Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Professor Robin Mathews to Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett on Basi, Virk, and Basi / B.C. Rail Court Proceedings


XXXX Street
Vancouver, B.C., XXX XXX,
August 28, 2007

Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett,
The Supreme Court of British Columbia,
The Law Courts,
800 Smithe Street, Vancouver, B.C., V6Z 2E1

cc. William Berardino
Michael Bolton
Joseph Doyle
Kevin McCullough
The Honourable Robert Nicholson, Minister of Justice Canada
Joe Comartin, MP
Libby Davies, MP
Leonard Krog, MLA
Chief Justice Donald Brenner, B.C. Supreme Court
Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm
B.C. Civil Liberties Association

RE: the Basi, Virk, and Basi/ B.C. Rail Court Proceedings

Dear Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett:

The hearing on the "Application for Records" addressed to George Copley, Q.C. and William Berardino, Q.C., filed by Michael Bolton, Q.C. and Claire Hatcher, Kevin McCullough and Kristy Sim, and Joeseph Doyle on June 4, 2007 was taken up by you in the Law Courts on August 21, 2007, and given some continuing attention.

Compelling engagements made it impossible for me to be in the courtroom to witness the transactions. That is a perfectly normal situation. And so I formally request that you make available to me to examine and, if I wish, to have copies made for me of all or parts of the court record of that proceeding/those proceedings.

The reasonableness of my request will register with all Canadians who are not mentally incompetent or serving interests that seek to hide all information possible from the public on the Basi, Virk, and Basi actions as well as anything else really or apparently connected to the corrupt sale of B.C. Rail by the Gordon Campbell cabinet. And so it is perfectly reasonable that you should make those public records available to me; and I look forward earnestly to your early positive decision in the matter.

Please take note: in this request I am not asking to see documents submitted by the Crown (though I have full freedom to do so), but the records of the publicly open transactions occurring in a courtroom of the Supreme Court Building beginning on August 21, 2007. Both you and your strangely secretive colleague, Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm, (also involved in the police and court processes arising from the corrupt sale of BC Rail) have publicly placed on record statements of the fundamental, constitutionally transparent principle that "the governing legal principle is that there is a presumption in favour of public access" to court documents on public record. Then, I allege, you both trample that principle underfoot for reasons that I allege are highly suspicious and cannot be defended in a democratic society.

Mr. Justice Patrick Dohm has kept secret from the Canadian public search warrant material issued in 2003. In his grand gesture to "release" the corrupt BC Rail sale search warrants in September, 2004, he blacked out (in number of pages) wholly or in part considerably more than half of the material. Bill Tielemann records it as at "about 80 percent of the search warrant information". (Georgia Straight Sept 16 04 23)

One of the people targetted in the searches was Bruce Clark, brother of then deputy premier Christy Clark and brother-in-law of Mark Marissen, then prime minister Paul Martin's top Liberal organizer in B.C. Allegations were that Clark received confidential BC Rail-involved documents from Dave Basi concerning what may have been the criminal handling of the Roberts Bank spur line intended sale. At the instancing of the RCMP (but not before) B.C. transportation minister Kevin Falcon was forced to cancel that sale, apparently to U.S. rail corporation, omniTRAX. What was Kevin Falcon's role in the whole matter? He did not undergo search as a result of the Patrick Dohm granted warrants or any other. In addition, Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm appears to have blackened out much of the material relating to Bruce Clark. I shall return to the subject near the close of this letter.

In August 2007, as I write, both you and Mr Justice Dohm are defying "the governing legal principle Š that there is a presumption in favour of public access". You, yourself, are now seized with the matters involved in the corrupt sale of BC Rail. And you are keeping 80% of the December 2003 search warrant material from the people of Canada, to whom it belongs.

I have, with respect, to record with you, moreover, that I have repeatedly asked you for court transcripts and for - to give an example - the 14 sworn affidavits from RCMP officers tendered by the Special Crown Prosecutor. I have to record, further, that I have been denied by you everything (of matters placed on public record as the property of the people of Canada) which I have requested.

One reason given is the fatuous, odious, repugnant so-called Practice Direction existing as (an apparent) product of Associate Chief Justice Dohm. I have reviewed the gathering of "rules" called the Practice Direction. Inasmuch as it deals with the freedom of Canadians to examine documents on public record in the Supreme Court of British Columbia - and denies them that freedom - I consider the Practice Direction a totalitarian denial of the democratic freedoms of Canadians. Inasmuch as the Practice Direction claims to be based on legislation expressed in the Criminal Code, I believe it distorts the intention of legislation and/or misinterprets the intention of legislators. If, in any case whatsoever, the repressive Practice Direction should appear to square with legislation, I insist, the role of all Supreme Court judges, given their titles expressive of trust, probity, and principle, is to call publicly for a change to the legislation.

Let me remind you that I have applied repeatedly to examine material (secreted by you) which is on the public record. The more I insisted, the more labyrinthine and Kafka'esque were the obstacles placed in my way by you and your minions. I allege I was misinformed and I allege the requirements which I had to fulfill were changed irrationally. Above all, I was assured that no material could, under any circumstances, be released unless I followed the prescribed, complicated ritual (and, then, there was no assurance it would be released).

But when a large, private, profit-making corporation (in this case the Globe and Mail) almost casually - giving almost no notice - requested the release of important materials in early June of 2007, you almost casually and with lightning speed gave the Globe and Mail what it wanted. No protocol. No prescribed ritual. No forms to complete. No labyrinthine process.

Some judges of the Supreme Court of B.C. are popularly accused of practising flagrant favouritism towards large, rich, private corporations. Your actions, I say with respect, convince me you may be one of those judges.

I must allude to another, huge shadow that judges of the Supreme Court of British Columbia labour under, you among them. That is the position of Wally Oppal as Attorney General of the Province. He was - as you well know - a colleague of yours for years as a Supreme Court judge, and in the appellate division as well. He is now Attorney General. His office is closely connected to Supreme Court operations as an on-going fact. He should never have been permitted to move to the political post he holds, for, by doing so, he casts all judges who were his colleagues into suspicion of conflict of interest whenever they are seized with actions in which the Gordon Campbell government has interests. Oppal is, it would seem, an open, visible, motor-mouth supporter of any and every Gordon Campbell policy and action, however dubious, distasteful, or improper.

Because of Wally Oppal's political position, your actions - as a former colleague of his - in the matter of the corrupt sale of BC Rail and the criminal charges that have arisen from it (and especially in regard to those charges that should have arisen from it, but haven't) cannot escape from being viewed with deep suspicion. The conditions in which you work, I allege - whatever may be your probity - cast suspicion upon your behaviour.

The same applies to Chief Justice Donald Brenner. He undertook to preside in the Alcan/B.C. Government/Kitimat dispute about Nechako River power. Wally Oppal, former long-time colleague of Justice Brenner, was a title-page respondent in the matter Brenner undertook to adjudicate objectively. I am a party to the Complaint before the Canadian Judicial Council to the effect that Chief Justice Brenner could not act in the matter without bearing such reasonable suspicion of conflict of interest that his decision must be disallowed.

I believe, in addition, that the substance of Chief Justice Brenner's decision on the Alcan/B.C. government/Kitimat dispute is a tissue of bad reasoning and expediencies - pointing to prejudice in the matter. But quite apart from that, his de facto role as a long-time colleague of Wally Oppal made necessary that he refuse the position he chose to assume. His choice to be judge in the matter is, I believe, intolerable, and we wait anxiously for the finding of the Canadian Judicial Council in the matter of our Complaint.

The Supreme Courts of Canada are fast losing the respect of Canadians - so much so that Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, is frequently quoted in the press uttering petillant and nearly-empty statements about her recognition of the failure of justice in Canada. One of her recent comments which made me think of you immediately was a statement of regret that the middle class cannot afford to use the courts. "Middle-class Canadians are increasingly frozen out by the cost and complexity of Canada's judicial processes" Beverley McLachlin said. (Rafe Mair, Tyee, Mar 19 07)

Like you (as I observe your behaviour) she seems to believe ordinary Canadians aren't worth discussing and their exclusion from the courts doesn't warrant comment. In fact, she does make a distinction, saying - almost certainly incorrectly - that "the very poor" get legal aid. But the middle class being unable to use the courts should be a matter for disquiet. Her assumption seems to be that between the very poor and "average middle class Canadians", there are no people. How wrong she is! Her assumption reveals, perhaps, a dangerous ivory-tower distance from Canadian reality.

A wonderful irony of the Chief Justice's concern is that when I sought access to material on public record in the Basi, Virk, and Basi proceedings from you, you arbitrarily, I believe, invoked the "complexity of Canada's judicial processes" with the effect of blocking, frustrating and denying me access.

I do not for a moment pretend you have an easy task, working in an arena with a highly politicized former colleague Attorney General, working with a Criminal Practice Direction which I consider a repressive and totalitarian insult to Canadian democracy, working with a Chief Justice whom I believe has acted (in the Alcan case) with singular - to say the least - imprudence, working with a set of colleagues more and more disprized by the general public. Just for instance, there is a Complaint before the Canadian Judicial Council against Madam Justice Brenda Brown for inappropriate conduct (in support of private corporate interests, it is alleged) which led to the dangerous and inappropriate incarceration of aged and sick Harriett Nahanee (environmental protester) who days later had to be taken to hospital from that "hell hole" to die unnecessarily. The Canadian Judicial Council, as I see it, is handing the Madam Justice Brenda Brown Complaint around from hand to hand like a burning coal. None wishes to grasp it. And, of course, the decision of the Canadian Judicial Council in the two matters I have cited will make clear its role in the revitalization or the continuing degeneration of justice in Canada.

I do not for a moment pretend that you have an easy task. But I will not settle in the matter for the kind of favouritism and judicial delay I believe I have witnessed in your court. It is my opinion - and I say this with the deepest respect - that the narrow scope and the unending delays in the court matters arising out of the corrupt - perhaps criminal - sale of BC Rail must be laid in significant part at your doorstep and at the doorstep of Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm.

Nor will I accept the insult you have directed at me by denying me access to information - not as a person with a name, nor as a "hurt individual", but as an ordinary, nameless representative Canadian seeking to see justice done and working to inform other Canadians about a matter of the highest importance to the conduct of law, justice, and fairness in Canada - the dirty and perhaps criminal sale of BC Rail in secret, corrupt, and clandestine deals by the Gordon Campbell cabinet.

In that respect, questions push forward that are unasked by the forelock- tugging private corporate press and media - questions that should be on the front and editorial pages of the Globe and Mail and the CanWest Propaganda Chain every week, and on related television outlets. Who is paying the three law firms conducting Defence? What have they cost Š so far? British Columbians are paying you, and they are paying all costs of "the Crown", to say nothing of the army of RCMP "investigators". How much has this most important (and almost certainly most expensive) set of criminal accusations (not to be confused with a "trial") cost so far? How many millions of dollars? I ask those questions to you as presiding judge in the case, and I ask with the expectation of an answer. The private corporate press and media, moreover, should be publicly examining in detail all the elected officials and all the other political actors connected to the corrupt sale of BC Rail, and those organizations should be demanding the fullest accounting of the innocence of each of those actors, one by one.

Writing to BC Mary the other day, Kirk Lapointe, Managing Editor of the Vancouver Sun, called "non news" the August 21 process ( which I am asking you to provide me the court record to examine). He also wrote that "nothing much happened". Was the Vancouver Sun there or had they been told (as seems often the case on certain court days) not to bother covering? If no Sun reporter was there, how could Lapointe say with confidence there was no news? Who is controlling the press and media coverage of the proceedings over which you preside? Should that not be a matter of interest, and of concern to you?

The suggestion of something like a staged management of the Basi, Virk, and Basi proceedings brings up the central question. Is the whole thing a fraud? Are the wrong people charged? Are searches for evidence calculated to provide intolerable delays? Are the strange handlings of search warrants and certain apparently connected people intended to drive attention away from guilty people? In my mind and in the minds of many others the private, corporate, monopoly press and media are monstrously failing in their duty. The question is: "Are they failing in their duty because they are, in some way, connected to a criminal element involved with BC Rail?" Near the beginning of the letter I referred to politicians and high-ranking non-elected Liberals. Many involved in this matter are - and have been shown to be - close to Gordon Campbell and/or to other cabinet members (if they are not cabinet members themselves). That includes some members of the RCMP - and, of course, since the accession of Wally Oppal to the position of Attorney General it has to include all Supreme Court judges who were his colleagues on the bench. In short, is the gigantic operation, costing British Columbians millions and millions of dollars, simply a massive piece of theatre being acted out to protect criminals at the highest levels of British Columbia life?

Finally, it is my understanding that the Special Crown Prosecutor works (necessarily) in close relation to the investigative police forces in conducting searches and in laying charges. It is my understanding, as well, that the Supreme Court judge seized with a criminal matter may instruct the Crown to gather further, related information that may lead to charges being laid against others believed to be criminally involved in the matter, a condition of great importance since it may have bearing upon the fate, the freedoms, and the fair trial of the already accused. In this highly charged matter in which much of the general public is confident powerful, key politicians and others are guilty of crimes - why have you not given instructions to widen the investigation?

Yours respectfully,

Robin Mathews


Saturday, August 25, 2007


Sale of BC Rail a direct kick in the teeth

Comments by Peter Ewart of 250NEWS in Prince George:

Hi Mary:

In my previous email, I just sent a brief note thanking you for the info on BC Rail.

As you are aware, there is still a lot of secrecy involved regarding the BC Rail / CN sale, so the more info that we can bring to light the better. In that respect, the info that you have been getting out about the Basi / Virk trial, etc. has been great.

The sale of the railway was a direct kick in the teeth to the people in the Interior and North whom Campbell had promised not to sell the railway. Now we have a railway that has a monopoly over rail transportation in the Interior and North and that is an environmental disaster waiting to happen, probably even worse than the Cheakamus River or Wabumum Lake disasters.

I wrote an article several years ago about CN's operations, saying that we could end up as some kind of major disaster story on CNN. In any case, all of this was predicted at the time by our Committee to Save BC Rail and others.

On top of the railway problem, there is the pine beetle issue and the free fall of the American housing market which will have a big impact on lumber production and mill closures over the next few years. Now the Electoral Boundaries Commission is proposing to reduce the number of MLAs in the Interior and North. However, I'm happy to say that a rally is being organized in Prince George by the mayor and city council to protest this reduction of MLAs, and there should be a good turnout.

Thus, as a region, we are facing some big challenges ahead. In any case, let's keep in touch, especially on the rail issue.



Friday, August 24, 2007


Ghost of BC Rail is asking: how many CN derailments have there been on the old BCR line? 20, 30, 40? I've lost count ..."


By 250 News
Thursday, August 23, 2007

CN rail cars are twisted and off the rails in Quesnel (SEE opinion250 story and file photo at: Mayor's Question or if you need to paste it in -

Quesnel Mayor Nate Bello asks "How many derailments have there been on the old BC Rail line, 20, 30, 40? I’ve lost count, I don’t know.”

The derailment in Quesnel on Tuesday was at the same location as one that took place one month ago, “There is definitely a pattern”. Bello wants to know why. "What’s wrong? Are the trains going too fast? Are the tracks wrong? We need a real study to see what the problem is.”

Bello says his first interest was in making sure that no one was injured, "There was one car right on the bridge over the Quesnel River, I wanted to make sure there had been no spill of toxic material and when I was assured that both of those areas were covered I became concerned about just what is happening."

The City of Quesnel has put forward a resolution to the UBCM asking CN to enter into an open and frank dialogue with the municipalities along its lines with respect to issues such as safety.

Ten cars jumped the tracks Tuesday evening in Quesnel shortly after 6:00. The cars were empty, no one hurt, but the incident came within a day of Quesnel Council dealing with the issue at their regular meeting. Quesnel Mayor Nate Bello is hoping he will be advised as to when CN officials will be addressing Prince George City Council (a letter requesting such a session was sent by P.G. Mayor Colin Kinsley last week) so he will be able to attend and hear for himself just what CN has planned for safety along the rail line.

"Of course we are concerned any time rail cars are off the tracks" says Transport Canada’s spokesperson Rod Nelson, "We will be monitoring their (CN’s) compliance with the applicable rules but there is no investigation." Nelson says if Transport Canada thought there was a recurring problem at the Quesnel rail yard, then Transport Canada would issue a notice of orders, like the set issued following the collision and derailment in Prince George.


Thursday, August 23, 2007


Today's CanWest news on yesterday's courtroom developments


Adjusting our minds to CanWest's concept of news:

It's NEWZ that a Bollywood star is out of jail.

It's NEWZ that abdominal fat is worse for Asians and that a Victoria City Council-person just had a baby.

It's NEWZ that there's way too much long unsightly grass in Vancouver parks but the washrooms are OK.

But according to CanWest it is not news that another milestone in the BC Rail Case was dealt with in Supreme Court yesterday ... therefore, there's no acknowledgement of that milestone or information about Madam Justice Bennett's decision in either Vancouver Sun, The Province or Victoria Times Colonist.

Readers who rely upon CanWest for up-to-date information, therefore, might think that Case No. 23299 taking up 7 pages of Supreme Court listings for appearance on Monday 21 August 2007 just never happened. Blank. Did not compute. The issue is gone ... and besides, as the Sun's Managing Editor said, they "haven't been consuming resources during this heavy holiday season on non-news." But wait ...!

The Province -- CanWest's other Vancouver newspaper -- did send a reporter to B.C. Supreme Court yesterday to cover another case which apparently was big enough or suitable enough to qualify as NEWZ ["Charges stayed against accused in McMynn kidnapping case" after "a short pre-trial conference". See full story at:]

But as for the pre-trial hearing for Basi Virk Basi BC Rail, we only know -- from doing our own checking of the completed Supreme Court listings online -- that the next milestone event in B.C. Supreme Court is scheduled for 17 September 2007. And that, so far, is all we've found out about yesterday's hearing.


Noted in passing: There's a worthy article in today's media on Ujjal Dosanjh and the renewed threats he is receiving. For this, however, British Columbians must look to The Globe and Mail, Thursday 23 August 2007. [See update below.]

In looking for B.C. news, one thing tends to lead to another. Check out last week's Business in Vancouver and read up on the Powder Mountain Ski Resort issue. RCMP Inspector DeBruyckere, who heads the Basi-Virk investigation, is working on that case, too, which first erupted in BC Supreme Court about 10 years ago, when then-Premier Vander Zalm was the defendant. Many familiar names in this story but this, too, was NOT NEWZ for quite some time. And will probably be NOT NEWZ even now that it's connected to VANOC issues, either.
- BC Mary

CanWest apparently is not going to touch the Ujjal Dosanjh story although he's a Vancouver MP and former B.C. Premier. How come?? You decide. Here's the story:

The Globe and Mail Section A front - August 23, 2007

VANCOUVER -- The vile message was posted, of all places, on Facebook. While this was new, the sentiments, sadly, were not. Once again, MP Ujjal Dosanjh had been targeted for a threat to his physical safety.

An e-mail sent late last week to the Vancouver MP's Facebook site said that he should be beaten "just like they did before," a chilling reference to the near-fatal beating Mr. Dosanjh received in 1985 after speaking out against violence within the Sikh community.

It was the second reference to violence against the federal Liberals' foreign affairs critic and one-time NDP premier in recent months.

An editorial in an Ontario Sikh newspaper last May referred to the brutal attack on Mr. Dosanjh as a time when "some guru's loved one beat him well" and left it as an open question for readers to decide whether the beating was deserved or not.

Yesterday, an undeterred Mr. Dosanjh said the time has come for politicians of all stripes to wake up to the dangers such threats pose to the fabric of free speech in the country.

"We like to believe these things can't happen in Canada. That's naive. They can happen here," Mr. Dosanjh said.

"I've never been afraid in my life and I don't intend to be afraid. But the fact is, there are always dangers lurking out there and people need to speak out. We can't allow these hate-mongers to stifle the free expression of those they don't agree with."

The most recent threats against Mr. Dosanjh follow his call for police to investigate a huge Sikh parade this spring that featured a float extolling Talwinder Singh Parmar as a martyr.

Mr. Parmar, named in the Air India judgment as ringleader of the 1985 terrorist bombing plot that claimed 331 lives, was subsequently killed by police in India.

The Facebook e-mail that urged Mr. Dosanjh's beating referred to the veteran politician as "the biggest disgrace to the Sikh panth [community].

"It's disgusting to know that a person like you calls themselves a Sikh. ... you support those moderates."

The sender's Facebook site contained pictures of some elderly Sikhs and the Sikh Golden Temple of Amritsar. The sender identified himself as Jag Singh.

Mr. Dosanjh, who has turned both recent threats over to the RCMP, said he is taking the Facebook warning far more seriously than the provocative editorial.

"I hope it is a harmless crank. Nothing would make me happier. But this is a strong threat. More direct. You just never know. One has to be concerned," said Mr. Dosanjh, for years a consistent, outspoken opponent of Sikh extremism.

"The fact that there have been two of these so close together tells me that there is a systematic campaign going on out there to intimidate and silence anyone who has the courage to speak out."
[BC Mary received one such e.mail following Terry Melewski's CBC documentary on Sikh militant extremists.]

In 1998, Surrey, B.C. newspaper publisher Tara Singh Hayer, who wrote numerous scathing editorials against Sikh extremists and their sometimes violent quest for an independent Sikh homeland, was assassinated.

Mr. Hayer's son David, a member of the provincial legislature, joined Mr. Dosanjh yesterday in urging politicians of all parties to begin speaking out more forcefully against groups who support such terrorism.

David Hayer said that he, too, receives threats when he condemns supporters of Sikh violence.

"All politicians have to stand up and say clearly that terrorism is wrong, and societies that promote terrorism are not acceptable," he said. "If we close our minds to it, then these kinds of threats will just continue."

Mr. Dosanjh, 59, said the many threats he has weathered over the years have taken a toll.

"My kids were young in the 1980s when I used to receive dozens of threats. They've grown up with it," he said. "They're always worried about their father, and their father's always worried about them."

But neither the savage beating he received more than 20 years ago, nor the fire-bombing of his office in the 1990s, nor any of the numerous verbal threats have weakened his will to speak his mind.

"I've lived through this stuff for years. If anything, it always makes me more determined to exercise my right to free speech," Mr. Dosanjh said.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Breaking News: There will be news of Basi Virk Basi trial in Vancouver Sun soon!

Well, I tried. And the Managing Editor of Vancouver Sun sent encouraging words for us. In fact, he sounds like way too nice a man to be responsible for that newspaper. On the other hand, I may have sounded a bit ratty when I wrote:

To: Kirk Lapointe,
Managing Editor
Vancouver Sun

Is it really too much to ask of B.C.'s flagship newspaper to keep people informed of the developing B.C. Rail case?

It's difficult, in fact nearly impossible, for people to find out the simplest details, such as (for heaven sake) the "conference call" which was scheduled for yesterday among Madam Justice Bennett and the lawyers for Prosecution and Defence? Did it happen? With what result, such as, is the trial of Basi, Virk and Basi ready to go? Not ready yet? Undergoing a Charter Challenge? What?

With effort, I have learned that this "conference call" actually took place in B.C. Supreme Court (Vancouver). People wonder why? Who ever heard of a conference call happening entirely in one room? Wouldn't that make it a pre-trial hearing? Who knows? The public is treated as irrelevant.

Undeniably HMTQ vs the 3 former government aides is one of the most important in B.C.

Please ... give us an intelligent summary of what's happening.
BC Mary
The Legislature Raids

And Kirk Lapointe, Managing Editor of Vancouver Sun, very kindly replied:

Hi Mary:

The truth is, nothing much has happened in the process, so we haven't been consuming resources during this heavy holiday season on non-news.

But we are at work on a piece that will move in the next two or three days, so bear with us.

Kirk LaPointe,
Managing Editor,
The Vancouver Sun.



Ghost of BC Rail pushes another CN train off the rails - yesterday in Quesnel


Vancouver Sun
Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2007

QUESNEL - Canadian National is investigating the cause of a 10-car train derailment in a Quesnel works yard Tuesday evening.

CN spokeswoman Kelli Svendsen said the lumber cars were empty when they derailed during a routine switching operation at about 6:15 p.m. There were no injuries or dangerous goods involved.

The derailment occurred two weeks after a fiery crash between two CN trains in Prince George Aug. 4.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Wasn't that a perfect demonstration of the spin which goes: "Just move along folks, nuthin' going on here ... don't give us any trouble, just move along please." Now see how Kelli the CN Spokeslady turns out in a Province report:


The Province; News Services
Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A train derailment in Quesnel caused traffic chaos last night.

Kelli Svendsen of CN said the 10-car derailment occurred at 6:15 p.m. in the downtown switching yard.

The lumber cars were empty and there were no injuries but a major intersection was closed for hours.

© The Vancouver Province 2007


Now, please help me with this. The railroad tracks cross Highway 97 within the city limits of Quesnel, right? Just there beside the lumber yards, right? So is this "the downtown switching yard" Kelli speaks of?? And so is Hwy 97, by any chance, possibly now "re-designated" as a CN rail yard?? Just asking. - BC Mary.


Peter Ewart from Opinion 250, Prince George, writes:

Hi Mary:

... I have talked to a couple of people about the CN "rail yard" issue and have gotten different answers.

For example, I talked with one source who said that, before CN's takeover, the area of track in question had belonged to BC Rail. In his opinion, the piece of track in question was still part of the mainline and not part of CN's railyard.

But Ben and Elaine Meisner, who are the editor and publisher of Opinion250, have written extensively on the CN spill issue (the articles in Opinion250 were written by them not me).

I talked to Ben and he said that the track where the Prince George spill took place has, indeed, been designated as being part of CN's switching yard.

A second line has been put in place there, and CN uses it for switching cars.

However, from his understanding, this area of the track is still under the BC Rail lease agreement, i.e., the rail bed there is leased by CN from the province even though it is designated as being part of CN's rail yard. This arrangement must have been made in the original contract.

I think that Ben is most probably right on this issue. However, I have a call into someone from the local provincial Ministry of Transportation, and hope to hear back from them soon. When that happens, I will email any further information off to you.

The big problem that exists here is that we don't have access to the BC Rail / CN contract. Thus, it is hard to find objective proof as to who owns / leases what property. In the absence of the contract, the only way to put the government on the spot as to the designation of the rail track in question may be for questions in the Legislature to be asked...

All the best.


So, of course I pointed to the Hansard segment from 2004 in which Joy MacPhail nails Kevin Falcon over and over, for having admitted in the Legislature corridor to a $1. sale of the old BC Railbed to CN. "Is it true?" she asks. See The Legislature Raids for 10 August 2007; the story is titled "Was a 4-mile section of BC. Rail track "re-defined" ...? And at the end of that story is the Hansard record of MacPhail vs Falcon on this topic, contributed by Lynx.



Conference call? In Supreme Court? Weird, but it sure looks like it.

Too late, I checked the Vancouver court listings for yesterday, 21 August 2007 and found 7 pages of Basi Virk Basi predicting that Special Prosecutor would be busier than a cat on a hot tin roof, producing documents, files and audio tapes ... But ... but, gee whiz, who ever heard of a telephone conference call having to take place in court? And how could a telephone conference call occur in court?? More news when I find more news.


There was no news! No follow-up court session in the Supreme Court listings for today, August 22nd! Absolutely nothing in any of the CanWest newspapers about what may have happened in court yesterday!

In the game of Gotcha, CanWest definitely wins today.

Koot is looking into it. And I may even have to contact the Editor-in-Chief of something or other. But it shouldn't be this difficult to follow the developments of a case so important to the people of British Columbia. - BC Mary.


OK, Koot says:


I mis-read the completed Court Lists for yesterday. From page 11 to 23 it is all Basi Virk stuff and I thought it started near the top of page 11. But on second look the top of page 11 and all of page 10 and most of page nine are ALSO BVB stuff and they all have a next appearance of Sept 17. Now why the other 11 or 12 pages have no results or future dates - I don't know.

We almost need our own lawyer just to find out what the hell is going on...


Many thanks, Koot. And I do agree with you about needing our own lawyer. Affording our own lawyer -- different story. Thanks again.
- BC Mary


Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Ministry of Environment waiting for CN's post-derailment clean-up plan

Ministry Waiting for CN's Post Derailment Clean Up Plan

By 250 News - August 21, 2007

The Ministry of the Environment office in Prince George is watching the clock. CN has until the end of Friday to submit its plan for cleaning up the bank along the Fraser River in Prince George, where two of its trains collided on August 4th.

Sean Sharpe, Regional Manager for the Provincial Ministry of Environment’s Omineca-Peace Region says he is hopeful the clean up plan will be delivered before the deadline although he is surprised the plan hadn’t been submitted by now.

Sharpe indicates that at the time of the crash, CN had made several promises about what it would do to ensure the site was clean and there was no threat to the river. “We hadn’t received the copy of the report from their (CN’s) own consultants, and it wasn’t delivered without prodding.” That report indicated there were chemicals, consistent with diesel and gasoline spills in the soil on the bank of the river. “When we finally got the report, we went to do a site inspection and discovered the boom was no longer in the water, and fill had been dumped over the site.”

Sharpe says the clean up orders delivered to CN Friday (see previous story) were done in an effort to ensure CN follows through with its promise to clean up the site “We want to make sure there is no threat of the contaminated soil entering the river.”

Last Friday, Ministry Staff from the Provincial and Federal levels advised CN of the orders that would be coming down. The orders were issued, and the clock started ticking. If the clean up plan isn’t submitted by the end of the day Friday, the Ministry can launch legal action.

Reprinted by kind permission of 250 News, Prince George, B.C.

CN Served with Pollution Prevention Order Following August 4th Crash and Derailment

By 250 News
Saturday, August 18, 2007 12:17 PM

Opinion250 reader took this photo of burning fuel pouring into the Fraser River when two trains collided in Prince George August 4th [See photo at:

CN Rail has been served a set of orders from the Provincial Ministry of the environment in the wake of the August 4th train crash and derailment in Prince George.

CN has been served with a Pollution Prevention Order and is related to environmental impacts resulting from the crash. The order requires CN Rail to:

Immediately inspect the site and take action necessary to contain and collect hydrocarbons that are now believed to be entering the Fraser River and to record those observations for review by the ministry's Environmental Protection Division.

Monitor the site daily to ensure containment and collection systems are functioning as designed and record those observations for the review of the Environmental Protection Division.

Retain a qualified professional to assess the extent of contamination at the site and develop a clean-up plan that will prevent further release of contaminants into the Fraser River.

The clean-up plan shall include a schedule for clean-up activities and monitoring for the approval of the director, Environmental Protection Division. The plan shall be submitted to the Ministry of Environment by Aug. 24, 2007.

Provide the results of any sampling or investigations within 24 hours of receipt of results.

The order also states that failure to comply with the requirements of this order is a contravention of the Environmental Management Act and may result in legal action.

On Saturday, Aug. 4, two CN trains collided near the train yards in Prince George, resulting in the derailment of one engine and three railcars, which caught fire and leaked burning diesel and gasoline down the river bank on the Fraser River.

Ministry of Environment staff, Environment Canada and the Transportation Safety Board all attended the original incident. All three agencies continue to investigate the incident.

News 250 - Prince George BC


Are We Being Given a Fresh Coat Of White Paint in CN Crash?
One Man's Opinion

By Ben Meisner
250 Opinion
Tuesday, August 14, 2007 03:45 AM

Very quietly and with little fan fare, the events surrounding the CN train crash in Prince George are going away.

We do know now that it was one of the senior people at CN who hiked down to the crash site and uncoupled the tanks cars that contained what, we may never know.

He was the man who should get a medal of some sort for being brave enough to get the job done, but so far, nothing has been said perhaps out of fear that he should not have risked life and limb and further the question then becomes, it was on his watch the cars collided.

The residents, who would have born the brunt out of any major explosion, may never know the facts, which suggests someone is looking down their noses at the people of this city.

Are CN managers working too much in order to hold their jobs? Are they putting in hours that makes the workplace unsafe?

What is the reason that we must have management brought in from places such as Alabama in the US to manage the system in an area that is much different than what they are accustomed to?

If,as stated in some of the first broadcasts coming from the scene, some of the cars contained Methanol, were there any other hazardous tanks also attached to that train?

To make matters worse, the Transport Safety Board won’t go very far to satisfying the interests of the people in this region. The TSB is conducting a "class 3" investigation -- that being an investigation where there will be a report but no recommendations.

The whole affair smells not just from the tank car burning off 50,000 gallons of gas, but from stories coming from the scene, of police officers being told that the train crew had jumped from the inferno only to discover later the trains were being operated by remote control, to a train manifest that suddenly has no bearing on the event because, well because the tank cars didn't catch fire and blow up.

The whole event needs a fresh coat of white paint. In the end, you know that is the best we can expect.

I’m Meisner and that’s one man’s opinion.



Robin Mathews on CanWest news ...

Stephen Harper. The CanWest Monopoly Propaganda Machine. The Prince George (B.C.) CN Rail Disaster.

Can we believe what is in front of our eyes? Behold the CanWest Planetary Propaganda Machine at work - doing all it can to erase the Prince George CN Rail disaster. Turn to real news: see CN Rail cars colliding by the Fraser River and spewing pollution in all directions - guided, we are told, by incompetent CN remote control operators who can't even see the railcars. And doing it on land that should be owned by British Columbians but seems (in secret) to have been sold for a dollar to CN, maybe.

Are there orders directly from CanWest's Leonard Asper to cover-up, erase, under-report, avoid what looks like criminal collusion among Gordon Campbell cabinet members and CN officers? You want truth about the incident? Go to BC Mary's Legislature Raids site. Go to YouTube. Don't go to CanWest's Vancouver Sun or to the Globe and Mail. Don't go to CanWest's Muckraker Flagship - the continuously money-losing National Post, founded by U.S.-convicted felon, Conrad Black. {Snip} ...

Read the full story at


Monday, August 20, 2007


21 August ... tomorrow. Is it a go?

Last time the Basi Virk Basi legal teams assembled in B.C. Supreme Court, Vancouver, Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett set the date for a conference call hearing as August 21, 2007. That's tomorrow.

We assume that the conference calling will be done from the privacy of the judge's chambers and each law office.

We hope that, as promised on 16 July, the topic of discussion will be the fulfillment of all outstanding requests for disclosure of documents, including such things as the deal between police and star witness; including such things as transcribed wire taps; perhaps even including such things as the actual B.C. Rail sale agreement.

If all goes well, Judge Bennett has penciled in September 4, 2007 as the day they return to B.C. Supreme Court to determine the status of this Basi Virk Basi trial.

Meantime, unless the defence lawyers talk to the media about this conference call ... or unless Bill Tieleman tracks down the information ... I'm not sure how the general public will learn whether the disclosure demands have been met. Or if there are still stumbling blocks in place. But let's keep our hopes up, watch the news, ask around.

So this is just a reminder that tomorrow there's the possibility of one small step forward in B.C.'s most significant trial ever. - BC Mary.


Sunday, August 19, 2007


B.C. a hub for organized crime group activity says federal report

Federal report says we are hub for drug production, distribution

Glenda Luymes,
The Province; CanWest News Service
Published: Sunday, August 19, 2007

B.C. holds a prominent place in the organized crime world, according to a recent report that says the number of gangs in Canada is on the rise.

The 2007 annual report by the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada indicates there are about 950 organized crime groups in the country, up from 800 in 2006.

"This is significant and it reinforces our commitment to work together to detect, reduce and prevent organized crime in Canada," newly-named RCMP commissioner William Elliott said at a Calgary news conference Friday. "The good news is that we're better at identifying these groups than ever before." {Snip} ...

The report identifies B.C. as a "hub" for organized crime grojavascript:void(0)up activity, such as drug production and distribution.

Many of Canada's large-scale marijuana grow-ops are located in B.C., Ontario and Quebec, where pot is sometimes exported to the U.S. in exchange for cocaine.

B.C. also produces much of the country's ecstasy, which is exported all over the world, and the province is also one of the top suppliers in Canada's domestic methamphetamine market.

The report quotes Vancouver's new police chief, who emphasizes the negative impacts of the drug trade.

"Extremely addictive, deadly drugs such as crystal meth, heroin and crack cocaine damage individuals, their families and society," said Chief Jim Chu.

The report blames organized crime for much of Canada's firearms-related violence, citing handguns as the illegal weapon of choice for B.C.'s gangsters, compared to Eastern Canada, where long guns are more prevalent. {Snip} ...

The RCMP oversees the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, which is dedicated to tackling organized crime and comprises about 380 different law enforcement agencies.


Q. Money-laundering must be a critical component of this criminal activity when the annual illicit trade -- in the Billions of $$s -- is conducted entirely in cash. Wouldn't somebody notice? - BC Mary.

Oh yes! Somebody did notice!


Police believe money belonged to crime group and are holding driver

Jason Hewlett,
CanWest News Service
Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2007

KAMLOOPS - The RCMP said Tuesday it found a duffle bag full of cash -- half a million dollars of it -- during a routine traffic stop near Clearwater.

Police believe the money belonged to an organized crime organization involved in drugs or weapons, said Insp. Randy Kolibaba, the RCMP officer in charge of regional traffic services.

Kolibaba said the effects of organized crime ultimately show up in communities like Kamloops and Kelowna in the form of property crime and prostitution.{Snip}

The money and drugs are transported by lower-tier members of criminal organizations called mules, he said. They drive from town to town selling drugs or collecting money made through the drug trade.

Kolibaba said this is likely what a 22-year-old man was doing when police arrested him near Clearwater on Monday. {Snip} ...

Kamloops RCMP Const. Dave Kelly said most mules carry smaller amounts, usually between $5,000 and $40,000. Several kilograms of drugs have also been seized.

But the major players usually escape capture. Kelly said it's the mule who typically does the time.

Kolibaba said a vehicle containing $700,000 was intercepted in March.

But somebody has to notice how this amount of cash gets laundered. Right?


Saturday, August 18, 2007


BC Ministry of Environment demands that CN provides ... a To-Do list!


Updated Sat. Aug. 18 2007
Canadian Press

VANCOUVER -- The B.C. government is ordering CN rail to inspect the area of a recent train derailment for environmental damage.

The Ministry of Environment served the company with a Pollution Prevention Order Friday.

The order instructs CN Rail to thoroughly inspect and monitor the area near Prince George where two trains crashed, which caused a fire and leaked burning diesel and gasoline down the river bank on the Fraser River.

The order also requires CN to set up a clean-up plan schedule, that's to be submitted to the ministry. {Snip} ...

Many of the comments left on The Legislature Raids deserve to be up front where they are easier to see. I'm going to do more of this. OK? See what I mean ... - BC Mary.

Gazetteer said...

Heard Mr. Penner yesterday admit that his minions did, indeed, find 'hydrocarbons' in the river.

How much 'hydrocarbons'?

He couldn't say.

Which, in the theatre of the LINO-mind, appears to be a reason enough to ask CN to inspect itself.


And then Anonymous said...

Yeh! that's funny - but not as funny as the little sound clip from the CN flak catcher that CBC included right after Penner's little sermon. She said, in very straightforward terms, that Penner didn't know what he was talking about! Isn't it wonderful when old buddies squabble in public and thieves fall out of favour with other thieves? And when hydrocarbons appear as if by magic in the Fraser.




RCMP reports surge in organized crime

Meagan Fitzpatrick
CanWest News Service
Saturday, August 18, 2007

OTTAWA -- Canadian police are tackling more organized crime this year than last, statistics released Friday reveal.

In its annual report on the state of organized crime, the RCMP said the number of gangs operating in 2007 jumped to 950 from 800 in 2006. {Snip} ...

The report provides an overview of the nature of organized crime, where and how it's taking place, and its effects on society. It said that crime groups can be found everywhere in Canada, from major urban centres to rural areas, and they all have one thing in common: making money.

"Wherever there is profit to be made, organized crime can be found," the study said.

The illegal drug trade still makes up the bulk of organized crime activity in Canada, with about 80 per cent of all gangs involved in it. The majority are growing, distributing and transporting marijuana and much of the activity is in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. Those provinces are also hubs for cocaine distribution to the rest of the country once it enters Canada.

Closely connected to the drug trade is the illegal gun trade, the report said in a feature section on firearms. Criminals need guns to commit their crimes and for personal protection, and the drug trade fuels the demand for guns because it is "highly competitive, extremely profitable and consequently fertile ground for violent disagreements between and within criminal organizations." {Snip} ...

Organized criminals are also using sophisticated techniques to commit financial crimes such as mortgage fraud, identity theft and money laundering, the RCMP said.

Buying and selling counterfeit goods is also generating billions of dollars for crime groups in Canada. Some are also engaged in human smuggling and trafficking.


Friday, August 10, 2007


Was a 4-mile section of BC Rail track "re-defined" as a CN railyard? See Hansard excerpt (below) for the um, er ... well, can't be sure but maybe so.

Here is an e.mail from Nelle Maxey offering views from the August 4 scene of the CN crash in Prince George. Many of us had challenged the accuracy of CN spokesperson Kelli Svendsen who repeatedly referred to the crash site as being in the CN railyard. Here, writes Nelle Maxey, is one explanation of how that could possibly be true.

But it leaves a bigger question: how did CN re-designate trackage which Premier Gordon Campbell assured us was still in public ownership? Didn't he say that we still owned the rail-bed? and that they had sold "only" the freight operation?

So how (if true) was this section of mainline track (about 4 miles, I'd guess) alienated from public to private ownership? Was it done unilaterally by CN? Was it inserted into the Agreement (which few of us have seen) signed by the Campbell government for the sale of B.C. Rail to CN? Was it an Order in Council?

(Photos by Nelle's son)

Many thanks to Nelle Maxey who wrote:

I discussed the crash with my son who lives in Prince George across the river from where the [CN] crash occurred. He spoke to folks in the crowd who were familiar with CN operations. Therefore this information is 3rd-hand and may not be entirely accurate, but gives some clues as to why the news stories are being worded as they are.

The first thing to understand is that upon the 99-year lease [999-year lease] of BC Rail to CN Rail, CN "redefined" the rail yard to include both the CN rail yard and BC rail yard AND THE MANY KILOMETERS OF TRACK THAT CONNECT THEM as the "new" CN rail yard.

The accident occurred on the tracks connecting the two old rail yards (now defined as one yard). These tracks [are] across the river from Paddle Wheel Park and large residential area.

The second point is that the operation of trains within a rail yard have different regulations than trains running outside of yards. These include the information that

1) the braking systems on the trains are not required to be engaged and that the trains are braked with the engines, and

2) the trains can be driven roboticly [belt-driven].

This is done by workers who have a control panel strung around their necks with which they control the trains. Apparently they could not visually see what was happening on this portion of the track. Thus the new order by Transport Canada that visual contact must be maintained at all times when operating trains by robotic controls.

Once again we see CN taking advantage of the deregulation of rail operations by cutting costs.

That is, by overloading the trains on these "rail yard" tracks (hence new limits on number of cars by Transport Canada), cutting the workforce required to oversee the operations and if what workers say is true, not properly training management in the use of robotic controls of these huge trains they are moving on "rail yard" tracks.

What happened is that two trains were being switched remotely on the "rail yard" tracks which lie between the CN rail yard and the former BC rail yard.

One train was loaded with tanker cars (some containing gasoline). It rear-ended a train carrying lumber at the switch location.

The tanker train had two engines with a diesel fuel car between. When the tanker train hit the back of the lumber train, the first engine of the tanker train caught fire, the diesel fuel car and the second engine jackknifed off the tracks and the decoupled tankers continued to travel forward BEHIND the lumber cars.

Then the diesel fuel for the tanker train ignited and ran down to river.

(at left - Click on picture to view larger image)

Then the lumber car caught fire.

After hours of burning, the lumber finally ignited the gasoline tanker behind it.

This resulted in the huge fire plumes and black smoke column one sees in the pictures.

At this point a bomber was brought in to drop fire retardant on the forest behind the tracks.

(at left - Click on picture to view larger image)

I have put a series of photographs my son took in pdf files which I labeled to show the above described sequence of events. [The primary labeled pic is above, another with previous post- Click on any/all pics to see larger image in new tab or window - BC Mary/kc]

Also see Peter Ewart's Opinion 250 for great pictures and more details of the crash.


Thanks again, Nelle. Thanks especially to your son. I wish some of those experienced trainmen he talked to, would write to us, too. I've contacted Peter Ewart of Opinion 250 in Prince George hoping he can confirm the "re-definition" of the old BC Rail trackage. I think it's important to ask ourselves if dangerous practices can be made safe by "re-defining" the grounds where dangerous practices happen.
- BC Mary.

These COMMENTS deserve to be seen up front ...

lynx said...

From hansard, April 27, 2004: Scroll down to The Committee of Supply. A worthwhile read in light of this article (thanks Nelle and Mary) and an intrigueing series of questions from Joy.

In questioning "the forcing" of ownership on CN in the case of environmental damage Joy MacPhail proffers "if" there is a clause in the contract (as Mr. Falcon suggests but manages to provide no evidence or details of in this secret agreement) - then why, she asks, the necessity of the one buck sale?

Earlier in the debate she states: "All of this is malarkey that it's to force CN to clean up environmental damage -It's just malarkey. It's not part of the contract."

J. MacPhail: "If there's a clause in there requiring them to clean up their damage, why do you need to sell the land to them? If that was the purpose of the forced sale and such a clause is in the agreement to force them to clean up, why do you need to give away Crown land for a buck?"

....then further down in the debate:

J. MacPhail: "I'm sorry. I missed the other reasons that it would be good for the province to give land over for one buck when there's already a clause forcing them to clean up their environmental mess. I'm sorry. What would be the good reasons for that that would override first nations concerns?"

- and bravo again to Ms. MacPhail:

J. MacPhail: "Mr. Chair, I find the member's remarks offensive — that somehow he's being wrongly done by me asking these questions. It's a real tough job the minister has, and it's his job to answer these questions.

"When he makes claims in public to justify a $1 land sale, he's got to back up the claims. So he was out there in the hallway justifying that we have to do this — we have to give the land to CN so that we can force them to do these.... If these matters are clauses already protected in the transaction agreement and/or the revitalization agreement, there should be no reason to have to sell the land for a dollar."

"There's no reason for him to keep this secret — absolutely no reason for him to keep it secret. Is there a clause…? He was out in the hallway giving all these great reasons why they're going to do the land giveaway. He refuses to acknowledge the question that this is a sale of Crown land. He completely refused to admit to that. What is it? Is this a sale of Crown land — when the publicly owned right-of-way is forced onto CN for a buck? Is that a sale of Crown land?"

As Joy remarks earlier in the debate:

The clause forces ownership for $1, not on anyone but CN, hence all the concerns of First Nations - because it goes through First Nations land claims. This government has a clause that frees ownership for a buck, ownership for $1!

"Oh my God, please force me - not for anyone else, not for public tender, but on CN."

This raises some of the same questions that this blog asked about the Roberts Banks spur line.

Is this really about the 999-year lease/sale of a railway that conveniently snakes through vast areas of BC prime land, land also involved in the First Nations treaty process or is this about the acquisition of something else?

Like the magician who distracts with one hand while the other hand is.....

August 17, 2007 3:35 PM

G West said...

Thanks Lynx,
As always you seem to be able to take Hansard and apply some alchemical magic to it and render up something profound.

There were a lot of Order in Council transfers of BCRail lands (deemed redundant to RR needs) during the past four years - not a single one of them appears to have gone either to tender or to be offered for public sale...

I think Mr Campbell knows where the lands went - his signature appears on nearly every one of the OIC's in question...

Gazetteer said...

lynx and GW--


Run with this please.

August 18, 2007 9:59 AM

G West said...

The problem Ross, is that the folks who should have cared about this - and who have the resources to do the necessary research - don't appear to give a damn...

We badly need another Joy MacPhail!

August 18, 2007 10:55 AM


Thursday, August 09, 2007


CN derailment a close call for residents



250 News - August 08, 2007
Prince George

Distance between derailment and residential areas, just 313 yards (288 meters) apart. [See original Opinion 250 story for excellent map and photos.]

Did residents of the Prince George neighbourhood of “South Fort” dodge a bullet on the weekend when two CN trains collided on the tracks on the east side of the Fraser River?

The collision took place at 10:20 a.m., one train contained cars moving lumber products, and the other was hauling a host of tank cars. It appears that while CN executives knew what the tankers contained, others on the scene trying to prevent a potential disaster did not.

When asked if there were dangerous or hazardous products contained in any of the tank cars, Assistant Deputy Fire Chief John Lane said CN reps were on hand with the manifest, but just as soon as the train was uncoupled and the cars moved away from the scene, he had no reason to ask. ‘They were pulled from the scene so fast we didn’t know what was contained in those other tanker cars” said Lane.

The call to the fire department was received around 10:20 in the morning. Lane did a briefing with members of the media at noon. At that time, the tanker cars, with the unknown contents, were still coupled to the train. They are visible in the background of a digital photo taken at the time (see photo at right, taken at 12:02 p.m.)

While CN is not commenting, it is known that if it hadn’t been for the heroics of a CN employee who rushed to the derailment and uncoupled the two trains from the burning or at risk cars, the scenario might have been very different.

According to Lane, the car that was immediately to the north of the gasoline tank car contained either diesel or gasoline, but that is as far he went. Police sources say they were never informed about what was contained in the other cars.

CN spokesperson Kelli Svendsen, says the railway will not release the manifest of what was in the other cars as “they weren’t part of the incident”. Nor will CN release the name of the person who rushed in to uncouple the cars; it is not the company’s practice to release names of employees. One insider tells Opinion250 the person who risked their life to uncouple those cars may very well face discipline for putting himself in harms way.

.According to the safety standards employed by emergency response teams in all of North America, when dealing with a derailment like the one that happened in Prince George Saturday, the perimeter around the scene should be, at minimum, 800 meters, or ½ a mile.

The distance from Paddle Wheel Park to the derailment site was a mere 313 yards, or 288 meters. {Snip} ...



Congratulations, Canada! The federal Transportation Safety Board announces a full-fledged investigation into CN's Aug. 5 train wreck in Prince George


From Thursday's Globe and Mail
August 9, 2007 at 3:55 AM EDT

VANCOUVER — Canada's transportation watchdog agency yesterday announced a full-fledged investigation into last weekend's derailment of a Canadian National Railway train in Prince George, an incident that has fuelled new questions about the company's safety record in British Columbia.

The Transportation Safety Board conducts only a few such investigations each year of transportation-related mishaps across Canada. In fiscal year 2005-2006, the last year for which statistics are available, investigations were launched for 79 of about 4,000 occurrences reported to the board.

But a board spokesman said yesterday that a pair of investigators on the scene in Prince George have found material that's prompted the move to gather and analyze data for an all-out investigation. A report will then be released on the accident, which CN has blamed on errors by an unidentified employee.

"They have determined there are possibly some lessons to be learned from an investigation," board spokesman John Cottreau said yesterday.

"An investigation would help us to further our mandate, which is to increase transportation safety."

Mr. Cottreau declined to be more specific about what investigators have seen in Prince George. He said the officials were busy on the scene and would not be available for comment before today at the earliest.

As a rule, the independent agency launches probes only for a handful of incidents deemed significant. The Prince George case has been designated a "Class 3 occurrence." There are five class levels.

According to board guidelines, "Class 3" means: There is a public expectation the board should independently make findings on the cause and contributing factors to the incident; there is a potential for better understanding the latent unsafe conditions contributing to a significant safety issue; a government representative requests it; or the board must do so to meet its obligations or commitments.

Mr. Cottreau said there is no specific timeline on the release of the report.

Last Saturday, two trains - one carrying lumber and the other gasoline - collided on the banks of the Fraser River, causing a spectacular fire, but no serious environmental damage to the river.

The incident came a day after CN was hit with a mix of five federal and provincial charges over a 2005 spill of 41,000 litres of caustic soda, also known as sodium hydroxide, into the Cheakamus River near Squamish. The accident killed 500,000 fish - salmon, and trout among others.

Both incidents have raised concerns about CN's safety record. This week, B.C.'s NDP opposition called for a public inquiry. {Snip} ...


This "all-out investigation" by a safety board far removed from British Columbia (if you catch my drift) is good news. For example, what about that initial report from CTV on 5 August telling us that there were "FIVE CARS OF METHANOL ON FIRE ..." later reinforced by YouTube videos showing the burning as well as providing the dramatic hissing sound "like a barbeque" mentioned earlier in connection with the methanol. What about the cover-up of the fact that the trains were definitely NOT in the CN railyards, as the CN spokesperson kept saying. And the cover-up of the shocking fact that a driverless train carrying hazardous material was sent out onto the mainline -- apparently without warning to the oncoming locomotive driver? And if, as Kevin Falcon asserts, this CN accident has nothing to do with his Ministry of Transportation or the Campbell Government, why were their representatives in Prince George looking around on August 5, 2007??

From the TSB mandate, British Columbians (who might otherwise forget), are assured that certain things in life require investigation, such as where there is a potential for better understanding the latent unsafe conditions contributing to a significant safety issue; a government representative requests it (ha ha ha, good one!); or the board must do so to meet its obligations or commitments.

- BC Mary


Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Four days later ...

This, for the first time, begins to sound like a true account of what happened on Saturday morning, 4 August 2007. Well done, Prince George Citizen! - BC Mary


Prince George Citizen staff
August 7, 2007

Three northbound locomotives collided with a southbound train Saturday morning along the banks of the Fraser River in Prince George. Hundreds of onlookers viewed the fire from across the river. {Snip} ...

CN Rail officials confirmed Monday that human error caused the derailment and major fire on the tracks between their BCR Industrial Site yard and their downtown Prince George yard Saturday morning at about 10:30 a.m. [Aha, now I remember: the old BCRail passenger station is on the Industrial site about 4 miles south of the City of Prince George. It's treeless flat land too, just like the downtown rail yard. But the collision occurred in neither of those rail yards. The crash took place on the east side of the Fraser River, at the foot of a steep, well-treed hillside, in plain sight of holidayers across the river in historic Fort George Park. So why did CN keep saying the crash occurred in their rail yards?? - BC Mary]

"Moving trains between our yards happens every day. It is routine. Obviously something went wrong on Saturday," said CN spokeswoman Kelli Svendsen." CN's investigation has determined employee error was the cause. The employee involved is an experienced manager who has worked in union positions doing exactly this kind of train handling. The employee is qualified."

A veteran CN employee told The Citizen on Monday, under condition of anonymity, that the manager in question was at the centre of a near miss only a week before in the same place, "but a bunch of people jumped on the train and applied hand brakes" before it crashed.

Svendsen said she knew nothing about the near miss allegation but the manager responsible for Saturday's incident would be disciplined.

"There are a lot of managers out there running trains because they are short of crews," said the rail worker, a fact confirmed by another Citizen source within CN's management.

The CN employee explained that "new employees are not getting the proper training, managers are doing unionized work, the unions have been removed from a lot of decision making, and these managers are out there handling dangerous commodities from one yard to another, bringing dangerous commodities through communities, handling millions of dollars worth of other people's property."

The manager said "it is expected of you to work 80, 90 hours a week" handling regular duties, as well as the hands-on railway work.

Svendsen said the northbound train that piled into the side of the southbound train had 53 cars being towed by three locomotives. This, according to a retired BC Rail employee, who also insisted on anonymity, was an unsafe length for that stretch of track.

"A maximum of 35 cars is all you'd ever want on that stretch of track," he said. "There is quite a slope on those tracks and you need a lot of braking power. That many cars wouldn't have enough engine brakes to be safe with that many cars."

CN officials would not discuss that aspect of the incident at this time but the current CN employee said the manager in question "was warned not to do what he did by a unionized worker. He has been pressuring people to take more cars than is recommended."

These allegations were not directly addressed by CN officials on Monday. Svendsen said that the circumstances around the incident would be inevitably examined by the Transportation Safety Board, which is already conducting a probe.

It is not the first federal investigation into a high-profile CN crash in recent years. Two days before Saturday's crash came formal charges from the federal and provincial government for the toxic spill into the Cheakamus River north of Vancouver. That incident is also the subject of a lawsuit by the Squamish First Nation. The Prince George gasoline inferno happened within a day of the two-year anniversary of the Cheakamus spill.

It was 13 months ago that Tommy Dodd, Don Faulkner and Gordon Rhodes were involved in a train crash over a cliff near Lillooet that killed Dodd and Faulkner, another in the list of high-profile incidents involving CN.

Svendsen said in spite of anecdotal criticism and some serious mishaps, CN's safety record shows a significant decrease in incidents on their main lines.

Comments (2)

written by BC Racer , August 07, 2007 (04:35:16 AM)
"obviously something went wrong" says CN, I wonder what their first clue was.
No we wait and see if something is done this time.
I for one am not going to hold my breath as it already seems like CN is trying to brush it off like nothing is wrong...
remote controlled crashups...

written by richard maynard , August 07, 2007 (09:50:16 PM)
did anybody know that the senior manager responsible for this catastrophe was using a belt pack locomotive-operator..that is; the movement was a remote controlled operation with the braking of the engines controlled by an employee on the ground. this kind of thing can happen when you have Boys playing men playing trains...

URL for this story:


But the Vancouver Province disappoints with this childish canard that it's the NDP's fault!!

NDP 'grandstanding' on CN

Nothing to do with us, minister tells opposition

Andy Ivens, with a file by Susan Lazaruk,
The Province
Published: Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The NDP is calling on the government to pass whistleblower legislation to promote safety on CN Rail's tracks.

Transportation critic David Chudnovsky released a five-point plan yesterday that also calls for the government to make public any discussions it had with CN Rail on safety issues before it sold the Crown-owned B.C. Rail to CN in 2003.

Here's what Kevin Falcon, B.C. Minister of Transportation said in reply:

"It is very presumptuous that we as a provincial government, who have no regulatory role to play, could muscle our way into a jurisdiction that we have no area to become involved with and try to tell the federal regulator how they need to regulate the railways."

The full story is at:


Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Vancouver Sun thinks there might have been a CN problem but it's all cleared up now. Woo hoo!


Brian Morton
Vancouver Sun
Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A collision between two CN Rail trains in Prince George on Saturday that resulted in a stubborn fire along the Fraser River has resulted in renewed calls for controls on how the rail company moves its freight.

However, a CN spokeswoman said late Monday that the company has finished its investigation and concluded the accident was caused by employee error. But when asked if the length of the train involved had contributed to the error, she said she couldn't go into details.

"Everything about the incident was part of the investigation, and we concluded it was employee error," Kelli Svendsen said in an interview. "The employee involved was an experienced manager who was also working in a unionized position doing this kind of handling. The Transportation Safety Board investigation is still underway, and we'll cooperate fully with them."

She refused to elaborate on how the employee had erred or what type of consequences the employee faces.

Svendsen was referring to a collision that caused a locomotive and three freight cars carrying gas and lumber to leave the track at a Prince George railyard at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. A fire that spread along the banks of the river was finally subdued at 5 a.m. Sunday.

Svendsen said that the derailment did not result in any of the gas entering the river.

"Our environment people and Environment Canada confirmed that no product entered the river," she said. "There is no sign of any product, [and] we do not expect any issues to arise."

Svendsen also said the Prince George incident resulted from moving cars within the railyard, "something we do every day." The collision involved one train with three locomotives and 53 cars, and a second train with two locomotives and 67 cars. No one was injured.

Earlier Monday, NDP transportation critic David Chudnovsky said that he had heard reports that CN Rail workers are under pressure to lengthen trains that should be 20 cars, "to 25 or 30 cars or even 50.

"They [CN] have chosen to operate the railway in a particular way. And that includes longer trains, a reduction in maintenance and safety standards, and reduced training. They're cutting corners by running trains that are too long. And they've reduced standards to make more money.

"We need much more aggressive leadership [in ensuring CN is operating safely]. I think the provincial government bears some responsibility because, from the beginning, they've made excuses for CN."

The accident happened almost two years to the day of the CN train derailment in the Cheakamus canyon, where a caustic-soda leak killed about 500,000 fish.

Last week, Environment Canada laid five charges against CN Rail over the environmental impact of the freight-train derailment in the canyon.

Two of the charges are under the federal Fisheries Act, the other three under the B.C. Environmental Management Act. The charges -- which come on the heels of a highly critical TSB report on the incident -- could result in up to $5 million in fines, according to provincial Environment Minister Barry Penner.

Chudnovsky said there have been "dozens and dozens" of derailments involving CN. He said that while there was some improvement in 2006 over 2005, "in 2007, the numbers have gone up.

"This is a pattern of problems that have gone on for years. It's of great concern to me and the people of B.C. It's the same old story. All we get from CN are excuses."

Chudnovsky said CN is making "enormous profits, hundreds of millions of dollars in each quarter," but is nevertheless reducing standards for safety and maintenance.

"I'm not in a position to know if the [booming] economy is having an impact on their need to increase volumes," he said. "But even if the economy means greater volumes, we expect them to run their operation in a safe and secure way."

Svendsen said that she couldn't comment on how B.C.'s economic boom, which is resulting in a flood of Asian imports and the outward flow of resource products, is impacting operations.

"We are a profitable company, but that allows us to invest in our network and make it safer."

CN reported net income of $516 million in the second quarter of 2007, up from a profit of $324 million in the first quarter but down from the second quarter of 2006, when net income was $729 million.

Svendsen also said CN has experienced a 20-per-cent reduction in main track accidents since 2005, while increasing capital spending on rail safety by 13 per cent.

Svendsen said the number of mainline accidents dropped from 79 in the period between January and August 2005 to 53 over the same period in 2006.

However, Svendsen said that number rose to 63 in 2007, although she maintained the increase was weather-related, including avalanches and flash floods in January.

Svendsen said that investigations to date have shown that "train length has not been shown to be a factor in any of the accidents."

Svendsen said CN has improved safety standards through such things as doubling the number of ultrasonic rail inspectors.


We have ultrasonic rails?

The YouTube videos of the crash scene are very good. Several more haved become available now, and will do a lot to keep the reporting honest. Just look at any of the videos and ask yourself if those steeply treed hillsides look like the CN Railyard. The best video: Head-on train collision by "SecondSight01".



One CN locomotive had no driver!

SUNDAY, AUGUST 5, 2007 the Vancouver Sun had a story about the CN train crash in Prince George, B.C. People are saying that -- of the two CN trains involved in the smash-up -- one locomotive had no driver. At least, if you look very carefully, that might be what the Sun's half-line is saying in Paragraph #6 (below). Or it might not.

Vancouver Sun pulled this story later in the day. Yes, it vanished. Luckily, I had kept a copy of it ... which is pasted below. There are several odd things about this story, but the most odd is its failure to clearly point out the driverless locomotive:

* why was a loaded train on the mainline track with no driver?
* why, in particular, was a train loaded with hazardous material operated with no driver?
* according to photos, the crash happened on the far side of the Fraser River on a steep, heavily-treed hillside,
* why does CanWest insist that the crash occurred in the CN yard?
* the CN rail yard is on First Avenue (sometimes called Railway Avenue) which is flatland, on the shore of the Nechako River,
* people enjoying historic Fort George Park on the B.C. Day weekend actually SAW the crash directly across the river from them. They photographed it (see YouTube). Why keep saying the crash occured somewhere else??
* why haven't key people been interviewed for this story?
* why avoid mentioning the startling fact that ONE CN LOCOMOTIVE HAD NO DRIVER?
* is CanWest trying to whitewash this story?
* if so, who are they trying to protect?

It looks to me as if the public is being asked to swallow something unpalatable. You decide. Here's the story which caused CanWest second thoughts:


Vancouver Sun
Published: Sunday, August 05, 2007

Clean-up crews remain on scene in Prince George today mopping up after two trains collided in CN's rail yard Saturday.

"Track repairs are underway," Kelli Svendsen, CN Rail spokeswoman, said in an interview early Sunday afternoon.

Svendsen said trains were expected to begin moving again later today.

Saturday's collision, which occurred around 10:30 a.m., sent three locomotives from one train and four cars from another off the rails. One of the locomotives caught fire, but was later put out. Two tanker cars carrying gasoline and a freight car carrying lumber burned.

CN spokesman Jim Feeny said a fourth car, carrying diesel, did not ignite.

At least one of the trains involved in the accident was staffed at the time of the crash; however, no one was injured.

Witness Aaron Prince told Global TV that the crash seemed to happen in slow motion, as crews on one train appeared to try and take evasive action.

"I think the driver knew what was going to happen," Prince said:

Fire crews from Prince George dumped fire retardant foam on the blaze from a water bomber and from hoses on the ground manned by more than 25 fire fighters.

After a night of putting out stubborn spot fires, crews packed up their gear by 10:30 a.m. and left.

"We're all done," said assistant fire chief Jim Sampson. Sampson said the fire could have been much worse, given that some of the rail cars were carrying dangerous fuels.

The rail yard is next to the Fraser River and Feeny said some gasoline spilled from the tankers, but Svendsen said no product made its way into the water.

Several families living around the crash site were temporarily evacuated Saturday over worries particulates from the fire may prove hazardous to people's health. The evacuation order was lifted hours later, however.

Investigations by CN officials and the federal Transportation Safety Board began Sunday in an effort to determine what went wrong.

The crash follows news that Environment Canada has laid five charges against CN Rail for the environmental impact of the derailment of a freight train in Cheakamus Canyon two years ago.

The charges could result in up to $5 million in fines, said provincial Environment Minister Barry Penner.

Two of the charges -- depositing a deleterious substance into waters frequented by fish and depositing a deleterious substance under conditions where it may enter water frequented by fish -- are under the federal Fisheries Act.
The other three -- introducing a business waste, introducing waste produced by a prescribed industry and introducing waste and causing pollution -- are under the B.C. Environmental Management Act.

The first court date has been set for Oct. 3 in North Vancouver Provincial Court.
In August 2005, nine rail cars flipped into the canyon north of Squamish, causing 40,000 litres of caustic soda to spill into the Cheakamus River, killing at least 500,000 trout, salmon and other fish.


Saturday, August 04, 2007


Disgraceful piece of treacherous, ill-informed, biased reporting

Monday morning, B.C. Day
B.C. Mary writes from a holiday location deep in the woods: By a solar-powered computer, I was able to access Vancouver Sun this morning and found its appalling write-up about this CN disaster in Prince George city limits.

I wish I could copy and paste it here, but I can't. Look especially for the line which goes " ... at least one of the trains had a driver." Well, duuuhh!!

From what I can find out, ONE of those trains had NO driver!!

We must be told what the ONE frantic driver saw on the tracks ahead of him on Saturday morning ... and why he was hooting, hooting, hooting as his 11,000-foot train reached the collision point.

I mean, Come on, Vancouver Sun ... how hard is that? Prince George has its own daily CanWest newspaper, radio and TV stations, surely one of those NEWS outlets could interview the ONE desperately-worried driver. Or find out: if not, why not.

To everyone: please check around, especially if you live in Prince George or know any of the trainmen; they must be worried sick ... please visit that marvelous tool: YouTube and ask about the CN wreck at Prince George ... send in your thoughts and comments ... to be published here, as a vital component of The Legislature Raids.

Looks like this case needs Citizen Journalists or it will be whitewashed, confused, evaded, covered up. Sound familiar yet?

It's really time to ask if British Columbia should sit idly by and watch this humiliating degradation of what was once B.C. Rail now operating in such frantic, haywire, slapdash style. As if nobody's watching. As if nobody cares, for heaven sake!

Check out YouTube again. That's right, ask for CN train wreck, Prince George.

I'll be back on Wednesday.


SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE: YouTube is incredibly valuable. Several videos, one explaining that the westbound train was 11,000 feet long. Good eye-witness account of the two trains colliding -- one train hooting frantically as it approached the point of collision. Now look at this comment left on the YouTube site:

themanfromvan (8 hours ago)
There was no "Driver". The yard engine was a remote control "beltpack engine" that was being operated by a manager due to manpower issues. I guess he did not have the proper training. This was a total disrespect to public safety and this manager should be thrown in jail.

I will leave the following reports in place for a while ... but there is so much misinformation (I think), I may remove them as the situation becomes clearer. - BC Mary.

Global TV reports that "at least 5 CN freight cars of highly flammable Methanol" are burning, at this moment (2:00 PM Saturday August 4, 2007) in the City of Prince George.

The site of this latest CN disaster is within historic Fort George Park, on the banks of the Fraser River. About 1 square kilometer has been cordoned off. But the public -- men, women, and even children -- are strolling the paths watching the fire, possibly not aware of the toxicity of the billowing cloud of black smoke rising from the crippled train.

Cause of the fire is unknown. It does not appear to be a derailment.
You can see the situation by Global TV video at:

Further details when more is known. - BC Mary.

Here's quite a different take, from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:


CBC NEWS - Saturday, August 4, 2007

A CN train has derailed and is burning on the shores of the Fraser River in Prince George in the B.C. Interior.

Orange flames licked the treetops Saturday morning after two trains collided on the line south of the city.

An engine was still burning after 1 p.m. PT, RCMP Const. Gary Godwin told CBC News. No one was hurt.

Early reports suggested the trains may have included toxic materials, but Godwin said CN had removed tank cars from the scene.

One tank car with diesel oil is still at the site, however, and an engine has rolled down the embankment toward the river, he said.

Most of the cars were carrying lumber, Godwin said.

Emergency crews and hazardous materials teams are on the scene. Crowds of people watched the smoke rise from the wreck, as RCMP stopped reporters about 800 metres from the scene, saying it was too dangerous to continue.

"It looks pretty messy here from across the river," Godwin said.

Some gasoline has leaked into the Fraser River and small slicks could be seen swirling downstream.

The focus now is on preventing gasoline from getting into the river, CN spokesman Jim Feeney said.

The company's safety record has improved since 2005, and Feeney said it's too early to compare Saturday's fire with a 2005 derailment near Squamish that spilled a toxic chemical into the Cheakamus River, killing hundreds of thousands of fish.

On Friday, CN was charged with five counts under federal and B.C. environmental legislation resulting from the spill.


So is this a good time to ask if we could tear up that deal to sell B.C. Rail and have B.C. Railway returned to public ownership again?


Collision causes fire in Prince George

Vancouver Sun -- Saturday, August 04, 2007

Emergency crews in Prince George used foam fire retardant to put out a blaze caused by a train collision in CN's rail yard on Saturday.

Assistant fire chief Rod Weise said flames shot at least seven metres in the air, creating a towering plume of dark smoke after the accident. Firefighters worked from the air and ground to extinguish the burning rail car containing a yet-to-be identified hydrocarbon, he said.

No injuries have been reported and a clean up is underway.

The accident follows news that Environment Canada has laid five charges against CN Rail for the environmental impact of the derailment of a freight train in Cheakamus Canyon two years ago. {Snip} ...

My gosh, this doesn't even sound like the same story ... we could see from the Global TV video, the crippled train was on the banks of the Fraser River, not in the CN rail yard. But here's the rest of it:


... a later Vancouver Sun version of the story:

Another CN rail spill

Collision causes fire in Prince George
Vancouver Sun - Saturday, August 04, 2007

Emergency crews are fighting a rail car blaze in Prince George after a train collision in CN's rail yard on Saturday.

CN Rail spokesman Jim Feeny said two trains collided at 10:30 Saturday morning, sending three locomotives from one train and four cars from another off the rails. One of the locomotives caught fire, but was later put out. Two tanker cars carrying gasoline and a frieght [sic] car carrying lumber continued to burn at 2:30 on Saturday afternoon. The fourth car, carrying diesel, did not ignite, he said.

The rail yard is next to the Fraser River and Feeny said some gasoline spilled from the tankers, but it's not yet known if any fuel has reached the river. Environmental crews are standing by, but must waiting [sic] until the fire is out to examine the site.

No injuries have been reported.

I know Prince George fairly well and cannot see how a crippled locomotive (shown in the Vancouver Sun story), sprawled down an embankment and almost touching the Fraser River, with trees all around, can be "in CN's rail yard". Or, in fact, how an accident involving a collision between two trains carrying hazardous materials could possibly have been allowed to happen in the CN's rail yard. At very least, this suggests defective safety procedures as well as extremely poor working conditions. Let's hear from some of the trainmen. - BC Mary.