Saturday, March 10, 2007
He's 4 days late. Bill Tieleman and Robin Mathews scooped him on Wednesday, 7 March. But here he is: Vaughn Palmer -- Voice of B.C. -- speaking up on behalf of the public interest in the B.C. Rail Trial. And that's a good thing. Palmer doesn't explain why CanWest said nothing about the dramatic 90 minutes in B.C. Supreme Court on the day of the hearing; but he did mention two of the alternate news sources which have followed the case: Bill and [blush] BC Mary. Yep. You saw it in Vancouver Sun, a CanWest newspaper, as follows:
Coming soon, some answers about the 2003 raid on the legislature
Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun
Saturday, March 10, 2007
VICTORIA - For everyone still wondering about that police raid at the legislature three years ago, there was encouraging news in a Vancouver courtroom this week.
"The public interest in having this case heard outweighs just about everything else," declared Justice Elizabeth Bennett of the B.C. Supreme Court.
She spoke her mind at the latest procedural hearing in the seemingly interminable pretrial phase of the much-delayed case.
It was taken as a sign that the judge has reached the end of her patience with the legal wrangling and means for the case to go to trial, as scheduled, next month.
She surely spoke for many British Columbians, who've been subjected to endless speculation and doubts since police first descended on the provincial parliament at the end of December 2003.
The judge appeared to be taking the side of the public a second time during her comments at Wednesday's hearing.
"These proceedings have to be as open as possible," she said. "We will have a system in place for proper access to documents."
Meaning proper access by the public and the news media, as reporter Mark Hume noted in his account of the hearing, published in the Globe and Mail newspaper Thursday.
The case has generated considerable interest and much speculation in both conventional news media and the online variety. Check out Bill Tieleman's latest piece on the Tyee website. Or Google "BC Mary."
But members of the public are also following the case on their own, or trying to do so. Justice Bennett disclosed in court that she was in receipt of a complaint from someone [Robin Mathews - Mary] who'd been denied access to a document that had been circulated in the news media.
The judge's attitude may not have been improved by the fact that the document -- an application from the defence for more disclosure of information -- had fallen into the hands of the news media before she'd seen it as well.
Perhaps that helped reinforce her determination to get on with the public airing of the case.
The next procedural hearing is set for April 2 and the trial date is April 16.
Proceedings will likely commence with a week or two of legal arguments over the admissibility of evidence gathered through wiretaps and a series of search warrants.
Depending on what survives that winnowing, the public should begin getting answers to questions that have been posed and reposed for more than three years.
There was the sheer spectacle of the raid, followed by the bald declaration from police that it was connected to organized crime and the drug trade.
Then came the revelations of connections to key players in the provincial and federal Liberal parties.
Another shocker was the news that the raid was somehow connected to the sale of BC Rail, the government-owned railway, to CN Rail.
Then the allegation that, to preserve a viable bidding process for the BCR, the B.C. Liberals had dangled some sort of inducement to the second-place finisher. Supposedly, the consolation prize was the inside track on acquiring a second railway, the BCR spur line to the Roberts Bank superport.
Now, this is the point where the reader should be advised that much of this is speculative and none of it has been proven in court.
Note, too, that several of the presumed "bombshells" in this case were duds. The drug charges led nowhere. Most of the names mentioned in connection with the case were neither charged nor accused of wrongdoing.
Still, there's more than enough to warrant a full airing in open court, which is why Bennett's comment this week was so refreshing.
Without presuming to read her mind, I would note that she's been here before.
For she was also the judge in the Glen Clark case, which had similar elements. The charge of breach of trust. A political dimension. Complaints that the charge was overblown and unwarranted.
Bennett skilfully navigated those thickets in a written judgment in 2002.
Here's what she had to say about whether the case should have been aired in open court:
"Our free and democratic society requires such allegations to be investigated and a prosecution undertaken if there is evidence which meets the threshold required for charges to be laid. Anything less would bring the system of justice in disrepute."
Nevertheless, she acquitted Clark. He was guilty of "poor judgment . . . . However, there is nothing in his conduct that crosses the line from an act of folly to behaviour calling for criminal sanction."
Don't take this as a comment on the merits or possible outcomes of the case arising out of the raid on the legislature.
Rather, I wanted to record that Bennett's masterful handling of an earlier, no less politically charged case, suggests this one is in good hands as well.
One thing still bothers me about Palmers article. He appears to be giving a watered down version and the writing seems to be done as if he had to do it.
Also he alludes to the Glen Clark case almost as if Clark were guilty,but not convicted as such. Then goes on to say that by no means are these three guilty until proven so. I am a firm beleiver in that scenario. But when they were writing about Clark nowhere did I see that statement. They were trying to convict him in the media, as sure as I'm alive.
Nonetheless it finally made it to print in some of the rest of the media. I guess we should be thankful. (He said grudgingly)
You make a good point, particularly with respect to the 'watered-down' nature of the cited commentary.
However, there is something else to consider here - and that is the possibility that the work of folks like Mary, Mr. Tieleman, Mr. Mathews, GWest, and Mary's Anon-O-Mice is forcing the mainstream pundits (and their editors) to pay attention.
And that is a very good thing, indeed.