Tuesday, July 27, 2010

 

BC Rail trial delays

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BC Mary comment: This is the 1,600th item posted on this blog during the 4 years it has been in existence. 

Back in May 2006, many people had begun to realize that too much information was being withheld from the public. One excellent blog (Pacific Gazette) was already on the case. But 3 more people jumped in, circa May 2006, when the beginning of a trial was announced. "House of Infamy" was first to deal specifically with events arising from the police raid on the offices of the BC Legislature, then "Free Columbians", and then my blog, "The Legislature Raids".

In those olden times, we called these troubles "The Basi-Virk Trial". But it was Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett herself who began to call it "The BC Rail Trial" and then the National Post newspaper added my favourite: "The B.C. Rail Political Corruption Trial".  It's all referring to the same trial: Case #23299 in BC Supreme Court, now in summer recess [stifled laughter here].

As BC Mary, I've had open differences with the mainstream news media in British Columbia. In my view, Big Media has  failed shamefully to provide the basis for an informed society. Fresh from making  exaggerated claims against a former premier, Big Media on the West Coast plunged into an obvious attempt to shield an enormous suspected wrongdoing lest it reflect poorly upon their poster boy, Gordon Campbell.  Big Media on the West Coast has failed to make even an adequate report on the most significant trial ever held here (excepting, possibly, the trial of Robert Sommers, one of W.A.C. Bennett's earliest Ministers of Lands and Forests, also for corruption of public assets). The West Coast media has displayed a shocking preference for keeping its citizens in a tizzy about sports, Hollywood celebrities, and a certain notorious Pig Farmer ... while seeming to shield us from knowing almost anything about the events which sent 32 uniformed Police sergeants into the BC Legislature, armed with Search Warrants, one Christmas holiday morning in 2003.

Wouldn't you think that the nation's leaders would have rallied around us, with a bit of reassurance? Wouldn't you think that a responsible media would've hounded those leaders for reassurance?

But no. Big Media on the West Coast -- that was CanWest -- displayed an appalling apathy rarely seen in ANY news media ... 


Who can forget BC's premier ... and then Canada's prime minister ... with their pathetic "I know nothing ..." responses to the legitimate questions of an alarmed electorate? Then, as now, the citizens simply, decently wanted to know "Has Organized Crime entered into the corridors of power, and into our governing offices?"  Was that too much to ask? Apparently so.

I've had a specific spat with Ms Lucinda Chodan, Editor-in-Chief of Victoria Times Colonist. One bleak day, I learned that a CanWest reporter had attended one of the Basi-Virk pre-trial sessions but nothing whatever had appeared in the CanWest news media. I e.mailed Ms Chodan "is it too much to ask ...?"  and her reply was "when there's news, we'll print it". Wow. Now that's a quotable quote ... and those historic words are caught and preserved, for posterity, here on The Legislature Raids.  As well as on The Tyee [http://thetyee.ca/News/2007/04/24/MediaScam/]

Well, credit where credit is due: This editorial (copied below) may be Lucinda's writing or influenced by Lucinda. Whatever. The words are important.  I'd just like to say "Thank you. But what the heck took you so long?"

___________________________


BC RAIL TRIAL DELAYS
 
EDITORIAL
Times Colonist -- July 9, 2010


The halting progress of the B.C. Rail corruption case is an indictment of our justice system.

The B.C. Supreme Court trial adjourned this week for an 11-week summer break. "Enjoy yourselves," Justice Anne MacKenzie advised the jurors.

It's unlikely the three defendants -- or anyone else involved with this eight-year-old investigation -- will find it easy to enjoy themselves as the case drags on.

The long summer break follows the first eight weeks of the trial of Dave Basi and Bob Virk on charges of breach of trust, fraud and accepting bribes to help one of the bidders for B.C. Rail, and of Aneal Basi on money-laundering charges. In that time, only one witness has testified. Weeks have been taken up with legal arguments, with the jury excluded.

What about? We can't tell you. MacKenzie issued a sweeping publication ban on anything said in court in the absence of the jury.

The purpose is understandable. Coverage of the legal arguments -- which are not evidence -- could influence jurors. The primary consideration must be a fair trial for the accused.

But the public has a right to know what is going on in the courtroom, what is causing the delays and why the legal issues weren't settled in advance.

MacKenzie could help inform the public by providing information, in the jury's presence, on the general nature of the issues.

This case began with a corruption investigation in 2002. It made headlines in December 2003, when police armed with search warrants carted boxes from legislature. A year later, the charges were laid and the trial was scheduled for June 2006.

But the prosecution's delays in disclosing evidence to the defence and various pre-trial legal arguments stalled the proceedings for four years, until this May. Even then the trial was expected to take up to eight weeks. Now it is predicted to last 10 months, although based on progress so far it is hard to be confident in that estimate.

We have no idea who to blame for halting progress and many delays.

But the delays are unfair to the accused and those named in search warrants and other documents, who have spent more than eight years under a cloud.

They are unfair, and costly, to the public, which is waiting to learn whether corruption tainted the government's sale of B.C. Rail. They reduce the chance of a fair trial, as witnesses' memories fade.

And they reinforce the public perception that our criminal justice system is not working.


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BC Mary can't help saying one more thing: if the Times Colonist (or any media) is so gosh-darned concerned about these matters, let's see them apply to the court for a lifting of that draconian Publication Ban imposed by Madam Justice MacKenzie.  Or demand it, in an editorial. Excluding, of course, the bit about the Secret Witness. Nobody's trying to derail the trial proceedings. I'd simply say that the citizens of British Columbia are feeling a great need to be treated with due respect. 

As I understand the situation: 


* nobody -- neither Crown Prosecution team or the Defence team -- asked for a publication ban


* The judge did not explain why she felt it was necessary


* in fact, MacKenzie did not provide a formal, written ruling on the matter of a publication ban, such as who it's supposed to protect


* little, if any, consideration has been given to what everyone seems to suggest  is the sacred duty to provide open courtrooms and free-flowing information in a democratic society. So who speaks for the citizens, in the matter of the BC Rail Political Corruption Trial?

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And yet, the questions continue, unanswered. This information is cross-posted from the comments section today, July 29, 2010 by North Van's Grumps:


... Here's something from CN Rail's own website:

"Section 146.2 of the Canada Transportation Act provides that a railway company shall prepare and keep up to date a list of its sidings and spurs that it plans to dismantle and that are located in a metropolitan area or within the territory served by any urban transit authority. The railway company must publish the list on its internet site and whenever it makes a change to the list it must notify the Minister of Transport, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Provincial Minister for Transportation, urban transit authorities and municipal and district governments in which the siding or spur is located."

Source: http://www.cn.ca/en/corporate-citizenship-public-issues-dismantling-siding-spurs.htm

*************************************

List of proposed sidings and spurs to be dismantled (Oct 21 2008)(PDF 36.37KB)

http://www.cn.ca/documents/About-CN-Company-Information/siding-spur-list_en.pdf


There are two, one in Saskatchewan, the other is in British Columbia ..... "Lulu Island Spur"

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I'm still not clear on this thing about who OWNS the rail lines. Premier Gordon Campbell said British Columbians would retain the ownership of the tracks but I've seen some drawings, in and around Squamish, that BC Railway Co. has been removed and replaced with CN Rail.

And, I have in my possession, after requesting from the City of North Vancouver the "Before and After" results of BC Rail PILT (Payments In Lieu of Taxes) and that of CN Rail's Acquisition up to the year of 2008.

Maybe its just the way the City has to record the information in their database, one shoe fits all, taxpayers, commercial, industrial, and residential in the City, are listed off as being the "Owner" of the said property and Lo and Behold CN Rail is listed as being the Owner of the property where it used to be listed as BC Rail.

Mr. Campbell, have you sold the rail lines or have you not?

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Comments:
Thank you for this posting Mary.

Just so you don't go too crazy over the Times-Colonist, the entire front page of the Times-Colonist today is taken up by just two stories, each of which gets half the page:

- a woman baseball player in the below-minor leagues, the Knuckleball Princess, and

- Dumping less will cost more by 2012 - kitchen waste to be composted, banned from landfill

I kid you not. There is no other story on the front page.

Buried further, way back in the paper there are a couple little articles about:

p. 9 - Senior mounties complain top cop "abusive", and

p. 12 - WikiLeaks uncovers "friendly fire"

That newspaper is a joke.

Every once in a while the Time-Colonist does a special series appearing to be hard-hitting (but actually studiously avoids the real issues). By and large being the only game on Vancouver Island, the Times Colonist is responsible in spades for much of the dumming down of the public there as far as current affairs goes.

The T-C is usually too little, too late to important stories, and I suspect the reason is that they really don't want to draw the public's attention to these matters, but if they don't say anything, it will be too obvious to the public what their stance and purpose is.

They're the paper of blood, guts and gore. No issue is printed without a story about a murder somewhere, and it doesn't even have to be current. They'll dredge something up from the archives just to keep the readers attention distracted from the real crimes going on under their noses.

CC
 
Canadian Canary:

I think you should send copies of your assessment around to,

oh, say: Lucinda Chodan for starts,

then the publisher of Times Colonist,

and, like that. It's possible that they think they're actually doing a great job.

But as our friend, Koot from the Kootenays would say: What a waste of dead trees!
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I know Lucinda reads TLR Mary, at least that's what I've been told.

I certainly hope she reads it today because there's something that really needs to be pointed out to her and her shrinking band of facile 'news reporters' on Douglas Street.

She (or someone on her editorial board) has written these words:

"...the public has a right to know what is going on in the courtroom, what is causing the delays and why the legal issues weren't settled in advance."

Yes Lucinda, the public HAS A RIGHT TO KNOW...but it also has a right to know that our so-called 'free press' actually isn't afraid to address the facts of this case; isn't scared silly of a phony publication ban; hasn't reneged on its responsibility to research the background and the documentation surrounding this case (which has been collecting in the public sphere for years and long before it was embargoed by the current justice on the bench - as Lucinda well knows) and isn't afraid to address the FACT that the bills for both sides of the long-running farce are being paid by the taxpayers of this province.

Whining about what's happened to the process of serving justice in this province isn't good enough Lucinda. In fact, it's a downright embarrassment to read suck a pathetic excuse for 'concern' when printed in a paper that has (along with stable-mates in Vancouver) pointedly refused to give this important case and the story of the serial and continuing sell-off of public assets from this province during the past 10 years.

Sad Lucinda, really sad.
 
Also there are passages and ideas in the editorial which are outright parrotings of either Robin, or of Mary....I'm not in the mood to single them out right now but it's almost as if this editorial were a vetted take on one of Robin's more recent writings.

And Chodan hasn't got it wrong; we don't need the trial to know that the sale of BC Rail was corrupt; we've got plenty of evidence already of crimes much bigger than the 100k piffle of the OmniTRAX bribe, and also plenty of evidence of inaction by press and by police and courts of all kinds of wrongdoing not only to do with what is now known to have been a corrupted bidding process, but also to do with efforts to cover it up.

I mean, Ms. Chodan, exactly how many blinkers do we have to rip from your eyes??

The press doesn't have to wait for the disinterested and aloof Justice Mackenzie - currently vacationing at her newly elevated pay scale's rate of paid leave - to explain what the issues of the legal arguments are and aren't. e.g. the connection between the senior RCMP and senior Liberal party bosses, which may not be evidence in the trial, as objected to by Berardino and company, but it's already a matter of public knowledge.

It's ONLY things that are in the legal arguments that are NOT already in the public domain that are conceivably subject to the publication ban. Just because Bucking Bill Berardino objects to something in order to get the jury sent from the room doesn't mean it's not something that we all don't know already.

Sequester the jury, not the public.

And we know the sale of BC Rail was corrupt, and in spades. By law, the contracts - themselves illegal on various counts - should be declared null and void and CN's accounts placed in escrow or some other financial limbo until the wrongfully-taken public assets are properly reconstituted and repatriated.

The publication ban is not only unjust, it is illogical; you cannot censor history any more than you can regulate justice by ruling truth to be out of order. Well, you can....but it doesn't say much for what you're claiming to be (just).

The public not only has a right to know, it has a right to take its railway back......

"Hail, hail Fredonia....." (honk honk)
 
Did you know that it isn't a "slam dunk....." now where did I write that....on CN Rail discontinuing rail lines...

Here's something from CN Rail's own website:

"Section 146.2 of the Canada Transportation Act provides that a railway company shall prepare and keep up to date a list of its sidings and spurs that it plans to dismantle and that are located in a metropolitan area or within the territory served by any urban transit authority. The railway company must publish the list on its internet site and whenever it makes a change to the list it must notify the Minister of Transport, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Provincial Minister for Transportation, urban transit authorities and municipal and district governments in which the siding or spur is located."

Source: http://www.cn.ca/en/corporate-citizenship-public-issues-dismantling-siding-spurs.htm

*************************************

List of proposed sidings and spurs to be dismantled (Oct 21 2008)(PDF 36.37KB)

http://www.cn.ca/documents/About-CN-Company-Information/siding-spur-list_en.pdf


There are two, one in Saskatchewan, the other is in British Columbia ..... "Lulu Island Spur"

*********************************

I'm still not clear on this thing about who OWNS the rail lines. Premier Gordon Campbell said British Columbians would retain the ownership of the tracks but I've seen some drawings, in and around Squamish, that BC Railway Co. has been removed and replaced with CN Rail.

And, I have in my possession, after requesting from the City of North Vancouver the "Before and After" results of BC Rail PILT (Payments In Lieu of Taxes) and that of CN Rail's Acquisition up to the year of 2008.

Maybe its just the way the City has to record the information in their database, one shoe fits all, taxpayers, commercial, industrial, and residential in the City, are listed off as being the "Owner" of the said property and Lo and Behold CN Rail is listed as being the Owner of the property where it used to be listed as BC Rail.

Mr. Campbell, have you sold the rail lines or have you not?
 
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Thanks, N.V.G.

It's a bit like how we're not clear how much CN might have paid us for BC Rail 1,000-year "lease"

or

if CN paid us at all

or

will BC end up owing CN?


It's difficult to forget the time when a home-made back porch was so much more important in the pages of West Coast media.
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Hail Freedonia!
.
 
This bit of writing by a certain Mr. De Cosmos, on Saturday, December 11, 1858, can still be dug up, from the first issue. Perhaps Lucinda Chodan should read it:

"We shall ever be found on the side of law and order. Any attempt to render life or property insecure, or to interfere with the prompt and certain administration of justice, will be sternly rebuked, and the authors exposed, to public condemnation. Constitutional means only, shall receive our support, in order to tiller or modify our laws and institutions.

In conclusion, we hope to make the "British Colonist" a welcome visitor, and useful auxiliary to the pioneers of British Columbia and Vancouver's Island."

Cheers,
deeby
 
Ironic to quote de Cosmos....fine words, but he didn't live up to them (cf the Texada Island Scandal). His invocation of the press to challenge official wrongdoing and abuse of authority was very much part of the "liberal" political agenda which usurped British Columbia from the path the otherwise autocratic Governor Douglas set it on....I'll explain this more another time, but essentially early publishers like de Cosmos and Robson were the predecessors of CanWest and SnowJob et al. in creating an advertorial linkage between press and corporate figures/CoC types that functions as a parallel constitution of sorts in BC, otherwise known as "business as usual".
 
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