Tuesday, February 05, 2008

 

Vaughn Palmer says Campbell has a problem ...

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'INNOCENCE AT STAKE' - CAMPBELL HAS A PROBLEM WITH COURT CASE ON RAID

The public needs to hear a clear statement from the head of government that no narrow question of privilege should trump the broad interest in justice being seen to be done in this case.
- writes Palmer in today's column.


Vaughn Palmer
Vancouver Sun - Tuesday, February 05, 2008


VICTORIA - The legislature raid case lurched back into the spotlight last week, with a telling disclosure from the presiding judge.

Justice Elizabeth Bennett provided the first indication of how dozens of contentious e-mails relate to the proceedings.

She said 92 were relevant to the case, three have "significant relevance," and one could affect the question of guilt or innocence.

The judge didn't say what was in the e-mails. But with those few words delivered in open court Thursday, she raised the stakes in this politically charged case. {Snip} ...


So one can guess that the e-mails could shed additional light on one of the biggest controversies of the Liberal time in office, the BC Rail deal.

In a government as premier-centred as this one, some of those e-mails might make for embarrassing reading.

All this poses a problem for the government, which has been manoeuvring to exclude at least some of the e-mails from the court record.

When the case resumes on Feb. 18, Bennett will hear legal arguments regarding the admissibility of the e-mails as evidence.

The government can argue for exclusion because the e-mails relate to confidential legal advice ("solicitor-client privilege") and/or because they relate to confidential advice to the cabinet ("cabinet privilege.")

Both privileges are recognized grounds for exclusion. Neither necessarily overrides other considerations, such as the question of guilt or innocence.

In weighing a claim of privilege, judges are expected to apply "the innocence at stake test." If the evidence were excluded, would that run a genuine risk of wrongful conviction?

Justice Bennett used that precise phrase -- "innocence at stake" -- in characterizing the potential impact of one of the e-mails.

Beyond the legal issue, the latest development raises the question of whether the government is doing everything it can to cooperate in this case.

Premier Gordon Campbell himself underwrote the initial promise in the wake of the raid: "I've told everyone to be as open and transparent as they can."

Yet he and the Liberals have taken refuge behind technicalities.

They've refused to comment on any aspect of the case because "the matter is before the courts."

They've also insisted that they have nothing to do with the effort to withhold information on grounds of privilege.

The fate of all documents (e-mails included) was placed in the hands of deputy attorney-general Allan Seckel, Campbell assured the legislature last spring.

"He will make the decision vis-a-vis cabinet confidentiality or any of those issues in consultation with the special prosecutor. He will make the decision without any further consultation with me or anyone in the premier's office."

Seckel's liaison to the court case has been lawyer George Copley, and at this point it is not clear what position he will take when the proceedings resume Feb. 18.

Copley indicated last week that the government won't assert privilege on some of the e-mails, while others still need to be reviewed.

Ideally, the deputy attorney-general and his lawyer will accept the judge's preliminary assessment of the importance of the e-mails and abandon any thought of arguing for their exclusion.

Supposing they don't, Campbell is already on record as opposing any attempt to instruct Seckel on how to proceed.

"I have delegated the responsibility for screening of cabinet documents in this particular case to the deputy attorney-general," he told the house. "It would be inappropriate for me to determine, prior to those decisions being made, what they should be or to try and characterize them in any manner whatsoever, so I won't do that."

I doubt that stance will wash with the public. The deputy A-G and his lawyer are well qualified to decide the narrow legal and technical issues. Neither is in a position to answer publicly for broader political concerns.

The public needs to hear a clear statement from the head of government that no narrow question of privilege should trump the broad interest in justice being seen to be done in this case.

Anything less would risk a miscarriage of justice and invite suspicions of coverup.

vpalmer@direct.ca

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=9cfafce0-62bc-4388-9c5e-13058f49363e

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Comments:
Express Collision Shop Said,

I had better grab another cup of java,and then reread the Sun. There is a couple of interesting articles in the Sun today. Those e-mails may see the light of day after all. Feb. 18 hurry up already.
 
Y'know what's amazing?

Vaughnie's little sermon could have been pieced together - almost verbatim - from any one of a dozen items by at least the same number of posters, commenters and anonymous contributors here at The Legislature Raids months - even years ago.

What the hell is wrong with this picture?

On the on hand we have Canwest corporate trumping up a patently phony libel suit against Rafe Mair and the Tyee for an alleged wrong (and for which the publically-demanded apology has been delivered repeatedly) on the basis of the claim that the Province newspaper suffered financially: Izzy Asper would be proud!

At the same time, the same news organization has had the information to draw the conclusions Palmer finally does in this column for years.

During that period it has:
1) Ignored the facts;
2) Refused to confront the main players;
3) Pretended that aspects of this story are neither 'news' nor important;
4) Claimed (and Palmer's done this himself more than once) that the MSM had been covering this story and reflecting its importance to the public adequately when it is crystal clear that is not the truth.

Why the hell can't I sue someone?
 
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I like your spirit, G, and that is such a good question: why can't we sue somebody for the outrageous logjam of information which is supposed to be a trial?

Well, maybe we should save up our pennies as we watch these astonishing scenes unfold.

Negligence. Dereliction of duty. Fraud. Charter rights. Non-disclosure of court transcripts. I do believe that citizens of the future will need to begin watching these things for themselves.

And yes, I did get the old "deja vu" feeling as I read Vaughn Palmer's column ... and I saw his remarks as a sort of ship's penant blowing in the wind to signal a change of plan ... but he hasn't quite got his heart into it yet. I just hope he will make the transition.

Lacking the massive funds and/or the opportunity to call the premier and his cabinet to account ourselves, we have (as usual) to rely largely upon the press to do that in the public interest.

Usually a responsible government arises from a free press.

It's a beautiful system when it's allowed to work properly. Maybe we've just seen the beginning of a change in that direction.

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g-west I understand exactly what you are saying.

My take is that Mary's hours of ethical toiling to compile this informative site, have had a palpable effect on the sudden "change of plan" by the powers that be at Canwest. Nothing like them being left in the wake of the truth!

This was an excellent column by Vaughn, who put a focus on important linkages between Campbell - Allan Seckel - George Copley - Special Prosecutor Barardino (somewhere in the chain of command????? LOL) albeit, that just maybe his focus was garnered from reading Mary's Blog!

There are honourable journalists at the Sun reporting on this trial like Vaughn/Neal Hall. There is ultimately, always the 'Man in the Mirror'

I believe that the "logjam" re: the free flow of information on politically sensitive stories can be sourced to the 'string pullers' at the top of the Canwest pyramid with redacting & sanitizing working overtime with Editors in charge of political content screening; that the journalists themselves have been shackled.

As a group the journalists could have recognized their own leverage & confronted their bosses a long time ago. Unfortunately, often fear for their own career's best interests stops people from speaking up with strong ethical voices.

Perhaps Canwest took a bottom line glance at their best interests (read: the savvy publics reaction to their thin coverage through lack of sales) & have decided to set sail in another direction as BCMary suggests above.
 
Specific questions inserted below,about the linkages summed up in Vaughn's column which could impact on whether those potentially, political bombshells will actually see the light of day or remain privileged hidden in a the political skeletons in the closet:

"The fate of all documents (e-mails included) was placed in the hands of deputy attorney-general Allan Seckel, Campbell assured the legislature last spring.

#1. Who put them in Seckel's hands?

#2. Why didn't they go to the apolitical branch of the AG, the Criminal Justice Branch who appoints the Special Prosecutor?


"He will make the decision vis-a-vis cabinet confidentiality or any of those issues in consultation with the special prosecutor. He will make the decision without any further consultation with me or anyone in the premier's office."

#3. Re: Campbell's reference to "further consultations": What initial instructions did Seckel have & from whom, prior to his chat with the Special Prosecutor?

Seckel's liaison to the court case has been lawyer George Copley, and at this point it is not clear what position he will take when the proceedings resume Feb. 18.

#4. Why isn't it a liason between the Criminal Justice Branch & the Special Prosecutor?

#5. What instructions is Copley, representing the Executive Branch of Govt. (read: the Premier & pals) receiving to protect the best interests of the political masters re: the emails, hard discs etc.?


Copley indicated last week that the government won't assert privilege on some of the e-mails, while others still need to be reviewed.

#6. Any guesses as to which ones the "others" are?

"I have delegated the responsibility for screening of cabinet documents in this particular case to the deputy attorney-general," he told the house. "It would be inappropriate for me to determine, prior to those decisions being made, what they should be or to try and characterize them in any manner whatsoever, so I won't do that."

#7. What political instructions went with that delegation of "responsibility" given to Seckel by the Premier?

#8. Does any really believe that Gordon Campbell understands the difference between "inappropriate" & appropriate action based on his track record & personal hold on the reigns of his Govt. aided by his 'fixers' Martyn Brown & Ken Dobell?

 
What if the executive privilege issue enters the appeals minefield? Justice won't be merely delayed; it will be defeated.

Tyee isn't printing posts on Canwest's lawsuit against Rafe Mair and themselves. In order to prevail Canwest would have to prove that falsehoods that injured their reputation were published with malicious intent. That is hardly the case; errors were admitted and corrected and apolgies were made. If anything, Rafe's reputation would be diminished because he accidently issued a false report. Nobody's perfect. I have Len Asper's private e-mail, and will pass on my concerns directly to him. Readers of the Sun, Province and Times-Colonist are not getting comprehensive reportage on issues of critical importance.

Lastly, independent news sources need a spot on Satellite Radio. It is likely that Sirius and XM will merge within the month. Maybe some of us should shill for a regional channel, that would enable the public to hear views that are stifled by Big Media. An alternate might be that the CBC give up an hour a day to a regional private broadcaster.
 
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Anonymous 3:23,

Good for you, and best of luck with your message to Leonard Asper.

Todah I watched Norman Spector and thought he was great as he testified at the Mulroney-Schreiber inquiry. He said more than once that the media isn't doing its job. And that the country is the poorer because of it. Leonard Asper needs to hear these things.

I especially liked Spector's passionate appeal that the committee of inquiry or the RCMP get busy and offer a deal to Karlheinz Schreiber. "If he'll give us all the information we need, under oath, why not give him citizenship! What difference, if we let him stay in Canada the rest of his life!" [Remember when I suggested that Aneal Basi offer a deal?]

The former Chief of Staff to Brian Mulroney continued "Subpoena Mulroney's bank records, you have the power! But stop wasting time and money interviewing Mulroney's chef ... who thinks he saw Mrs Mulroney putting cash in the refrigerator ... !" Yeah!

It was wonderful to (a) hear a sworn witness (imagine!), and (b) to hear a witness demand that corrective actions be taken promptly and fearlessly.

Sure, Spector stumbled just a little, when he described the BC system of appointing Special Prosecutors which, he said, assured impartiality.

But if this is how we're going to feel when the BCRail Trial gets under way ... it will be a very good, healthy change.

And CanWest could begin that change by taking a serious, responsible decision to begin in-depth reporting on this case.

Tell Mr Asper, eh? Thanks.

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My favourite line in Vaughn's article had to be:

"In a government as premier-centred as this one"...

Now, that's someone definitely born for the "diplomatic" service - which explains a lot about the current state of the press in BC.

Personally, I like G West's idea regarding a lawsuit.

Make that a class action suit launched on behalf of the citizens of BC.
 
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Lynx & G,

Ya mean one of those fancy lawsuits where Her Majesty the Queen takes up the issues on behalf of The People?

After Sergeant Dudley Do-Right has gathered all the incriminating evidence?

And we get one of those incorruptible Special Crown Prosecutors to organize the evidence and f*i*g*h*t the case for us??

With cameras in the courtroom so that everybody in the province can see and hear what's said in the Courtroom?

Ya mean that kind of class action?

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"Ya mean that kind of class action?"

Nah, we want the kind with alligator clips and crank generators for DC and held in a "star" chamber. After while we would just wonder briefly, "whatever happened to Gordo and his gang?" You know, the guy that was being investigated by his brother-in-law!

Then maybe it would be time to take a holiday up north on Our RailRoad.
(the one we got back...........)
 
The Supreme Court of BC is a court of inherent-jurisdiction, which means its powers are constitutional, and ground in Common Law. It is NOT a statutory creation; some powers can be exercised without reference to Statute.

That said, Wally Oppal (AG; retired Appeals Court justice) is well aware that ANSWER-IN-DEFENCE is an absolute right, enjoyed by persons facing criminal charges. He is equally aware that judicial power in that regard, is relative. Judges MUST ensure that 100% of exculpatory evidence is placed before fact finders (judge or jury). Anything else is unlawful and usurpatious.

So what is Bennett going to do? She - an ex-prosecutor who appealed sentences to the Supreme Court of Canada - will violate the law of Sedition, and invert the rights-and-obligations order, and suppress those e-mails.

Bennett will do so because she is not bound by law. Complaints against her must be directed to the Canadian Judicial Council, which has required only 6 of 2200 accused judges to explain conduct, since 1990. Bennett knows that Justice Cosgrove is still under the CJC axe , ten years after the AG of Ontario complained of Cosgrove's (a former federal Liberal Party Cabinet Minister) stay of a murder case, based on over 150 Charter violations committed by detectives. That case is nowhere; Cosgrove is in his seventies.

Am I exaggerating? Federally appointed Justice Robert Flahiff received over $500,000 in wages AFTER he was convicted of Money Laundering. He would have received more but threats caused him to end his pollution of the court system. The CJC is controlled by Chief Justices who routinely treat partiality and subjectivity complaints as if they are Appeal issues (appeals court CANNOT address judicial conduct). It is SEDITION for an officer of the court to place themselves above the law, yet CJC Legal Officers do it anyway, with the knowledge that they - and Canada's universally corrupt chief justices - act with absolute impunity, in contempt of the rule of law.
 
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