Friday, October 19, 2007
Robin Mathews on The Court Proceedings: An Update
Justice in Lotus Land? The Corrupt Sale of B.C. Rail by the Gordon Campbell Cabinet. The Court Proceedings: An Update
With the icy speed of a pre-global-warming glacier the court processes arising from the corrupt sale of B.C. Rail inch forward imperceptibly. October 26 begins another nudge. Apparently, more disclosure will be on the docket. But why?
The processes concern about a dozen criminal charges against B.C. Cabinet aides Basi, Basi, and Virk, alleging fraud and breach of trust involving improper activities in the (what many believe was an already corrupt) sale of "the peoples" B.C. Rail to CNR, now a U.S. corporation. ("Hollowing out" Canada's economy.)
The drums are beating with the names Basi, Basi, and Virk - and they have been beating for years, since the search warrant "raids" on B.C. legislature offices in December of 2003. But something in the process smells. Even the man I call "Gordon Campbell's personal representative at the Vancouver Sun", Vaughn Palmer, writes that the men's defence "will be to say that anything they did was undertaken with the knowledge [Palmer doesn't say "at the direction"] of their political masters". (Vanc. Sun, Sept 19, 07,A3).
A normally intelligent population - not CanWest monopoly press/media - has consistently asked the question: if persons employed by policy makers move to assist/further/change policy, would they not be doing so in concert with those who employ them? Indeed, more than once the public has been told, it seems, that Dave Basi informed another aide that the Minister of Finance of the day had given the go-ahead on what may have been, it is claimed, an allegedly improper action or set of actions. Has Gary Collins been investigated? Not that we know.
And so it goes. On the advice of RCMP officers, apparently, Kevin Falcon, Minister of Transportation, withdrew an allegedly tainted deal for the sale of a rail spur line to Roberts Bank. Did Falcon know anything that would lead reasonable British Columbians to believe he was aware of what might be allegedly tainted uncertainties BEFORE the RCMP "advised" him? No investigation of Kevin Falcon has been undertaken as far as the public can know.
Indeed, one of the markers of the case beginning as early as 2003 was the blunt statement by the RCMP that no elected official was under investigation. Why not? The question screams in the background of every step in the process being undertaken before Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett. Only weeks ago I put the question to her, formally, in a letter.
The question is an eminently fair one. If men are accused of criminal acts, and if their fate, freedom, and fair trial depend upon knowing if other, senior, policy-making colleagues appear also to be guilty and perhaps, even, appear to be originators of unlawful action, isn't it the responsibility of the judge seized with the matter to instruct the Special Crown Prosecutor to direct the RCMP to widen the investigative net and to lay charges where warranted if and as they bear on the fate, freedom, and fair trial of the men already accused? Doesn't a fair trial demand that?
The court officer who answered for Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett informed me (a) Justice Bennett did not read the letter (b) nor did the court officer tell her what is in the letter (c) except for one matter Justice Bennett was willing to address.
By that means Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett was able to ignore a major, nagging, and imperative question about the proceedings around the corrupt sale of B.C. Rail.
Vaughn Palmer, the man I call "Gordon Campbell's personal representative at the Vancouver Sun" does his work well. He assures his readers of something no one can know for sure - "the judge's determination to go ahead." That is "not in doubt", Palmer asserts. Dealing with her "order" without termination date that "every piece of paper associated with the investigation [must] be turned over to the defence 'forthwith'", Palmer makes excuses for the delay that has continued as if Madam Justice Bennett didn't utter the word so beloved of Gordon Campbell admirers: "forthwith".
Order something "forthwith", they say. Order that homelessness in B.C. cease "forthwith". Order that privatized seniors' homes are well run "forthwith". Order that the Labour Relations Board and the Public Utilities Commission become honest "forthwith". Then do nothing, and everyone will know vital change has come about.
The joke that isn't a joke is that "forthwith", like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Madam Justice Brenda Brown, for example, commanded that all demonstrations against the U.S. corporation wrecking West Vancouver's Eagle Ridge Bluff must cease "forthwith". When they didn't cease immediately, she lay about her like a mediaeval prince, smiting the recalcitrant on all sides. In her eagerness to have "forthwith" mean "now", she sent Harriett Nahanee, a sick and aged Native elder to a prison the judge was told was unsuitable. Some days later Nahanee was taken from that "hellhole" to Vancouver General Hospital to die.
A number of us wrote a Complaint about Madam Justice Brenda Brown's conduct to the Canadian Judicial Council, expecting consideration and a thorough investigation "forthwith". But the word seems to give the CJC the same trouble it does to Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett. Six months have passed and the Canadian Judicial Council is still, apparently, combing through the Oxford English Dictionary to find a meaning of the word "forthwith" that will give it an excuse to avoid ever investigating the conduct of Madam Justice Brenda Brown.
Joking aside, reasonable and prudent Canadians (unlike Vaughn Palmer) may be perplexed at Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett's failure to make "forthwith" mean "now", with her failure to 'Brenda Brown' the people who are clearly failing to move with expeditiousness to produce materials asked for, and with her apparent unwillingness to ask for a widened investigation. Those Canadians, I suspect, cannot with the joie de vivre, with the smug self-confidence of Vaughn Palmer, say they are assured of "the judge's determination to go ahead."
The question becomes larger. Why - British Columbians have asked - why does Defence seem to ask, almost every time they arrive at court, for more disclosure of materials that may be needed for fair trial of their clients? On and on and on? Could it be that the situation would look very different, that the processes would have been significantly faster, that the trial would be over by now instead of perpetually looming if more people had been investigated fully and then either declared clean or charged? Could it be that a failure of investigation is at the root of the repeated applications by Defence for disclosure of materials? Is it possible that the Defence is fighting a case where only some of the allegations of wrong-doing have been brought forward? If that is true, it helps to explain crippling delay in the processes arising out of the corrupt sale of BC Rail.
That having been said, the idea that Vaughn Palmer is looking towards, in the near future -"accusation [by the Defence] of cover-up and withholding evidence" on the part of the premier and his ministers - should not be an idea that is even possible to entertain. This trial will be one of the most important in British Columbia history. It may involve deeply improper actions by elected officials in the highest trust positions. It may, in fact, involve the necessary invalidation of all their actions at the time of the sale of B.C. Rail and after as politicians acting in trust on behalf of British Columbians.
The absolute responsibility of Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett is that she makes known now that any cover-up, delay, obfuscation, or other kind of withholding of evidence by any government person will bring a swift and tough 'Brenda Brown' series of contempt citations, jail terms, and more.
If innocent environmentalists can feel the lash of judicial anger when they fail to follow an order "forthwith", surely trust holders in democratic society who may be impeding the disclosure of criminal acts against the Public Good must face even greater judicial anger and action.
Only when Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett shows that 'sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander', that justice is even handed, that members of the B.C. Provincial Cabinet of Gordon Campbell and their civil servants are equal with demonstrating environmentalists in the eyes of the Supreme Court of B.C. - only then need anyone believe that "the judge's determination to go ahead is not in doubt".
As a footnote, British Columbians may laugh at the Black Humour of Madam Justice Brenda Brown rushing sick, aged Harriett Nahanee to an unsuitable prison (soon followed, after the court's decision, to Nahanee's death) in order to show that "justice plays no favourites". For the Canadian Judicial Council - the eminent body headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverly McLaughlin - justice is in the process of visibly showing favourites, month after month after month, in its failure to deal decisively (impartially and fairly) with the complaint against Madam Justice Brenda Brown herself.
It's called "Justice in Lotus Land" - and, alas, "Justice in Canada".
I think that this case may showcase other examples of how the Campbell government operates.
BTW - Dobell's lawyer is none other than George Macintosh, Special Prosecutor in the Oppal case. It seems as though Macintosh has his fingerprints everywhere.
Vancouver lobbyist case may go to special prosecutor
Branch of attorney-general's ministry reviewing RCMP investigation of role of Ken Dobell after complaint from NDP MLA
Fiona Anderson, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, October 20, 2007
VICTORIA - The B.C. government's criminal justice branch is deciding whether to appoint a special prosecutor in the case of B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell's former deputy minister, senior adviser and lobbyist Ken Dobell.
The attorney-general's ministry said Friday it had received the results of an RCMP investigation on Thursday.
Dobell came under fire last spring when it was discovered he had been lobbying the province on behalf of the City of Vancouver, seeking funds for housing and cultural projects, without being registered.
Under B.C.'s Lobbyists Registration Act, lobbyists must register within 10 days. But Dobell -- a former deputy minister with a desk in the premier's office complex in Vancouver, where he serves as a $250-an-hour special adviser, took six months to do so.
The criminal justice branch did not name the subject of the RCMP investigation, but revealed that it dealt with a complaint by New Democratic Party MLA Maurine Karagianis last April. Karagianis's office confirmed that her complaint was against Dobell.
Criminal justice branch spokesman Stan Lowe said his department will review the RCMP report to determine whether to refer the matter to a special prosecutor or go another route.
Doing nothing was not an option, he said.
"We're trying to decide what the most fair, impartial and appropriate way to proceed on this matter is," Lowe said. That decision should come "shortly," he said.
"Process is a very important aspect of this matter," Lowe added.
Karagianis was happy with the news.
"I think it will be really interesting to see what kind of course of action comes next," Karagianis said in an interview.
Karagianis lodged her complaint after the matter was raised in the legislature.
After much pushing by the NDP, privacy and information commissioner David Loukidelis agreed to review Dobell's actions.
He found Dobell had breached the rules, but as his work for the city was well known he didn't believe Dobell's delay in registering was a deliberate effort to hide his activities.
Lobbyists can be fined up to $25,000 for violating the act, although no one has been fined since the registry was created in 2002.
Shawn Robbins, spokesman for Attorney-General Wally Oppal, said it would be inappropriate for Oppal to comment now that the matter was in the hands of the criminal justice branch.
Dobell did not respond to a request for comment.
He asked, "...isn't it the responsibility of the judge seized with the matter to instruct the Special Crown Prosecutor to direct the RCMP to widen the investigative net and to lay charges where warranted if and as they bear on the fate, freedom, and fair trial of the men already accused? Doesn't a fair trial demand that?'
Answer: Of course, as a court of inherent jurisdiction, a member of the Supreme Court is empowered to do ANYTHING "necessary and expedient" to advance justice. Notwithstanding regulatory acts, the SCBC is NOT a statutory court; their authority flows from the Constitutional Act (1867; formerly, BNA Act). That is why fact-finders of statutory courts are referred to as JUDGES, and those of the constitutional courts as JUSTICES. Where it is in the interest of justice - and not some private interest dictated by the Brenner-gang - Bennett has no discretion but to jump hoops for the public; she is not bound in administrative servitudue to elite usurpers of the rule of law. Our robed savages will continue their subversion, until we put them on short leashes with choke holds. Bennett can either deliver justice, or get tossed out of office.
Many thanks for your helpful comment.
Robin has been a tremendous help in understanding this bizarre non-trial.
It would be a fine thing indeed if you were to stand by us, too, as we approach what surely must eventually become the trial (or the Public Inquiry) on the BCRail Case.
It's so important!
I'd be very interested to know, for example, WHY do you think it has been so difficult to get all the necessary documents into Court?