Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Private government files sought


Private government files sought in fraud case

Defence files 'breathtaking' application for documents, including material from the Premier and his cabinet

The Globe and Mail - June 6, 2007

VANCOUVER -- Buoyed by a sweeping court order that has just given them access to all relevant police records, the defence team in a political corruption trial has filed a "breathtaking" application for confidential government files, including material held by cabinet and by Premier Gordon Campbell. {Snip} ...

"The application will seek documents from a number of locations, including Premier Campbell's office and former finance minister Gary Collins's office and current documents from those offices, and the Minister of Transportation offices, and from the Solicitor-General's office and the Speaker's Office and the Clerk of the House office, and cabinet offices," said Michael Bolton, who is Mr. Basi's lawyer.

Andrew Heard, an associate professor of political science at Simon Fraser University, said applications for privileged government documents are not unheard of, but rarely are so sweeping.

"The scope is quite breathtaking. To have such a wide sweep of documents including records from the Speaker and offices in the legislature as well as cabinet offices, it doesn't happen often," Mr. Heard said. {Snip} ...

"There is a public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of cabinet documents. But that can be superseded where those documents relate to wrongdoing ... One of the main principles came out in a case in 1982 when the Supreme Court said the purpose of secrecy in government is to promote its proper function, not to facilitate improper conduct."

Joseph Maingot, author of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, said "the general rule" is that the legislature does not try to stand in the way of litigation, but if it does, the courts can step in.

"The courts have the final say. They are the ones who interpret the law," he said. {Snip} ...

Defence lawyers are arguing, however, that police didn't go far enough in gathering evidence in that raid because they searched only the offices of Mr. Basi, then an aide to the finance minister, and Mr. Virk, then an aide to the transportation minister.

They now seek to acquire by court order, documents they feel the police missed. {Snip} ...

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