Saturday, February 07, 2009
Robin Mathews to Madam Justice Bennett
February 5, 2009
The Honourable Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett,
The Supreme Court of British Columbia,
Vancouver Law Courts, 800 Smythe Street,
Vancouver, B.C., V6Z 2E1
copies to W.S. Berardino, Q.C, Janet Winteringham,Q.C., P.M. Bolton, Q.C., K.G. McCullough, J. M. Doyle, vivelecanada.ca, the legislature raids website, Dialogue magazine, Canadian Press, Mark Hume, Neal Hall, Gary Mason, Bill Tieleman, others.
This letter is being written to you, with the greatest respect, on the matter of the appearance in the Supreme Court of British Columbia on, and after, February 16, 2009, of George Copley, lawyer for the Executive Council of B.C. (the Gordon Campbell cabinet, in effect).
Winner (I understand) of a medal for his service to Campbell policy, George Copley will present material and argument of the greatest importance to the understanding of the BC Rail Scandal, to what is thought of by many to have been the corrupt "sale" of BC Rail by cabinet, and to the forthcoming trial of Messrs. Basi, Virk, and Basi for (variously) fraud and breach of trust in relation to the BC Rail Scandal.
Mr. Copley presents a huge problem when he speaks in court: he cannot be heard. On many previous occasions people in the gallery have exited the courtroom saying they had not heard a word of his utterance. Put simply, that is a preposterous situation.
On more than one occasion I have heard you ask Mr. Copley to speak up so that you could hear him. You have done that when facing him at a distance of about 7 feet. What do you think has been the case of a gallery of auditors 30 feet away, partially blocked by a glass wall, with Mr. Copley facing away from them?
You have not, in the past, seemed aware of or in the least concerned about the ability or inability of the gallery to hear utterance in the court. I submit, with respect, that you should have been concerned in a legal system based upon the principle of open courts. If a speaker in an open court is inaudible to everyone but the judge and lawyers, the court process is not "open". It is, in fact, a process being conducted in camera.
George Copley's silent presentation is just one of the absurdities common to the pre-trial hearings involving Basi, Virk, and Basi, and common to Supreme Court of British Columbia in its behaviour. It is an outrage, for instance, that people seeking transcript material and other material on public record should face refusal or unseemly delay, bureaucratic complexity, and then often huge costs paid to private corporations whose profits Supreme Court judges seem more concerned to assure than they are to assure the public's right to know and its certainty of the fair pursuit of justice.
Private corporate control over court documents and records must end. In addition, repression of materials on public record for in-house reasons under so-called "Practice Directions" must end.
In a public matter and trial of such importance as this one - with which you are seized - a printed transcript of every day of hearing should be available on the next sitting day, in the courtroom, for all who wish to have a copy. If that statement surprises you, I suggest - with the deepest respect - you may have forgotten the duty our legal system has (and you have as judge) to support the fair pursuit of justice openly and with regard to all citizens.
So much material on public record is presently kept secret for reasons I consider indefensible that suspicion may fairly arise among some Canadians that rule-makers in the Supreme Court of British Columbia are either petty tyrants or are complicit with others wishing to prevent justice being done - and being seen to be done.
The recent revelation that (a) Brittni Lee Foisy, 19, and Morgan Taylor Foisey, 15, could not afford the astonishing court costs to be able to use the B.C. Supreme Court system in a civil case against (government controlled, in fact) B.C. Ferries, and that the Gordon Campbell cabinet (through the Ferry Corporation) would not assist them financially is a further outrage, and connects directly to the points I am making.
Indeed, lawyer Peter Ritchie for the Foisey women suggests the Ferry Corporation resisted trial by jury and "would rather avoid" questions that would have arisen in cross-examination. Reasonable Canadians may fairly believe that the Ferry Corporation (in fact a complex extension of cabinet policy) wishes to thwart a normal search for justice.
It is a further outrage I suggest (b) that a cabinet minister, Attorney General Wally Oppal, "downplayed" critical statements by the young women's lawyer, did nothing as a cabinet member to suggest special help, and professed - nonetheless - that improving the system is a "priority" for him. He could, perhaps, have made a more inane and insulting statement (merely parroting the Gordon Campbell position?)
I have said before that Wally Oppal should not be Attorney General of the Province. No Supreme Court/Appellate Division judge - long a colleague of judges there - should ever be permitted to be Attorney General, for such an appointment invites suspicions of conflict of interest which cannot be erased. Wally Oppal's highly political position as Attorney General (producing the kind of wholly political, nonsensical comment on the Foisey matter just referred to) is, I submit with respect, a sign of the degeneration of the British Columbia higher court system.
On Tuesday, February 3, Gordon Campbell postured before a large audience at the Sheraton Wall Centre, telling them he will spend another two billion dollars of B.C. taxpayers' money to assure employment. None of that money, it appears, is dedicated to restoring the British Columbia higher court system. Gordon Campbell does not, I believe, wish to see an effective and just legal system in British Columbia. The reasons - for those observing the Basi, Virk, and Basi procedures - may seem to be obvious.
The question - a related one - of the system which produces Special Crown Prosecutors is raised by the Basi, Virk, and Basi matter. In theory, Special Crown Prosecutors are chosen to be especially independent of any connection to the forces in contestation in a case - especially one relating to elected officials or civil servants. But in this case the Special Crown Prosecutor is alleged to have been (at some time in his career) a business partner, or practicing colleague, or other of the Attorney General in position at the time of the appointment as Special Crown Prosecutor. Who reviews such appointments? What machinery is in place to assure the unquestioned objectivity of appointees? Is there any form of review that is guaranteed to be utterly impartial? Should not judges-in-place require review? If the present Special Crown Prosecutor was connected to the Attorney General of the day, questions arise - no matter how scrupulously objective and superbly competent the Special Crown Prosecutor may be in the present case. The fact that I may bring up this topic, and ask the questions I do makes a comment upon the viability of the Supreme Court of British Columbia at this time.
The few points I have made so far show clearly, I suggest, that the Supreme Court of British Columbia - with other like courts in Canada - preserves and advances a shameful system assuring access to "justice" for the rich and powerful and little or no access for the poor (or even the merely not-rich). The Supreme Court of British Columbia constantly fails even in assuring the simple public "right to know".
I remind you, with respect, that you are a knowing and participating agent of the system being described. I am concerned (as you no doubt know) especially about the apparent contempt Supreme Court officers of all ranks feel for the public they serve. The BC Rail Scandal has produced court actions involving drug crime, alleged wrong-doing involving Agricultural Land Reserves, the fraud and breach of trust matter with which you are seized, trial of a Victoria police officer for counselling misinformation - and more. Court actions have been held in North Vancouver, Vancouver, and Victoria - apparently uncoordinated, unconnected, and shifting in venue as if purposefully fragmented in order to scatter attention. They may not have been (and continue to be) fragmented for dubious cause. But reasonable and prudent Canadians have every right to suspect - when the Gordon Campbell cabinet is touched - that such fragmentation is intended, and orchestrated.
Court scheduling must be conducted in the interests of public understanding and information - with reasonable concentration of related events and court processes. Scheduling should not be conducted to suit the whims of judges or anyone else if such action prevents the public from gaining access to important information in a serious, continuing fashion.
I believe I have remarked before that this is one of the most important series of hearings and trials in British Columbia history, carrying within it the possibility of unseating the incumbent government because of its possible involvement with wrong-doing. The courts involved have had a special weight upon them to conduct themselves with clarity, with dispatch, with openness, with effectiveness, with visible discipline, with deep regard for the centrality of the people of British Columbia as an interested party. The courts, I say with respect, have - as I have observed them - done none of those things.
Mr. George Copley is a servant of the B.C. Cabinet. He is appearing in Vancouver Supreme Court on February 16 in order to shield what cabinet documents he can - relating to the BC Rail Scandal - from the Defence (and the British Columbia public). His presentation will be extremely important and MUST be fully audible.
With continuing respect, I ask you to make perfectly certain that he can be heard clearly throughout the courtroom. If that means he must speak into a special microphone, then I ask you - with respect - to provide a special microphone or whatever else is necessary to assure he is not, one more time, seeming to be whispering secrets to you alone.
It is perhaps extraordinary that a Canadian has to apply in a special letter to a Supreme Court judge to request that procedure in a B.C. Supreme Courtroom be made audible to those present. But there appears to be at present a state of judicial carelessness, inadvertency, shielding of information, inexplicable delays in demanding the production of evidence, inattention to the rights and freedoms of ordinary Canadians, and an apparent dwelling in what has been called in a recent Ontario study of higher courts "a culture of complacency". Because of all of those things I feel I am, with the greatest respect, constrained to make this application.
What a wonderful letter.
The only things more interesting for the next few days will be:
a) Whether Robin's letter gets through the bureaucratic firewall, and;
b) Whether or not George Copley, Esq., Q.C., will find his voice at such a late stage in his career.
"The Manure Spreading Advisory Committee (consisting of industry and government representatives) will be monitoring weather and soil conditions and will issue further advisories as considered necessary."
Producers are responsible for decisions regarding manure spreading. Legislation gives no specific dates for manure spreading, but it does not allow for manure to be spread in a manner that causes pollution.
Further, "The Manure Spreading Advisory Committee (consisting of industry and government representatives) will be monitoring weather and soil conditions and will issue further advisories as considered necessary."
In an open and transparent government, where are there press releases, where is our Environment minister on these flatuances?
To Anon 11:30,
Your comment startled me when it first came to me for approval.
Y'see, I thought you were referring to the Public Affairs Bureau ...
# 04746160, aspiring
Dick The Butcher
This should be easily remedied with a microphone and daily transcripts as you say but if somehow This BC Supremely Inaudible Theatre of the Absurd fails this simple act of redress may I suggest another absurd option for an increasingly absurd court:
"sounds like" --cup your hand around your ear
"little word": bring your thumb and index fingers close together. The people guessing should now call out every little word they can think of ("on, in, the, and") until you gesticulate wildly to indicate the right word.
"Longer version of the word": pretend to stretch an elastic.
"Shorter version of the word": chop with your hand.
"close, keep guessing!": frantically wave hands to keep the guesses coming.
"whole phrase at once": sweep your arms in a big circle to indicate "whole thing"
past tense: wave your hand downwards behind your back
To divide the word into syllables: lay down x number of fingers on your forearm (where x is the number of syllables.) To act out the first syllable, lay down one finger on your arm, etc.
When someone calls out a correct word: point at that person and nod your head like "yes"!
Robin, you are like that guy. You start with a valid issue for the judge, then throw in issues with which she is not involved.
Denial of access to the justice system is a serious issue but authors of the policy work in Victoria. That issue alone should lead to Wally Oppal's resignation and Campbell's forced retirement.
By the way, Justice Bennett is one of the good ones.
I didn't much like your comment -- fact is, I thoroughly dislike it -- but after only a moment's hesitation I decided to allow your words to appear on my blog.
The dark arts aren't to be taken lightly. They injure all who fight in their dirty little wars. That's the reason why this web-site tries its best to avoid the usual adversarial "Me Good - You Bad" rhetoric, which gets us nowhere. So I focus on the BC Rail Case and the public issues surrounding that. Those issues affect us all ... like the rain "that falleth upon the just and the unjust alike", regardless of politics.
Robin's latest essay (my choice, btw) clarifies the serious issue of how the law is administered in British Columbia, both in the particular (George Copley) and the general (the Foisey family). You complain that he chose too broad a mandate. Jeez.
What's truly despicable is the sly suggestion that Robin is the same as your corrupt "retailer" -- a "retailer" who sounds to me like a story out of Readers Digest.
Let's let Robin sum it up from these lines published in his 10th book of poetry:
... Sit in taverns, drink, talk a lot, and listen.
He could write, they said, even about terror and murder,
Just as long as he disconnected what he wrote
From any real power or chain of command ...
That could be you he was thinking of, NSF.
Did anyone hear the AG of BC comment on why the police haven't been able to catch the bad guys.... its not because of the legislation, its not because fo the justice system, its not the police.... it is the fault of john and jan doe public who have refused to assist the police in their endeavours to catch the bad guys.....
Now if the BC Liberals had only come forward to Justice Madam Bennett with all of the documents pertaining to the Basi/Virk/Basi trial.... justice would have been saved.
I thought you were our Super-Sleuth.
Do you really think I would've said "NSF" -- not once but twice -- if I hadn't meant NSF??
And no, I didn't hear Stonewally saying such a stupid thing. But I did read about Gordon Campbell "explaining" what he's going to be doing about the escalating violence in Vancouver and Surrey, an amazing collection of weasel words.
Really, the political landscape is becoming impossible to figure out these days. So stand by, Grumps!
My thoughts went directly to the Judiciary system, with our, lackadaisy, wishy washy judges and the foul mouth, bad breath criminal defence lawyers, being allowed to berate and degrade a witness on the stand, until they either surrender through intimidation or exhaustion, an abuse, that has been allowed by the courts.
Its no wonder witnesses are no longer forth coming, who in hell can blame them. Our system of justice is broken.When you enter a court room there is no way to differentiate the difference between the good or bad. The Bench is meaningless.
I would love to see the burn on the Judges cheeks as she reads Robins letter(s), but then us mere mortals are not privy to such enjoyments are we?
"there are no laws for outlaws"