Friday, May 09, 2008
Robin Mathews on The NDP Affidavits
The NDP Affidavits. Gordon Campbell, Ken Dobell, and Delay in Disclosure of Evidence in the Basi, Virk, and Basi case. The BC Rail Scandal.
By Robin Mathews
The NDP has organized and analysed the materials Justice critic Leonard Krog, MLA, requested from Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett. When he could get no answers from cabinet members or from Deputy Attorney General Allan Seckel concerning the shift in disclosure protocol made unilaterally by Gordon Campbell in May of 2007, Krog sought help from the court.
On March 10, 2008, Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett ordered release of "the affidavits [six of them] filed by the government on the application for disclosure of documents seized by way of the execution of the search warrants of the Legislature".
The NDP has made important comments about the involvement of Gordon Campbell's office in the disclosure decisions, quoting Campbell to the effect that neither he nor his office has been in any way involved. The NDP points to the involvement of Campbell's chief and closest aide, Ken Dobell. The NDP points to evidence that counsel for cabinet, George Copley, sought the advice of Dobell. And more.
The NDP, in the legislature, subsequently, freshly separated the trial of Basi, Virk, and Basi from the actions of the Gordon Campbell cabinet in the corrupt sale of BC Rail. (If the sale, indeed, was carried out. BC Mary asks pointedly what evidence exists that a sale was completed, and she asks where the evidence is that a billion dollars was received for the Rail and where the amount is recorded. BC Rail has been alienated from its legitimate owners - the people of B.C. Has it been "sold"?)
In separating those two portions of the BC Rail Scandal the NDP has begun to put long overdue pressure on the legislature to open wide examination of the dubious (and perhaps criminal?) actions of the Gordon Campbell cabinet in the alienation of BC Rail from its legitimate owners: the people of B.C.
Wally Oppal, Attorney General, answering questions directed at Gordon Campbell, looks disingenuous and even deliberately uncooperative. His repeated claim that the Basi, Virk, and Basi charges, moving towards trial, place the whole BC Rail transaction and all cabinet actions involved sub judice (outside possible discussion and action outside the court) is hollow nonsense.
More will, doubtless, be argued and revealed as the NDP makes headway.
So far the NDP has trained its sights on Gordon Campbell and the premier's office. But other important information is revealed in the affidavits that should not be overlooked or forgotten.
As early as 2004 the Special Crown Prosecutor William Berardino and George Copley, counsel for the cabinet, and even, apparently, Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm were aware of, and seemed openly or tacitly to agree not to draw attention to RCMP delay.
In addition, the affidavits seem to suggest that much preliminary planning for the legislature "raids" was undertaken consciously to avoid recorded evidence. That is to say, when RCMP officers made contact on the matter with cabinet or high civil servants, communication, often, may have been, intentionally, only verbal, and no clear records appear to have been kept of the communications.
The questions opened by the unilateral change of protocol by Gordon Campbell must be answered. On May 28, 2007 Campbell said in the legislature: "In terms of the screening of cabinet documents, all those documents will be available to the Deputy Attorney General. He will make the decision vis-à-vis cabinet confidentiality or any of those issues in consultation with the special prosecutor." Seckel does not seem to have acted in that capacity until August of 2007.
Why was the change made? Why did Allan Seckel brush aside the questions of Leonard Krog and direct him to the affidavits? As the chief politician in B.C., Gordon Campbell could not change the protocol for any other than highly political reasons - by the nature of his office - unless he gave a full and complete and convincing public explanation for the change. He has said nothing.
Indeed, if such a change was fairly warranted, the person to make it, I suggest, would be the "highest law officer of the Crown", Attorney General Wally Oppal, girding himself round and showing absolute legal (not political) motivation by publishing a document explaining the reasons for the move from the old protocol and setting out a rigid and politics-proof protocol that could not be questioned as to its integrity. He did not, of course, do that.
As I have written before, the action by Gordon Campbell transforms Deputy Attorney General Allan Seckel into a highly political instrument of the cabinet. His work as screener of cabinet documents can only - I allege - be seen as political work. Thus, I allege Gordon Campbell has entered the Basi, Virk, and Basi case and has transformed it into a political arena.
The cabinet (through Wally Oppal) says that the legislature cannot discuss the BC Rail Scandal because the legislature cannot be seen to enter the activities of the court in the Basi, Virk, and Basi case. While saying that, the cabinet, I allege, has entered the activities of the court. It has placed a personal appointee of the premier (with what verbal orders we cannot know, and - incidentally - without a publicly written document to define unequivocally his duties) in charge of deciding what cabinet documents may be released to the Defence.
Finally, the RCMP is identified as delaying matters as early as 2004. Since then, the RCMP, it has been alleged by Defence, has delayed and delayed in matters of clean and full disclosure of materials. I have pointed to what I believe is the painful and continuing failure of Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett to order - and to give teeth to the order - that the RCMP disclose promptly, in an organized and meaningful way.
In Canada today some members of the RCMP are under suspicion of a large number of unacceptable (when not criminal) activities. That background only complicates interpretation of the unsatisfactory role of the RCMP in the BC Rail Scandal. Eventually, I believe, the NDP in the legislature is going to have to come to grips with that, mostly silent, but hugely important matter. If a Public Inquiry into the BC Rail Scandal is finally undertaken, the role of some members of the RCMP is going to have to face close investigation and scrutiny. What has been their role in relation to cabinet members and high civil servants? What has their role been in relation to the Special Crown Prosecutor, to judges of the B.C. Supreme Court?
The materials released by Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett in answer to Leonard Krog's request flood light onto the behaviour of political actors in the B.C Rail Scandal. But they open as many questions as they answer.
One of those questions has haunted all the proceedings. How much more would the people of B.C. know about the BC Rail Scandal if documents on public record kept in the care of the court, arising out of the legislature raids, were regularly made available for public scrutiny? Are the Patrick Dohm protocols denying access to documents on public record (allegedly) created to protect the innocent in fact serving to protect the guilty?
Hon. W. Oppal: I'll read the portion of the report again. "Mr. Dobell is scheduled to make his first appearance in Vancouver Provincial Court in the morning of March 12, 2008. As this matter is before the court, it would not be appropriate to comment on the circumstances of the case at this time.""
"Mr. Basi is scheduled to make his first appearance in Provincial Court. As this matter is before the court, it would not be appropriate to comment on the circumstances of the case at this time.""
"Mr. Collins is not currently scheduled to make his first appearance in Provincial Court. As this matter is before the court, it would not be appropriate to comment on the circumstances of the case at this time.""
"Mr. Taylor (ICBC) is not scheduled to make his first appearance in Provincial Court. As this matter is before the court, it would not be appropriate to comment on the circumstances of the case at this time.""
"Mr. Gordon Campbell is not scheduled to make his first appearance in Provincial Court. As this matter is before the court, it would not be appropriate to comment on the circumstances of the case at this time.""
Did Campbell appoint Seckel and only after making his public announcement on the matter, issue a protocol? Just waht is the timeline there. In clawing back college funding did he find that it was a mistake and thentry to correct that mistake by designating for colleges as new Universities.
What really goes on in this guys mind? Does he think that he can survive with photo-ops? I find it uncanny that in this day and age such a person could survie, let alone exist.
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