Monday, December 03, 2007

 

The BC Rail Scandal in Courtroom 54, December 03 07 (Basi, Virk, and Basi Hearings)

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The BC Rail Scandal in Courtroom 54, December 3 07
(Basi, Virk, and Basi Hearings)

By Robin Mathews


The hearing ran all day. Or, put more exactly, the hearing ran, and stalled, and jumped, and fumbled, and delayed all day. Nothing about it was good.

Nothing.

And behind it all - as I have suggested more than once - the real issues were buried deeper and deeper and deeper under persiflage, special pleading, delay tactics, confusion. With profound respect for the judge presiding, I believe the confusion could have been cut down considerably. By her. At one point counsel suggested she should have had an affidavit from the Crown presenting reason for its application. She admitted that she should have asked for one. But didn't.

A great deal of time was spent untangling misunderstandings that never should have been present. The publication ban on information that was presented in court was so confusing someone will probably violate it. I will do my best to honour it, but I'm not sure what it is.

The up-front story, I suppose, is that two counsel appeared representing news sources challenging the request by the Crown for in camera proceedings.

Roger D. McConchie for the Globe and Mail, CTV, and Canadian Press was major spokesperson. Counsel was present as well for for CBC and Global Television. McConchie was informed, effective, helpful, gracious, and philosophical. Outside the courtroom he suggested that the precedent upon which Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett acted has iron-clad force with judges (unwilling to take risks was, I believe, the sub-text). She acted with that kind of resolution...finally. Though there is reason, I believe, to make strong argument that she shouldn't have.

At the end of the day (literally), Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett made clear what this application for in camera proceedings concerns and she removed press and public from the courtroom so that Defence counsel could make its case against an in camera hearing. If Defence wins the argument and is admitted, then perhaps press and public will have a chance to be reconsidered.

The swirl of events took place with eleven counsel in the court and eleven in the gallery, to begin.

The whole question of in camera (secret) hearings in democratic society is offensive, deeply offensive. Madam Justice Bennett acknowledged that the principle of an "open court" is vital. But she has made similar statements in the past while refusing to release material on public record for reasons that are not at all convincing. She knows the words; I'm not sure she knows the music.

In camera (secret) hearings in democratic society are offensive. Arguments are then made that certain witnesses must be protected for their safety; trade-offs must be made in order to get evidence into court that can bring action to a desired resolution, and such like arguments: so that justice may be done and the evil-doers (if they exist) may be caught and punished. Maybe. But every wedge that is driven into the open court principle is exploited to destroy the principle. That, too, is an iron-clad rule. And there will be those who will ask if that is not what was going on in courtroom 54 today.

The Great Question of the BC Rail scandal involving the accusations against Basi, Virk, and Basi remains and pushes itself forward - and it relates closely to what I called above "the real issues". In my letter of November 27 to Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett asking for standing in the argument about in camera witnesses, I pointed out that "the charges against Basi, Virk, and Basi have arisen out of the scandalous and corrupt sale of B.C. Rail by the Gordon Campbell cabinet in which the three accused men acted as aides to cabinet ministers who are necessarily and by constitutional convention responsible for all decisions made on the B.C. Rail matter by cabinet." It's called 'cabinet solidarity' and 'cabinet responsibility'.

That is only the fine edge of the wedge. Basi, Virk, and Basi (the only accused people) are treated as if they, somehow, moved through a dense and highly populated political and legislative world undertaking actions which were not ordered by anyone, were not known by anyone, were not approved of by anyone, and were wholly and unequivocally actions attributable solely and completely to themselves.

There may still be British Columbians on tiny, rare, distant islands who believe that.

And so an application for an in camera proceeding in relation to the three accused men is (yawn) no doubt of the greatest importance and - as we have seen - (yawn) takes up an enormous amount of time.


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Good one, Robin. Thank you for this. Again: thank you for being there.
- BC Mary.

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Comments:
Why do I have the ugly feeling that the public is 'being had' by the political and judicial system? Robin is quite right in his comments about the corrupt sale of BCRail by Gordon Campbell. And perhaps the rest of the Province's assets. One only has to look at the Mulroney affair to realize how corrupt politics has become in Canada.
 
Prof. Robin ~ I wish I could have been beside you today; alas, I could not. However after reading your usual wit & wisdom I feel like I WAS there. Fine work, sir.

Why is it anonymous @ 8:16 pm, that the vast majority of people who are informed about ANY of the recent high profile POLITICAL cases where big mucky mucks' reputations are on the line in context with conduct reeking of rot . . . end up with the SAME "ugly feeling that the public is 'being had' by the political and Judicial system"?????

Because THEY ARE.

The reigns of the BC Govt ARE in the hands of bandits or worse. I include powerful backroom bureaucrats so necessary for the deals. . . (e.g. the Land Corp holding all crown land assets of BC has morphed over the past few yrs. - all the better to hide the dirty dealings, my dear; delve deeply into all the nooks & crannies where their sticking fingers stretch where crown land assets lie, particularly along the BC Rail line.)

. . . Reflect back on how Crown Land was spun off from a Ministry into a Crown Corp. with many name changes from BC Assets & Land to Land & Water BC; only to be further broken up into pieces with the common denominators being the key bureaucrats as extensions of their political masters 'on the take', while pursuing their own private agendas NOT in the publics best interests - BE SURE of that.

Take a look at the circle involved with the BC Rail deal then look at every major Campbell Govt project i.e. the Trade & Convention Centre; Vanoc Govt. joint projects; the RAV line - there IS a pattern & it isn't pretty.

What a cesspool. Judge Bennett is mighty close to being sucked into it if she doesn't get a grip of her court & reputation NOW.
 
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