Wednesday, February 13, 2008

 

Quick! Go to Hansard for Feb. 13, 2008

and scroll down to the RELEASE OF E-MAILS IN B.C. RAIL CASE. Here is an excerpt from "the blues -- draft transcript only". The Leader of the Opposition is demanding that the premier release the 100 e.mails needed by the Basi-Virk Defence team. Stonewally Oppal, the Attorney General, is objecting:

... Hon. W. Oppal: The judges and the lawyers run these trials independently of anybody in this House.

C. James: ... This is about the evidence they have to be able to make those decisions in court. This is about what evidence is available to them so that we can ensure that justice is served. This is about evidence that the Premier has a choice about, whether he waives privilege or not.

Perhaps the Attorney General should listen to the justice. Justice Bennett said: "The public interest in having this case heard outweighs just about everything else." I agree. British Columbians certainly agree. The public interest outweighs the Premier's desire to protect his cabinet and his office.

The Premier has a choice to waive privilege, and he should do it today. So my question is again to the Premier. Will he live up to his word? Will he live up to his words that said he wants to be open and transparent? Will he ensure that the evidence is available so the B.C. Rail corruption trial can actually move forward?

H043/dmm/1430

Hon. W. Oppal: I think the Leader of the Opposition has almost got it. It is about the evidence, and it's about the independent assessment of the evidence. It's about the right…. Our judges must have an unfettered power and the unfettered authority to decide these cases without any political statements made by uninformed politicians.

L. Krog: Make no mistake about it, this is a test — the real test of the Premier's commitment to justice in this province. It is a test to the Premier's own word and the promises he made, and to date he has failed.

By fighting to keep evidence secret, he is jeopardizing the entire trial — the fairness of a trial in our criminal courts. Justice Bennett left no room for interpretation. The e-mails in question could help decide the innocence or guilt of two free citizens of this province before the courts. My question is to the Premier. What is more important to him? Is it a fair trial or just keeping his secrets buried?

Hon. W. Oppal: I want to quote from a statement made by the member opposite who just asked that question. It's a November 2, '06 news release. "It is essential to the rule of law that the integrity of the judicial process not be interfered with. High-profile…."

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Attorney, just take your seat.

Continue, Attorney.

Hon. W. Oppal: I want to carry on with the quote from the member for Nanaimo. "It is essential to the rule of law that the integrity of the judicial process not be interfered with. High-profile prosecutions have failed in the past because politicians felt compelled to make comments in public that were later deemed prejudicial."

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

L. Krog: I'm delighted to hear the Attorney General quoting my words back to me.

What is at stake here is the right of two accused persons to a fair and just trial. Their right to do so is in jeopardy because this government holds within its power, and the Premier holds within his power, the ability to release crucial evidence so that Justice Bennett can do the job that both she and every member of this House is sworn to uphold, which is the law of the province of British Columbia.

She has made it clear that the e-mail evidence in question includes communications with the Premier's office. It was the Premier who promised full disclosure.

Will he announce today that all e-mails between him and his staff related to this trial will be disclosed so that justice can be done?

Hon. W. Oppal: Well, obviously the member opposite didn't hear my comments or didn't understand them. They're his words, and I'll repeat them: "High-profile prosecutions have failed in the past because politicians felt compelled to make comments in public that were later deemed prejudicial." Now, those are true words. That's reflective of our process. That is, judicial independence is fundamental to our process. It's fundamental to any democratic process, and it is totally improper for any

H044/cmc/1435

politician to make comments that would compromise those principles.

M. Farnworth: The refusal to waive privilege would in fact be interference. That's what this is about. This is about not commenting on a trial. This is about the fact that the Premier has a choice. He has a choice to waive privilege or not. He has a choice.

So the question is clear: will he do the right thing, ensure all the documents go to the defence so that we can have the most open trial, and waive privilege?

Hon. W. Oppal: All the documents are in the hands of the lawyers, and the judge will decide which of the documents are admissible. Now, I'm sure the legal experts on the other side know better, but whatever documents are admissible will be held to be admissible by the trial judge. The trial judge is in the unique position of weighing the arguments on both sides of the issue, and she'll make her appropriate findings without any type of advice from this House.

M. Farnworth: The Attorney misses the point, and it's really quite simple. The government, the Premier, can waive privilege on some extremely important documents.

To ensure that we get to the bottom of this sordid matter, the question is clear: will the Premier, if they've got nothing to hide and they are not concerned about anything, waive privilege on these crucial, important documents?

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members. Attorney?

Hon. W. Oppal: Well, essentially the same question only put forth in a louder tone.
I'll repeat. The judge is independent. The judge will make the appropriate findings. We'll live with the findings made by the judge.

S. Simpson: The B.C. Rail corruption trial is tainting this government; it's tainting this Premier's office. The Premier does have a choice here. The Premier's choice is he can do what he committed to do, which is be open and transparent and make sure all the information is available to this trial, or he can continue the cover-up. Will the Premier do the right thing just once? Release the information.

Hon. W. Oppal: We will do what we have always done, and we will respect the…

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members. Continue, Attorney.

Hon. W. Oppal: We will not interfere in the process. The process is too precious. This process is too precious for a bunch of uninformed politicians to interfere with.

S. Simpson: One thing that the Attorney's right about is he is doing what this side always does, which is to perpetrate interference by covering this material up.

The reality here is…. Will you release the information? The interference here is the lack of availability of information to the courts so they can make a decision. This Attorney General is perpetuating the cover-up for the Premier. Release the information.

H045/klm/1440

Hon. W. Oppal: There's a special prosecutor appointed under the Crown Counsel Act. There's an independent judge appointed by the federal government. They'll do the appropriate things.

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There's more, if you go to Hansard and read up on it. Question: why didn't the premier answer? Well done, Opposition! Thanks to DPL who sent the tip on "the story of the day". - BC Mary.

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Next day, February 14, 2008: I searched the three CanWest daily newspapers (Vancouver Sun, The Province, Victoria Times Colonist) for their reports on this important BCRail debate in the legislature. Hard to believe, but I found nothing. Not a word. If anyone finds a mention of it, please let us know here on The Legislature Raids? Thanks. - BC Mary.

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Comments:
Deferring to the courts means deferring to Donald Brenner (CJ, SCBC). Stonewally and he are close. While Oppal was with the Appeals Court, that court shares space with the Supreme Court.

In general, where the issues of concealment and disclosure clash, concealment wins almost 100% of the time. I won't post the "Singh" case (Federal Court) again because my entry was cut. Search "Jaggi" under the Federal data, in Canlii.
 
"Why didn't the premier answer?"

Ain't that just the question of the day. Refer back several weeks to the comment about "secret scrums." The premier only participates in question and answer sessions at such times when he is completely in control. He is not in control of question period, especially when the topic is corruption in his office. When he's not in control, something unfortunate could happen - like the truth might accidentally slip out.

Still, speaking more broadly, the question is the single most prescient question in this whole mess: when will the premier answer? Maybe I'm a cynic, but I suspect the answer to that question - if the Campbell Liberals have their way - is "never."

But please, Mary, keep asking that question.
 
I am a simple (tho on occasion caustic and cynical) man. To me this whole folderol is very simple and can be summed up with two quotes pulled from the Hansard posted by Mary above.

First:
" Hon. W. Oppal: I want to carry on with the quote from the member for Nanaimo. "It is essential to the rule of law that the integrity of the judicial process not be interfered with. "

Then:

" M. Farnworth: The refusal to waive privilege would in fact be interference."

'Nuff Said...............

So to quote some of my old logging buddies when they were leavin' camp and asking for their pay from the timekeeper, I would say to the Right Honorable (gag) Gordon Campbell:

"Spill the ink, you simian fink!"
 
Coincidently, a report on "privilege" has been posted on the BC Law Library website. Although it refers to Australian law, principles apply to Basi-Virk. (It is over 500 pages long)

http://www.bccls.bc.ca/cms/index.cfm?group_id=85494

Secrecy yields impunity yields tyranny.
 
.
Many thanks, Anonymous 12:16.

I found the media release of the report you mention. And posted it.

Seems like "privilege" is a nuisance law the world over. Like Free Speech ... a good law, but also a shield for bad things to be done, at times.

Best cure: let the sun shine in. Thanks again.

.
 
Hi Mary,


There were no mention of the ndp asking questions of the premier to do with the basi-virk-bc rail trial on any of the news broadcasts last night (dinner time) or this morning that I witnessed. Globel, CTV, CBC, A Chanel, BT television did not feel this is a story worth telling the people of BC. Very cowardly of these so called news outlets. The media's backing of Campbell to keep secrets from the public is a betrayal to the people of BC and only makes this dysfunctional province even more so.
 
I scrolled down to the last comment from Oppal " an independant federal judge"??? Mary can you share some insight? Thanks.
 
.
Anon 8:43, I'm not sure what you mean.

Can you be a bit more specific?

.
 
Mary, this is anon 8:43. scroll to 'disclosure of doc's BC rail', scroll further down to, 1440.
 
Well, yeah ... it's this:

M. Farnworth: The Attorney misses the point, and it's really quite simple. The government, the Premier, can waive privilege on some extremely important documents.

To ensure that we get to the bottom of this sordid matter, the question is clear. Will the Premier, if they've got nothing to hide and they're not concerned about anything, waive privilege on these crucial, important documents?

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. W. Oppal: Well, essentially the same question, only put forth in a louder tone. I'll repeat. The

[Page 9636 ]

judge is independent. The judge will make the appropriate findings. We'll live with the findings made by the judge.

S. Simpson: The B.C. Rail corruption trial is tainting this government. It's tainting this Premier's office. The Premier does have a choice here.

The Premier's choice is that he can do what he committed to do, which is be open and transparent and make sure all the information is available to this trial, or he can continue the cover-up. Will the Premier do the right thing just once? Release the information.

Hon. W. Oppal: We will do what we have always done, and we will respect the….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Continue, Attorney.

Hon. W. Oppal: We will not interfere in the process. The process is too precious. This process is too precious for a bunch of uninformed politicians to interfere with.

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

S. Simpson: One thing the Attorney is right about is that he is doing what this side always does, which is to perpetrate interference by covering this material up.

[1440]

The reality here is…. Will you release the information? The interference here is the lack of availability of information to the courts so they can make a decision. This Attorney General is perpetuating the cover-up for the Premier. Release the information.

Hon. W. Oppal: There's a special prosecutor appointed under the Crown Counsel Act. There's an independent judge appointed by the federal government. They'll do the appropriate things.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Let's hope that someone knows the answer to your question and posts it here.
 
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