, and told me that I could write to Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett and ask to see the documents (the ones that are already being discussed publicly by "accepted" media outlets), or that I could make a formal application to appear before Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett to ask if I can see the documents.
Plainly, the fundamental freedom of Canadians to have access to public information related to public tribunals is being grossly and intentionally interfered with - and in this case Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett is fully a party to that denial of rights."
OK ... what is this all about? Did the defence team simply trundle in a dolly-load of extra copies of these documents ready to dispense to the public? If so, how did people know where to meet the defence team? How were they informed? How did they know what to expect?
And is this legal? When lawyers prepare legal documents for the court, aren't those privileged information, filed with, and belonging to, the Supreme Court?
Where could I get a list of all the people who attended that "filing" and received copies of the 32-page Application for Disclosure?
It still leaves a minor mystery. Where did the legal teams gather? Why wasn't the gathering listed so that the public could find them and sit in? So how did the group find out where to go, what to expect?
Kudos to the Opposition, who at least got some information upon which to base a few important questions in the Legislature.
- BC Mary