Sunday, December 23, 2007
One lone voice
Friday December 14 was the beginning of a critical phase in the Basi-Virk / BC Rail Case. Tensions were rising in BC Supreme Court.
George Copley QC was arguing for secrecy on behalf of the Executive Branch (read, the Premier's Office). Copley's argument was that vital BCRail documents are protected by solicitor-client privilege so they can't be released to the Defence. He added insult to injury by declaring that the government is being "completely open and co-operative".
Defence lawyers go ballistic, arguing that some of these papers have already been released! That one of the Accused (Bobby Virk) had seen, as part of his job at the Ministry of Transportation, those very papers! And that he, his brother-in-law (Dave Basi) and cousin (Aneal Basi) needed them for a proper defence.
What's more, they allege, these 17 documents link the premier's office with this sorry state of stonewalled affairs. Defence lawyers inform Madam Justice Bennett that they may seek to cross-examine current and former Deputy Cabinet Secretaries about solicitor-client privilege. So there! Even the BCRail lawyer wanted to speak in support of secrecy! Secret witnesses, secret sessions ... what next?
And then they adjourned until Monday, December 17.
This much we know because Bill Tieleman was there every day until Friday. And Bill told us.
But did the judge return on Monday morning? Did the Crown Prosecutor and the Defence lawyers return? Or did they build a solstice bonfire in Courtroom 54 and dance naked around it, chanting in ancient tongues?
Who knew? Nobody. Judge, Crown, and Defence lawyers were all obviously silenced by ... well, if not by solicitor-client privilege, then by a media boycott. It's the media's job to bring vital information to the public. And there were no reporters in the courtroom.
No matter how critical the issues, if Bill and Robin Mathews were busy elsewhere, then the public heard nothing. Never would hear anything. Because for the Basi-Virk-Basi / BCRail Case, by special direction of Justice Patrick Dohm, no court transcripts are available to the public.
So that was the picture on Monday December 17: a total black-out ... the public left in the dark with no inkling of what was unfolding in the BCRail Case. Except ...
... except for one lone voice: One person visited Courtroom 54 and reported back to this web-site -- a Citizen who knew that British Columbia was waiting.
He's the guy -- Anonymous 2:40 -- who told us:
Bill [Berardino, Special Prosecutor] was still AWOL. He left Andrea McKay to mind the store.
What happenned [Monday] is that Bolton demolished Copley's arguments for soliciter client priviledge and McCulloch insinuated that the premiers office was interfering with the release of evidence.
Then, once more, our Anonymous 2:40 reported again for 18 December: ...
In a nutshell here is what happened today.
Trial started late due to the fire alarms going off in the courthouse just prior to 10 am
Beradino still a no show, McKay and St Pierre representing the crown. Copley representing BC govt
Zero reporters in attendance
Defence demanded that they be given an inventory of all the electronic
documents pertaining to the case in the RCMP's possession.
Crown claimed than no such inventory existed except what was on the original RCMP discs which contained the documents as well as the inventories. It would take considerable time for them to assemble such an inventory.
No cross examination of Ms. Reimer. It was deemed unneccssary.
Court adjourned until January 7th or so I'm told. [Bill Tieleman was able to confirm the story when he got back, including the identity of Anonymous 2:40.]
These simple words provided the full outline of who, what, where, when, why ... with colour. The professional media provided nothing.
It's not as if the BCRail Case is some Mickey-Mouse affair. Three powerful employees within the BC Ministries of Finance and Transportation were arrested and stand accused of bribery, influence peddling, breach of trust, fraud, and money laundering, pertaining to the dubious transfer ("sale") of Canada's 3rd largest railway from public ownership to private hands. The three Accused were movers and shakers within Liberal Parties (federal as well as provincial). One, perhaps two, had hoped to become part of the Prime Minister's office in Ottawa, with influence extending from sea to sea.
Many people suspect that the three Accused as well as the government(s) are being shielded from proper public scrutiny. This creates the scent of corruption and people worry. Citizens have a duty to look for some answers.
And so it was, that one Citizen Journalist became the eyes and ears for the nation on those two critical days in the Basi Virk / BC Rail Case.
Anon 2:40 is my nominee for a National Newspaper Award for 2007.
- BC Mary.
Footnote: B.C.'s big media is careful not to let the public know much about Basi Virk ... and because of this, taxpayers have unwittingly been paying the salary of a secret journalist (Stuart Chase) to spy on the Basi Virk scene and report back privately to the Campbell cabinet. When asked in the Legislature, the Attorney General said that Mr Chase was in the courtroom to assist the public. If so, why were the Chase reports kept secret, until released under a Freedom of Information request by Bill Tieleman? And if the Chase reports were intended for the public, why was so much of its 100 pages blacked out?
I agree with gary e. I would even be interested to hear the views of someone giving the official Lieberal spin - as long as I took my dramamine first, so as not to get too dizzy!